The Ash Grove
Once upon a time in the late '50s and
'60s in the land of West Hollywood, there stood an idyllic folk-music
club called the Ash Grove.
Ed Pearl's Ash Grove folk music club at 8162 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles was named after the song.
An unassuming venue, built in a former furniture warehouse, on
Melrose Avenue, the Ash Grove eventually became the epicenter of a
California folk music earthquake that radiated shock waves throughout
the country, felt by devotees of folk-rock, the blues, psychedelia,
country-rock and even explosive punk.
Ed Pearl (an
uncle of Spirit's Randy California), a UCLA alumnus who opened the Ash
Grove in July 11, 1958, brought in top music figures, mentored
up-and-comers and created a place where the broadest range of American
folk cultures, from blues to bluegrass, Cajun to comedy, could thrive.
UCLA ethnomusicology student Barry Hansen, later to become Dr. Demento, worked the sound and the lights at the club.
met Dylan in New York in 1961," Pearl recalled. "He knew all about the
Ash Grove, and he said he dreamed of coming out here more than anything.
So, I had him booked, and he called me up and said, 'Ed, I've got a
chance to make a record for John Hammond at Columbia Records. What
should I do ...?'"
"I knew ... that there was a folk
club in Los Angeles called the Ash Grove," reminisced Bob Dylan in his
personal history, "Chronicles: Volume One." "I'd seen posters of folk
shows at the Ash Grove and used to dream about playing there."
Ash Grove brought together people that never, ever would have gotten
together before," Pearl recalled. "Every crazy [music-lover] from the
'60s walked into the place, whatever their ideology — hillbillies, black
people, Latinos, hippies ... ready to learn and live together." Pete
Seeger, Taj Mahal, Roger McGuinn, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Muddy
Waters, Country Joe McDonald and many others pinpointed the Ash Grove as
instrumental to their then-fledgling careers.
became a microcosm of perhaps the most dynamic era of the century,
Pearl said, mixing people of different ages, ethnicities, sexual
orientations and political beliefs.
An April 1969 fire
left the Ash Grove in ruins. Ed Pearl, the owner,believes it was
political arson. Four months later in August 1969, the Ash Grove
Stuart Cornfeld managed the Ash Grove rock club in Santa Monica before it mysteriously burned down.
The second fire was in June 1970 but much smaller, and it opened back up in three days.
people who set the fire in 1971, they all were caught. It turns out
that they were Cubans organized by the Nixon White House. (Peter
Feldman, oldtimeherald, vol. 5, #8, 1996)
In 1973, after 15 years,
the fairytale came to a blazing end when an arson fire reduced the West
Hollywood club to little more than ashes. It was the third such fire.
After the first suspicious fire in 1970, Canned Heat, the Byrds and Taj
Mahal headlined a concert to raise funds to rebuild the club. But not
this time. Today, the Improv Comedy Club now occupies the site.
However, the venue's legacy as a pioneering musical and political crossroads lives on.
In 1974 The Improv opened at the same address.
as the Improv, it fell prey to a fire which unfortunately ended the
days of the great venue once and for all. The spirit of the place was
brought to life again a quarter of a century later by a new Ash Grove in
Santa Monica, but only briefly. (Ed Michel)
parking place was a dumpy gas station at the end of the block. You
collected your instruments, walked down the street to an unassuming
storefront entrance, plastered with posters of upcoming acts, then
walked through the unpretentious front door to a linoleum covered
entrance hall. Roger, the janitor (an identical twin for Fidel Castro),
was usually sweeping up, dressed in olive-green fatigues and a
well-mouthed cigar clamped between his teeth. To the immediate right, an
alcove led to the cramped dressing room, filled with instrument cases, a
few working makeup lights and mirrors, and old straight-backed chairs.
There was a small office/ticket room, and (sporadically) a tiny built-in
store offering strings and records. A long corridor led past the
kitchen to the showroom which seated perhaps 150 persons. The raised
stage area, backed against the far corner of the room, was almost square
in shape, and was surrounded on two sides by a counter serving as a
table for drinks, and for the adventurous, meals served before the
performances began. Several rows of mismatched theater seats rose in two
directions behind a few small tables and chairs underneath the high,
dark-raftered ceiling. The daring customers would get seats at the
counter to focus themselves within six feet of the performers on stage.
There was a distinct smell of the indescribable, accompanied by a
luminescent aura from the two-tiered stage, which was covered with
carpeting vacuumed about once each year.
