When David Letterman retires this month from CBS’s “Late Show,” musicians everywhere will be singing the blues as the talk-show host winds up more than three decades as their champion. Mr. Letterman’s departure is a particular loss for a genre enjoying a renaissance: Americana.
“Dave was celebrating Americana artists before we knew what we were called,” says Emmylou Harris, one of the scene’s matriarchs, who first performed on Mr. Letterman’s program in 1989. Steve Earle , a 60-year-old roots rocker, says Mr. Letterman “has been loyal to us. It really is the end of an era.”
This month, at Mr. Letterman’s request, Ms. Harris performed the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” with Rodney Crowell, Amos Lee and Mark O’Connor, along with actor Steve Martin on banjo. Almost 14 years ago Ms. Harris performed the song on the “Late Show” with Gillian Welch and Sheryl Crow, 10 days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The hymn was on a 1972 album that sparked Mr. Letterman’s interest in Americana, the host said. “When I was a young man back in Indiana, I was given a copy of “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” he recalled. “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band produced this seminal collection of early American music with the Carter family. I just loved it.”
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