McEuen's circle brings him to Kent

By Winter Dorval - Staff Reporter

Catch John McEuen and friends when they play at the Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center this weekend.

The show is on March 9 at 7:30 p.m.

"It's an acoustic music show with a banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, mandola, and bass with a bunch of players that love performing," said John McEuen, a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

"I was with that group for over 50 years, I just left late last year," he said.

McEuen spent 8 to 10 hours practicing while he was in college majoring in calculus.

"I thought you could cram calculus and you can't. I spent too many days playing in the music room practicing," said McEuen.

McEuen can play the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.

"I didn't have music classes but I was in Southern California and there was a cool music scene," said McEuen.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band started while McEuen was teaching guitar and banjo, and playing in clubs, he said.

"I was part of the first American group to go to Russia. We went to Russia in '77. We were a bunch of mid-20s hippies. It was exciting," McEuen said.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band sold out 28 shows on this tour.

The show on Feb. 9 will be McEuen's first performance in the Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center.

"If you're learning music and you perform in front of people when you're in a great place like the Kent venue, it's a really nice room, you want to do as good as you can," McEuen said.

McEuen has made more than 40 albums, and has recieved Grammy nominations, an Emmy nomination, Country Music Awards, Country Music Awards, and more.

"It takes a lot of time to get there. I don't mean just travel time,  it takes a lot of time to get to the point where you can get to play places like that," said McEuen.

 McEuen has played with John Denver, Tom Petty, and other famous artists.

"I have been influenced by many people that I've watched closely that would show me things but I think it's usually called self-taught," he said.

McEuen plays about 120 cities per year but used to play more, he said.

"People can expect a laugh, some will cry, and most everybody will clap along, sing familiar songs, or be taken away," said McEuen.

His motivation to play is taking music out to people, and making it memorable, said McEuen.

"For many performers, I feel like that's what the job is to go out and take people in the room somewhere where they don't remember that they're in that room," said McEuen.

"That things in their day that are problems or whatever it is, to try to take him away for a couple hours and that's a fun challenge," he said.

Some songs will be well-known, some will be songs people have never heard before, said McEuen.

"I made an album called Will The Circle Be Unbroken. It's in the Library of Congress and the Grammy Hall of Fame," said McEuen.

McEuen has played in venues across Washington in most of the major cities and is more selective than he used to be about where he performs, he said.

"I don't think it's anything to blow trumpets about, It's just proof that what you're doing you're doing it right, so I'm just doing my job right. its kind of validation to keep going," said McEuen.

McEuen has six children.

"A few of them sometimes play with me and that's really good. My kids are 37 through 47 and they've all told me they appreciate what they've been able to experience because of their dad being in music. That's a reward that I didn't see coming," said McEuen.

The address for the Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center is 10020 S. E. 256th St., Kent.

Tickets are $29 for general admission, $25 for seniors, and $15 for youth.

For tickets, and more informtion visit /

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