Musicians who ventured to
stamp their feet while playing there were surrounded by a
gradually-rising cloud of dust which would reach their waists by 10
minutes into the set. Even when empty, that stage hummed with power. It
was a pleasure and a challenge to perform there. You never knew who was
going to be in the audience, and often it was better for the timorous
musician not to know. The sound system was surprisingly good, with a
booth in a cramped, hot loft up above and behind the audience. Richard
Greene remembers the Ash Grove as being the place where he "first
discovered the power of a microphone." He got a chance to play there by
winning first place at the 1st annual Topanga Canyon Banjo & Fiddle
Contest: the prize was a gig at the Ash Grove with the New Lost City
Ramblers. There were no monitors (probably one reason the sound was so
good), but it seemed to be easy to hear oneself.
recalls the time that the New Lost City Ramblers were scheduled to
appear there with Maybelle Carter. At the last moment, Maybelle and her
daughters were called away to appear on the new TV show Hootenanny! Ed
and the Ramblers were upset to say the least, but Maybelle called to say
she was sending a solo act replacement: Johnny Cash. ". . . so he came
in that first weekend, and he'd make these huge 'moves'. . . he'd just
come from playing some big stadiums. Then, he'd just put the autoharp on
a little chair, hunch over, and sing like Maybelle. It was astounding. .
The audiences at the Ash Grove could be very demanding.
Often the front row of seats would be filled with the area's finest
musicians, soaking in every nuance of the performance. Usually, the good
performers responded with outstanding shows. Afterwards the late folks
and hangers-on headed around the corner down Fairfax Ave. to Canters'
Deli for sandwiches and insults from the hard-boiled, late-night
But the Ash Grove wasn't just a music club. The
variety of the acts there guaranteed that there was going to be tension,
since the club bridged the vast deserts between social groups, from
collegiate folk types to blue collar workers to country folks to young
urban blacks and back again. Ed Pearl's leftist politics often rubbed
people the wrong way, but for him, those ideas tied together all the
disparate elements of the music business, the performers, the audience,
and the roots of the music itself. While Ed may have started the club
with an emphasis on commercial folk groups, such as The Limelighters,
Barbara Dane, Bud & Travis, etc., he soon broadened his horizons
after being exposed to the music and ideas of Mike Seeger, John Cohen,
and Tom Paley.
The Ash Grove was a "school" in many forms. Ry
Cooder took guitar lessons from Tom Paley there, for example. There were
weekly classes in folk instruments, but more important, perhaps, was
the fact that traveling groups were invited to play the club for a week
or longer, rather than just a night or weekend. That meant that band
members were very likely to be hanging out at the club with nothing
better to do than trade ideas with the local musicians who were
struggling to learn the basics of old time, country, blues, and
bluegrass. Friendships were made between artists and audiences that
would have been impossible in other circumstances. I remember sharing a
bill with Fred McDowell from Mississippi. Fred and I shared
accommodations at Ed's old beach house at Malibu. We'd get "home" around
3AM. Fred would insist that I get to bed because I "needed the sleep"
while he stayed in the kitchen, easing his homesickness by playing some
slide blues on his guitar. (feldman,peter, oldtimehitsthebigtiime,
When Clarence [White] played his first solo, "Jimmy
Brown the Newsboy," that opened up vistas to young musicians, including
Ry [Cooder] and Dave Lindley, etc. . . . all of them. If Doc would play
something, that might do it, but Clarence was there every day. Clarence
was an Ash Grove employee. He and I together put in all the theater
seats, a lot of carpentry and stuff like that. They had no money. . . . I
really and truly loved him. Particularly when Roland went into the
army, I took over the job of older brother with Clarence. (Ed Pearl)
Closed by fire on Nov.11, 1973.
Ed Pearl launched a second Ash Grove on the Santa Monica Pier in 1996, but sadly, it only lasted a year.
The Pitchell Players Cabaret
In San Francisco, The Committee Theater was active during the 1960s. There seems to be some confusion about the Pitschel Players' origins
(and spelling) as they had been performing for a number of years prior
to 1972. They had come up from LA to San Francisco and performed "WC
Fields Memorial Orphanage" at 120 Julian Street as early as March 1967.
Robin Menken of the Pitschel Players became Joe McDonald's second wife
and Joe took time out in May and June 1969 to performat the Intersection
in San Francisco with the Pitschel Players and John Fromer.(5)
When The Committee disbanded in 1972, three major companies were formed: The Pitchell Players, The Wing, and Improvisation Inc.
