Ed Pearl: Back to the Ash Grove

“What the Ash Grove did,” says Ed Pearl, “was change the face of popular music.” Of course, Pearl would think that: He is the folk impresario (if that’s not an oxymoron) behind the Ash Grove, a fabled roots music club that stirred it up on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles from 1958-1973. It was the kind of place some folks dream about, a place where legends the likes of Muddy Waters and Doc Watson, as well as Flamenco dancers and street poets, took the stage on the same bill; a community center where everyday people—activists and laborers, millionaires and grifters—all made the scene. So why would anyone want to burn it down, not once, but three times?

The gospel of the Ash Grove, according to Pearl, demonstrates how the traditional music of the American South came to the West Coast, entered the popular culture in the early ’60s, launched the folk revival followed by the creation of folk-rock and its protest-orientated repertoire, and contributed to the transformation of culture. Though what you are about to read may or may not prove that claim, like one of those traditional ballads that gets handed down and slightly rearranged over time, it’s the writer’s hope that the essence of the song is pure, while its mystery remains.

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Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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