William E. ‘Bill’ McEuen passes

William E McEuen, known widely as Bill, has passed at 79 years of age. He died on Thursday, September 24, with the news shared by his brother, prolific multi-instrumentalist and award winning artist, John McEuen.

Bill had been involved in John’s career since the beginning, starting out as his first music teacher showing the younger brother how to play guitar. He served as manager for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the early days, getting them their first record label contract, and steering them in many positive directions as the band’s popularity grew.

On the first two Dirt Band albums, Bill wrote songs and contributed photos, until on their third, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, which included their first hit, Mr. Bojangles, in 1970, the older McEuen served as producer and engineer. And he was deeply involved in the band’s iconic Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, which released as a three-LP set in 1972. Bill was producer and engineer, contributed photography, played guitar, and handled the art direction for this milestone release. John McEuen has also credited much of the initial concept for the album to his brother.

Bill continued to produce the group’s subsequent records, before embarking on a new direction in comedy and film, working closely with Steve Martin, who had been a family friend since John and he became friends in high school. McEuen produced and engineered Martin’s first four comedy albums, which include the breakout A Wild and Crazy Guy in 1978. He followed Steve to the film studio producing The Jerk in 1979 through the company he and Martin founded, Aspen Film Society. That success was duplicated with other hits like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and The Man With Two Brains.

But success in Hollywood didn’t dull Bill’s enthusiasm for music. He continued to produce for John, including his two highly-regarded String Wizards albums and The Essential Earl Scruggs in 2004.

His are contributions that anyone involved with the world of creative arts would be proud to call their own. John and Bill McEuen remained close until the end.

John shared these words at the end of a Facebook post noting the loss of his brother.

“William E. was mentor to many who continue today in showbusiness doing great things.

He leaves behind his wife and business partner Alice (Alice did the calligraphy on ‘Circle’); brother John, and a bunch of singing, laughing, and dancing people with happy feet who loved what he brought them. He KNEW what they would like!

‘Bill’, aka William E. McEuen, has left the building.”

R.I.P., Bill McEuen.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.