The building at 8162 Melrose Avenue is destined to provide a home for a diverse assemblage of artists, beginning with the July 1958 debut of The Ash Grove folk club (named after the Welsh folk song of the same name), founded by 22-year-old guitar teacher Ed Pearl. For the next 15 years, the club serves as the intersection for folk legends like Mississippi John Hurt and Brownie McGee, intermingling with the surge of young 1960s anti-establishment folkies such as Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez. It is also a nurturing ground for the social dissent that engulfs the nation during the decade, providing a platform for satirists and commentators, such as poets Charles Bukowski and Kenneth Patchen, the satirical Credibility Gap (Michael McKean, David L. Lander, Harry Shearer, Richard Beebe), El Teatro Campesino, Firesign Theater, the Groundlings, Rowan & Martin, Mort Sahl, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Wavy Gravy and others. In the early 70s, the Ash Grove also welcomes political activists returning from Cuba who – through poetry, song, film and rant – provide a view of the Castro regime that foments protests and threats of violence from decidedly anti-Castro Cuban exiles.
Meanwhile, Joe Roth, (the future film industry power broker), was accepted at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. It was the 1960s. He became caught up in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene and shunned law school. Through a contact at a sports camp where he worked, he landed a job as a production assistant for one of Francis Ford Coppola's line producers.
During the 1970s in San Francisco, Roth worked on any movie or commercial he could. He also managed a street mime, operated lights at the Pitchell Players improvisation club and ran the midnight movies at San Francisco's Balboa Theater.
A series of fires, including what patrons believe to be an arson attack, lead to The Ash Grove (see that page) club’s closing on Nov 11, 1973.
Roth brought the Pitchell Players, led by Ann Bowen (wife of thespian Roger Bowen), to Los Angeles and began producing their shows in 1974. He leased the Ash Grove nightclub on Melrose Avenue, where the Improv is today, and showcased comics such as Chevy Chase and Laraine Newman before they starred on "Saturday Night Live."(3)
Michael McKean became part of the Pitchell Players, he is famous for his role as Lenny on Laverne and Shirley (1976-1982).
Despite achieving laudable artistic success, the Pitchell residency failed to maintain financial viability.(1)
The resulting film was "Tunnelvision", the 1976 comedy anthology film featuring Roger Bowen, Chevy Chase, John Candy, Howard Hesseman, Joe Flaherty, Laraine Newman, Betty Thomas, Phil Proctor, Al Franken, Ron Silver, Tom Davis, Michael Overly. It was directed by Neal Israel and Bradley R. Swirnoff and produced by Joe Roth. He has produced 28 films.
Jerry performed here on
12/63 Black Mountain Boys (opened for Kentucky Colonels) (Ash Grove)
Things went from weird to worse when Sara got a serious breast infection and had to be re-hospitalized for a few days. Still, Jerry went ahead with his plan to go to Los Angeles with the Black Mountain Boys, who were opening for the Kentucky Colonels at the Ash Grove. "It was a big important thing for him," Sara says philosophically, "but I came home from being in the hospital, my parents had gone to Europe, Jerry left for L.A., and I was recovering from this nasty infection alone with this baby and weeping a lot — devastated with the responsibility of motherhood and not having any support."(4)
5/23/73 early and late shows Merl Saunders (Ash Grove)
5/29/73 early and late shows Merl Saunders (Ash Grove)
5/30/73 early and late shows Merl Saunders (Ash Grove)
3/7/75 Legion Of Mary (Pitchell Players Cabaret)
3/8/75 Legion Of Mary (Pitchell Players Cabaret)
1.)^Martinez, Julio, 2012-01-26, http://www.lastagetimes.com/2012/01/la-stage-insider-50/
3.)^Bates, James and Eller, Claudia, The Mouse that Roamed, 2000-03-26, http://articles.latimes.com/2000/mar/26/magazine/tm-12666/2
4.)^Jackson, Blair, Garcia: An American Life, pg. 60
5.)^The Yellow Shark, comments, Ash Grove (Pitchell (Pitschel) Players Cabaret), 8162 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
Records show it was established in 1919 and incorporated in California.(6)
When Troop 5 of the Boy Scouts needed a post, the American Legion Log Cabin was conceived. Construction on Post 179 began on Lincoln’s birthday in 1933 from lumber and redwood logs. The self-appointed volunteer committee accomplished most of the building. A master mason who served in the German army from 1914 to 1918 built the massive fireplace, chimney and much of the cabin’s stonework.
Two 75-millimeter World War II-era artillery guns lie in front of the historic log cabin, which houses a spacious meeting hall and dance floor, a raised bandstand, a commercial kitchen, a separate ante room with a bar, an outdoor brick barbecue in a grassy picnic area, a full-service bar and a game room.(2)
This is essentially an authentic log cabin in the middle of a park amongst the redwoods in the west Marin 'burbs.
