ASH GROVE, ASH GROVE, All Get Down
This is huge, especially if you want to know something about the history of how today’s music got where it is today. The official site of the L.A.’s legendary Ash Grove, ashgrovemusic.com, now offers concert recordings from the 50’s—‘70’s to fans and students of the ‘60’s music revolution, the musicians who made it and the influences who made them:
You say you don’t know what’s so earth-shaking about this? Well, honey, you came to the right place to learn.
Ed Pearl’s The Ash Grove was the Los Angeles folk and roots-music club that was not only front and center when the revolution caught fire, but lit the match and fanned its flames for much of the country and the era. Dig:
If Jerry Garcia hadn’t heard Bluegrass would the Grateful Dead have done Rain and Snow for at least 20 minutes every time they went on stage?
And if Clarence White didn’t hear Doc Watson would he still have played those amazing guitar licks with the Byrds?
And would the Byrds have recorded Turn, Turn, Turn if they hadn’t been introduced to the music of Pete Seeger?
Hard to tell. These performers, as well as Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bonny Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Canned Heat and many, many more (look at Performers under Ash Grove History at the site) would have played something, but I wonder if it would have resonated as much as their music finally did? As I said, hard to tell.
I know what these concerts meant to those of us who were trying to find our way through Rock ‘n Roll and folk music to something of our own that was new. Sometimes—usually, in fact—we had little or no idea what we were trying to do. There was no strong, silent hand that said, “Hey, you with the nylon string guitar! Listen to Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins.” Or, “Yo, you, with the Christy Minstrel Singers! Get a banjo and listen to Flatt & Scruggs.”
But there were places—clubs, cabarets, concerts—that young players and performers could hear music they hadn’t heard before and later rework it into their own musical vocabularies. There weren’t many of these places willing to take chances hiring acts that nobody except record collectors and die-hard insiders knew about: Clarence Ashley, the New Lost City Ramblers, Reverend Gary Davis, Freddy MacDowell, John Fahey, Rose Madox, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt and scores more. Look, go to the site, click on History of the Ash Grove, Original Ash Grove 1958-73, List of Performers, and see for yourself.
It’s hard for me to keep my ego out of the way as I write this, since I was around LA and the Ash Grove much of the time I’m talking about. I watched and learned from these performers, and when the time came threw my modest two cents worth into the mix. [To learn just how modest see “Evergreen Blueshoes” and earlier posts in POWER-PICKERS.COM. Leave a comment and you’ll get a free POWER-PICKERS flatpick.]
I don’t want to belabor the news that these recordings are finally being released. If you’re at all interested in what the music movers and shakers of the ‘60’s listened to and learned from, go to the site.