Nitty Gritty

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will offer a mix of country and rock at the Landis Theater Friday night.

Landis Theater photo

This year marks 47 years on the road for Jimmie Fadden and the rest of the legendary country-rock group Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — but if you ask him, he’s just getting started.

“We’re aiming for 50 (years),” says Fadden, speaking from his home in Sarasota, Fla. “We’re having more fun now. We know that at some point we’re probably going to have to quit. But when you get a little older, and your time becomes quality time … you want to make the most of it, you know?”

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will take the Landis Theater stage in Vineland 8 p.m. Friday, March 1 to promote their latest album, 2009’s “Speed of Life,” but the audience can expect to hear all of the group’s chart-topping hits, including “Fishin’ In the Dark,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “An American Dream,” and “Dance Little Jean,” among others.

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The band has already left an indelible mark on the American country-rock music scene. Since the release of their classic 1972 album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” they have won Grammy and Country Music Association awards and collaborated with countless country legends. Over the decades, they’ve played with Jack Benny and Richie Havens, toured with Bill Cosby, The Doors, Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith, and groups such as The Eagles and Alabama cite the Dirt Band as one of their inspirations.

“It’s diverse and interesting and it has never been boring,” says Fadden, an original member of the Dirt Band since it formed in 1966.

The Dirt Band came together simply enough. In a small guitar shop in Long Beach, Calif., founding member Jeff Hanna and former member Bruce Kunkel were looking to combine their unique sounds into something new. Fadden, who played harmonica, guitar and washtub bass, joined shortly after.

“If you ask any one of us why we got into this … it was because each of us didn’t want a real job,” Fadden says, laughing. “I think all of us were interested in traditional music of one form or another. We used to call it rootsy music at that time. John (McEuen) was more of a bluegrass guy, I was more country blues, sort of. Yet, we all sort of appreciated what was going on in the sphere of each other’s interests.”

“The idea of building something out of something obscure was of interest to us,” Fadden adds. “That’s always been a byproduct of the people in this band, is that we have different traditional interests.”

Dirt Band albums, of course, are few and far between, with the band putting out maybe two a decade. With “Speed of Life” now four years old, Fadden says something new may be in the pipeline.

“We’ve been talking about it,” Fadden says. “I’m sure when we get back together and start sitting around on the bus, we’ll start talking. I think everybody allows everybody else to have their space when we’re not on tour. There’s a lot going on though. John just finished repackaging the ‘Circle’ album in vinyl for the 40th anniversary. We’re just getting started back on the road. This little trip up your way, this is our first outing — our first bunch of shows since November.”

Fans coming to the Landis Theater show can expect the usual Dirt Band experience, Fadden says — a little bit of everything.

“We try to include the highlights along the highway, you know?” Fadden says. “A little bit of ‘Circle,’ a little bit of ‘Charlie,’ just a little bit of everything. We like to have fun and we like to talk about what we’re doing and what’s going on and funny observations. Jeff always has something fun to add. I get a chance to play harmonica and drums. You get a little roadmap of the Dirt Band history. We obviously can’t cover everything, but we try to hit all the hot spots.”

And no, Fadden says, he doesn’t get tired of playing “Mr. Bojangles.”

“Every night, the room is different,” Fadden says. “People always ask me, ‘How can you play Bojangles night after night?’ It’s not about us. It’s about the material. I think I was confused for quite a while about that … and finally, the light goes on and it’s ‘You’re the one providing this for them. That’s your job. This is what they came to hear.’”

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