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Charted: Dec. 30, 1972

Rating: 4.519 (average of 9 ratings)

Genre: country

Quotable: --

Album Tracks, Disc 1:

  1. Grand Ole Opry Song [with Jimmy Martin]
  2. Keep on the Sunny Side [with Maybelle Carter]
  3. Nashville Blues
  4. You Are My Flower
  5. The Precious Jewel [with Roy Acuff]
  6. Dark As a Dungeon [with Merle Travis]
  7. Tennessee Stud [with Doc Watson]
  8. Black Mountain Rag
  9. Wreck on the Highway [with Roy Acuff]
  10. The End of the World
  11. I Saw the Light [with Roy Acuff]
  12. Sunny Side of the Mountain
  13. Nine Pound Hammer
  14. Losin’ You Might Be the Best Thing Yet [with Jimmy Martin]
  15. Honky Tonkin’
  16. You Don’t Know My Mind [with Jimmy Martin]
  17. My Walkin’ Shoes [with Jimmy Martin]

Album Tracks, Disc 2:

  1. Lonesome Fiddle Blues
  2. Cannonball Rag [with Merle Travis]
  3. Avalanche
  4. Flint Hill Special
  5. Togary Mountain
  6. Earl’s Breakdown
  7. Orange Blossom Special [with Vassar Clements]
  8. Wabash Cannonball
  9. Lost Highway
  10. Doc Watson & Merle Travis First Meeting (Dialogue)
  11. Way Downtown [with Doc Watson]
  12. Down Yonder [with Doc Watson]
  13. Pins and Needles in My Heart [with Roy Acuff]
  14. Honky Tonk Blues
  15. Sailin’ on to Hawaii [with Bashful Brother Oswald]
  16. I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
  17. Wildwood Flower [with Maybelle Carter]
  18. Soldier’s Joy
  19. Will the Circle Be Unbroken
  20. Both Sides Now


sales in U.S. only ½ million
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated ½ million


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 68
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • I Saw the Light (11/27/71) #56 CW
  • Grand Ole Opry Song (8/4/73) #97 CW

Notes: “Originally appearing in 1972 as a three LP album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken was remastered and re-released in 2002 as a two compact disc set” (Wikipedia), including “four bonus tracks, though only ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ is a proper song; two of the others [‘Warming Up for the Opry’ and ‘Sunny Side’] consist of warmups and studio chat, while ‘Remember Me’ (featuring Doc Watson) is just a fragment” (Eder).


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. Grammy Hall of Fame. Click to go to HOF page. In the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Click to go to Website.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“With all due respect to the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, it took the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with this album to come up with a merger of rock and country music that worked for both sides and everyone involved” (Eder). “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, previously known for their country-rock and jug band music” (NRR), “was a young…band with a hippie look” (Wikipedia); “Roy Acuff described them as ‘a bunch of long-haired West Coast boys’” (Wikipedia). “For Will the Circle Be Unbroken, [they] brought together a stellar group of musical giants of country music” (NRR) who were “much older and more famous from the forties, fifties and sixties, primarily as old-time country and bluegrass players” (Wikipedia).

“The recordings, made in Nashville, showcased traditional songs and country music classics” (NRR). The result was “an unprecedented collaboration” (NRR) that “introduced acoustic country music to a new generation of audiences and revived the careers of several of the guest performers” (NRR).

The album’s title “comes from a song by Ada R. Habershon (famously re-arranged by A. P. Carter) and reflects how the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was trying to tie together two generations of musicians” (Wikipedia). Artists such as “Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, Bashful Brother Oswald, Norman Blake, and others” (Wikipedia) “had become known to their generation through the Grand Ole Opry. However, with the rise of rock-and-roll, the emergence of the commercial country’s slick ‘Nashville Sound,’ and changing tastes in music, their popularity had waned somewhat from their glory years” (Wikipedia). “With the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band serving as catalyst and intersecting point for all of the talent involved” (Eder), the album “was an all-star country project that worked (and transcended its country and rock origins)” (Eder).

“The opening number, The Grand Ole Opry Song, set the tone for the album, showing that this band – for all of their origins in rock and popular music – was willing to meet country music on its terms, rather than as a vehicle for embellishment as rock music” (Eder)

“This was the first real country album that a lot of rock listeners under the age of 30 ever heard. Thus, it opened up pathways and dialogue in all directions, across several generations and cultural barriers; the dialogue between Doc Watson and Merle Travis alone was almost worth the price of admission” (Eder).

“Every track on the album was recorded on the first or second take straight to two-track masters, so the takes are raw and unprocessed. Additionally, another tape ran continuously throughout the entire week-long recording session, and captured the dialog between the players. On the final album many of the tracks begin with the musicians discussing how to do the song or who should come in where, and provides a rare insight into the workmanship and approach that these highly-regarded musicians used to make their music, and how they decided to work together” (Wikipedia).

“This was also one of rock’s very few multi-disc sets to be fully justified in its length and content; at a time when unnecessary double-LPs were all the rage, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and company gave a triple album that, if anything, left audiences asking for more” (Eder). As a result, “the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made two subsequent albums, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2 and Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 3, in an attempt to repeat the process with other historically significant musicians, but these subsequent volumes are not as widely acclaimed as the first. However, Vol. 2 won the Country Music Association’s 1989 Album of the Year” (Wikipedia).

Review Source(s):

Last updated November 21, 2008.