Friday, November 20, 2009

The Ash Grove - Mick Jagger Gets the Blues

By Chris L Morton

In his Ash Grove recording, guitarist Dave Alvin laments the loss of a favorite Los Angeles club, a venue that should be on the National Register of Historic Places. It would have to be in an urn, however, the club burned not once, but three times.

Ed Pearl (an uncle of Spirit's Randy California) founded the 250-seat Ash Grove in 1958. "I started with the perfect show," says Pearl. "Brownie McGhee, Guy Carawan ... McGhee was the Southern folk-bluesman who, at the time, hadn't quite yet formed his famous alliance with harmonica partner Sonny Terry; Carawan is best known for adapting We Shall Overcome with Pete Seeger."

Going forward, stage acts would include Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Garcia, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Son House, Mose Allison, Hoyt Axton, Eric Burdon, the Byrds, Canned Heat, Commander Cody, Albert Collins, Larry Coryell, James Cotton, Jose Feliciano, Firesign Theater, Robben Ford, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Ahmad Jamal, Dr. John, Albert King, Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, Spirit, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, "Big Mama" Thornton, the Chambers Brothers, Flying Burrito Brothers, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. Many other acts also appeared at the Ash Grove over the years.

Everybody hung out at the Ash Grove. It was there that Jim (Roger) McGuinn met David Crosby before forming the Byrds, and a chance encounter of Linda Ronstadt's led to the formation of the Stone Ponys.

"I always had two or three cheap recorders going ...," [Pearl] explains. "I'd just turn them on because I wanted to listen ... Ry, Taj, and the rest of us liked to listen to the old guys." Some 3,000 hours of recorded live performances at the Ash Grove have survived. Many of these recordings may be streamed live or purchased from Wolfgang's Vault.

Currently in production, Ash Grove Burning is a documentary by Sundance award-winning filmmaker Aiyana Elliott. Hers is perhaps not a recognized name in music circles until one learns she is the daughter of Grammy-Award winner, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, a regular Ash Grove performer. Being very patient while it loads, you may view the movie trailer online at Ash Grove Film.

Chris Morton ( lives in Northern California and is an FCC-licensed, classic rock wannabe-DJ and quasi-sociohistorian. At, therein Chris rambles ad nauseum about many genres of music, the musicians, strange connections, the venues, and the gear with which to legally and aurally transcend wherever you happen to be.

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