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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to Perform with Soviet Rock Pioneer Pete Anderson

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Pete AndersonThe Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will reunite with Soviet-era rock pioneer Pete Anderson on November 14th, when Pete makes a cameo performance appearance with them at the Emporia Granada Theater in Emporia, Kansas. During the height of the Cold War, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band became the first American band to tour the U.S.S.R., playing 28 sold-out shows. The story of this unusual East/West friendship shows how the power of music can change the world, a featured subject in the new documentary film "Rockin' The Kremlin," directed by four time Emmy Award director Jim Brown, due for May 2012 release.

In the fall of 1976 the U.S. State Department, looking to influence the Soviet youth, cunningly presented the Dirt Band to the Kremlin as a folk ensemble that should tour the Soviets. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band opened their tour the following May of '77 in Tiblisi, Georgia (USSR), utilizing drums and electric bass and guitars, as well as fiddle, mandolin, and banjo, and playing a mixture of roots rock and roll, country rock and bluegrass. The Soviet audience exploded in hysteria - word spread like wild fire. At the five sold out Armenian bike track stadium shows, hundreds of music fans scaled the fence on a daily basis during the show to get in.

"The KGB tried to limit interaction with the youth and followed the band everywhere," Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen remembers. "It was found out that they often held people for overnight questioning if they had spoken with the group.

"Wherever we played, even though it was illegal to stand up at a concert, the now musically liberated Soviets danced in the aisles. Our shows are still talked about to this day. It was nine years before another American band was allowed to perform in the Soviet Union, as the government saw how hungry for freedom the people were."

In Soviet Latvia's capital, Riga, John was approached by silenced Latvian rock pioneer Pits "Pete" Anderson, and found out that he was an American rockabilly fanatic... and they have been friends since.

Anderson’s love of American rock and roll began as a child. In 1959, he began performing illegally on underground stages in Latvia, singing Little Richard songs, and he soon became a major rock figure and inspiration to freedom loving youth, creating a lot of trouble for himself because he was singing American music. Anderson was arrested over a dozen times and beaten nearly to death several times -- for playing music! The KGB threatened to kill his daughter if he kept singing American songs. He stopped and was barred from performing in 1972.

After meeting Pete in Riga after one of their shows in May of '77, McEuen evaded his KGB tails and took a taxi and two trains to meet up with Anderson, who drove him to his little home in the country, to where he had been banished. Anderson had told a few friends, and there were about 25 people waiting when the two arrived.

"Keep in mind this was a highly illegal activity and I was many miles outside the approved travel radius," McEuen says. "All night they talked about America, sang songs like ‘This Land is Your Land,’ and Pete intermittently rushed over to his American wall map to point at states he would visit if he ever became ‘free’."

The two musicians kept in touch as much as possible over the years, and then things changed for the better. By 1989, Gorbachev's Glasnost reforms permitted more personal freedoms - allowing Anderson to return to the stage and make his first album - after 30 years! Today, he is the undisputed father of American `50s rock and roll in that part of the world, and in 2009, his album "Brass-A-Billy" was voted the Best Rockabilly Album of The Year at the JPF Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1991, Latvia achieved independence. Anderson’s defiance of communism and his story made him a national Latvian hero. In 2006, he was honored with his own Latvian Postage Stamp.

McEuen invited Anderson to come over to Norway last year to join the band, sitting in on a few songs then at a country music festival they were headlining. This was 'kind of a rehearsal' for the upcoming film shoot with Anderson on November 14th, during the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's concert in Emporia, Kansas. The band will bring their old Cold War friend Pete Anderson to join them on stage for a few songs... in Kansas... to shoot final footage for the film "Rockin' The Kremlin"

"Rockin' The Kremlin" is produced in partnership with the Grammy Museum of Los Angeles, supported by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and will premier at the Grammy Museum's theater at LA/Live in Los Angeles in May, 2012

Comments from John McEuen: The story of Pete Anderson coming to America to play music freely is more than just one of a guy sitting in with a band being 'easier' than a few years ago. It is the story that honors the many that have fought over the years establishing and protecting freedom for those such as Peter. It is the story honoring those who died trying to attain freedom from tyranny, and of what they were trying to achieve. It is the story of the now observable success in attaining those liberties for many.

Pete Anderson, honored in his own country as a champion of freedom, exemplifies that for which they all fought. What better story could be told than one of this proof of the success of our military personnel’s dedication to their duty, and that their cause to celebrate the American ideals is now exemplified by Pete's own freedom of expression.

This is also a success story for the U.S. State Department, for it was their idea to make sure that the people of this Communist controlled country would be exposed to American ideals demonstrated by a 'democratic band,' a group of free hippies, making their own decisions in art, music, and life. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band represented an important part of what America and its people were all about in both an artistic manner and, though not stated, politically.

We need to put this story everywhere we can. The national press should know, as well as all media. The government PR people should know. . . immediately. The Vets need some good news. We all need some good news.

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