Please indulge an old-ish man one more story about his late wife.

When I first took Red to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, it was a rainy night at a county fair not far from Lake Michigan. It was the days before John McEuen rejoined the band, it was a dreary night, and I was disappointed a second time — I had seen them once during my college years and thought they sounded nothing like the crisp ensemble that had made those records. We left early, partly because we had a fidgety 10-year-old in tow and partly because we were tired of getting wet.

That could have been the last of it, but a couple years later Red wanted to show me Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, Wisconsin. It’s a spectacular musical venue every summer, under a big tent on a hill not far from Lake Superior. I looked it up and saw that its schedule included a concert featuring John McEuen and Jimmie Ibbotson with special guest Vassar Clements.

“McEuen and Ibbotson were my favorite members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,” I told her, “and Vassar Clements is the fiddler who stole the show on Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” She agreed this could be a great way to introduce me to the Big Tent, and it was.

John McEuen rejoined NGDB not long afterward, and as far as I’m concerned that revived the band with an energy that continues to this day, even though he has since left again and Ibbotson has retired. We saw the reconstituted Dirt Band at Big Top Chautauqua a few years later, and it was night-and-day from the county fair debacle. I think together we saw them a total of five times, including their immortal 50th anniversary concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, my absolute favorite musical memory.

In early June I got an email from Big Top Chautauqua that some of their shows are now being livestreamed, including an upcoming performance on Friday night, June 23, by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I told Red, and she said that would be great, and so I arranged for us to watch the concert from her room at the hospice residence.

We waited patiently through the warm-up act, and we waited patiently after they announced the band would take the stage in another 30 minutes. Once they started, and it was a magical night.

After Jaime Hanna sang “Girl From the North Country,” Red murmured, “That was beautiful.” Son of co-founder Jeff Hanna, Jaime’s rich voice adds another dimension to the Dirt Band, which I suspect will be his group someday if he wants it — Jeff is going strong at 75, but he’s 75, after all, and 76 on July 11.

McEuen was replaced by Jaime, Ross Holmes and Jim Photoglo, and this was our first experience with the new lineup — they made a PBS special last year, but that was only an hour of highlights, not the complete concert. We liked the new mix — not as much as the Hanna-Jimmie Fadden-Bob Carpenter-Ibbotson-McEuen mix, but pretty close.

When they played Photoglo’s composition “Fishing in the Dark” — one of their biggest country hits — we knew from past experience that they were almost done. Sure enough, here came “Bayou Jubilee” — with Holmes substituting “Orange Blossom Special” for “Sally Was a Goodun” to fine effect — and then “Jambalaya” and the encore of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “The Weight” spliced inside.

And then the nurses came in to prep my exhausted bride for bed. She was as tired as I’ve ever seen her, but I could tell she’d had a good time.

Red slept most of the time I was there Saturday and Sunday, and a couple of times I apologized for wearing her out and keeping her up past her bedtime. She shut that line of thinking down as only she could, adding, “It was wonderful.” And Tuesday morning she was gone.

Our first date wasn’t the smoothest — that may be a tale for another day — but our last date 26 years later was perfect. And that’s probably more important.

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