Please make yourself at home! Check some tags, do some reading, leave a comment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

GSCBF7: Steve Martin and John McEuen: Sunday, April 28, 1974, ca. 1900

Part of a series of back-of-the-napkin thoughts about the Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival (GSCBF), held in San Rafael, CA from Friday, April 26th through Sunday, April 28, 1974.

Previous installments:

After the sequence of three sets covered in posts 4, 5 and 6, we have a dinner break on the program. I am assuming that things came back from dinner time on schedule. I know this sounds like an unreasonable assumption given festival-giving in general and this group of folks in particular (a later set will hint that there is generalized degeneracy present!), but the sets seem to conform to a pretty strict festival scheduling and things don't feel too terribly rushed to my ears. I could be 100% wrong, but anyway.

Anyway ... assuming things are on schedule, then I assume that the dinner break ended promptly at 7, or at least the emcee (Steve Martin, yes, that Steve Martin) came on then. What we have next is Steven Martin's emcee act taking musical form (we all know he plays banjo), duet-style with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB).
McEuen was a particularly big deal at this event and in this moment in time because, though I am no expert on all of this, I believe he was a key mover behind the late 1972 "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (WTCBU for my short) project. This brought together a bunch of old-time country and bluegrass leading lights with some of the younger crowd, with the explicit aim of building bridges across generations and genres. Many of the summer 1973 bluegrass festivals were advertised as culminating in a WTCBU reunion, and the GSCBF followed suit. Jimmy Martin had mentioned in his set that he was on later with the Dirt Band, and he was one of the WTCBU old-timers. I'll try to make a post about the overall overlap of these two projects.

Anyway, Martin and McEuen get together for a five-minute bit of hokey comedy and banjo playing.  Here's what note from their set.
Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival
Marin County Veterans' Auditorium Building and Grounds
San Rafael, CA

<--Doc & Merle Watson, then dinner break precede-->

Steve Martin and John McEuen
Sunday, April 28, 1974 ca. 19:00

Source: "Debbie reel 4/27/74, CD 2 of 4"
Provenance: unknown sbd recording (?maybe MSC > C?) > reel
Transfer: AKAI GX 636 playback > Apogee mini ME @ 24/96 > Apogee Mini DAC (monitoring/mastering) > lynx one soundcard > wavelab 5.0 > CD, by Matt Smith.
Lossless encoding: EAC > CDWave > TLH (FLAC level 8).
Tagging: Foobar 2000.

(6 tracks, 3:57)

GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t01. % tuning [0:05]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t02. unknown Martin-McEuen 19740428-1 [0:52]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t03. Steve Martin talk [0:44]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t04. "Duelling Banjoes" [0:21]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t05. Devil's Dream [1:37]
GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t06. Steve Martin talk [0:15]

! % = tape discontinuity
! Both are playing banjo.
! GSCBF-1974-04-28-1845.Martin-McEuen-t02. unknown Martin-McEuen 19740428-1 should be easily identifiable to someone with more knowledge. Please help!

<--Skunk Cabbage follows-->


  1. John McEuen's brother Bill had gone to high school with Steve Martin. Bill McEuen was the manager of both Steve Martin and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Bill was also the producer of many of Steve Martin's early movies (and probably his later one).

    Bill and John McEuen had put together Will The Circle Be Unbroken--Bill covered the business side and John covered the music side. At the time, it seemed like traditional ("old time") country music had been pushed aside, probably forever. The Nashville establishment had no interest in it during the early '70s, and it took some LA hippies to re-kindle interest. This meant a lot to the likes of Jimmy Martin.

  2. As a footnote apropos of nothing, I will add that in 1968 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band lived in a house somewhere in LA known as "The Dirt House," and other residents included Steve Martin and Duane and Gregg Allman. Steve Martin was a writer for the Smothers Brothers CBS show at the time.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!