Upstairs is a huge cavernous hall that is just begging for an off-the-hook home skillet party. The joint is made out of actual logs. There are even pictures of Abe Lincoln. Lincoln logs were invented by John Loyd Wright, Frank Loyd Wright's son, not Abraham Lincoln. There's a Grand Poobah's chair on a little stage and photographs of all the American Legionairres plastered all over the walls. The place is drenched in history (and whiskey).(2)
The Historic Log Cabin in San Anselmo has a full kitchen, stage, working fireplace, full bar, and is available for rentals. There is also a full bar downstairs called the "Dugout" which is open to the public Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Drinks are cheap and the pool table is free. There is also a shuffleboard table, darts, dice pinball, and video games.(2)
It smells woodsy inside as well. The lighting choices are endless. Twinkle lights, chandeliers or spot lights are all in the main room. There are tables and chairs.(4)
Jerry performed here on
11/23/86 Log Cabin Boys (Sandy Rothman and David Nelson)
The Log Cabin Boys: Thanksgiving – 1986
David Nelson: By November, Jerry was getting out and doing stuff again. When it came time for the annual Grateful Dead Thanksgiving party, it was decided to have it at the Log Cabin in San Anselmo, CA. It’s an American Legion hall kind of place, but really nice – designed like a log cabin. And the three of us were the “Log Cabin Boys” for the night.
Sandy Rothman: We were all just sitting around a table with all the other families and people milling around in typical party fashion. Everybody was doing what they were doing and occasionally listening to us. I guess we were providing ambient music in the room, but it wasn’t like a performance – just a lot of fun.
David Nelson: Before the party, Sandy and I were saying to each other, “Jeez – Jerry’s just been to the ends of the universe and back; what’s he going to remember about those old tunes?” So the two of us tried to put our heads together: “Let’s try that song,” and, “I think I remember how that one goes.” By the end of the evening, we realized that Jerry remembered more of the words than we did! But that was the way Jerry always was: listen once; play it.
Sandy Rothman: Jerry was on the banjo at the Thanksgiving party, as well. I’m not sure where we were when the decision was made for him to play guitar instead of banjo. It had to have been at some get-together before the Poster Art Benefit we played at the Fillmore, though.(1)
"Well, how that actually came about was Jerry, before the time he collapsed and went in to the hospital; that was through dehydration and everything… I was at the gig, that’s a long story…I was at the gig before that, it was in Philadelphia or somewhere [editor’s note- possibly RFK Stadium in Washington DC, July of 1986]; I was in the van where we drove back to the hotel and it was really hot and the van couldn’t move because everybody was walking across the path and Garcia turns around to me and goes, “anybody got anything; any water or anything?” And I’m so dismayed to say I only had a beer. And I went, “oh geez, it’s all I got” and nobody in the van had any water and I handed it to him and he went, “bleeccchhh! Is that all you got?” Because that doesn’t really quench your thirst when you’re dehydrated; you’re totally, lack of water… Anyway, I said goodbye; he went home; [I]heard the next day he had a complete collapse and went to the hospital and was in a diabetic coma. That was just world shaking. This was, I guess, months before that. When he got out of the hospital, I went to see him, and the doctor said, “Bring tapes.” The doctor said to all his old friends, “bring something that is familiar from years past,” and so (laughs) I’m just the guy to ask for that. So, I had tapes of all the stuff we used to listen to and different things that were familiar to me and Jerry. I went over to his house and we sat there and listened to all this old stuff and he was just; we were just talking, we didn’t think of anything about it but shortly after that, within days of that, there was this thing of “we’re gonna have a Thanksgiving.” I know it was Thanksgiving; figure out which year that must’ve been, 86?
PG: That’s 86, yeah.
DN: Yeah. And Jerry called me and said, “Hey why don’t you bring Sandy, y’know? We used to play all that stuff. Why don’t you bring Sandy; John Kahn’s gonna be there.” Jerry’s been doing these duets with John Kahn. So the four of us sat down at the table after dinner at Thanksgiving at the log cabin in San Anselmo and play this; played all this stuff and here’s the thing; here’s an amazing thing about Jerry: me and Sandy are trying to remember words; we’re singing songs, he sings one and then I sing one and all this stuff and then Jerry sings one and he remembers every word perfectly, verbatim! It’s like, WHAT??? (Laughs) That was totally a flash; that was amazing."(7)
1.)^Robbins, Brian, Some Acoustic Jerry Memories With Sandy Rothman & David Nelson
2.)^Destination San Anselmo, 2011-2012 Community Guide and Business Directory
3.)^Jim L., http://www.yelp.com/biz/american-legion-log-cabin-dugout-bar-san-anselmo
4.)^Karen E., http://www.yelp.com/biz/american-legion-log-cabin-dugout-bar-san-anselmo
7.)^Nelson, David, KBOO Community Radio, Interview With David Nelson, http://kboo.fm/node/16741
Sunday, July 29, 2012
All of the numbered images on this page are from unknown venues, unknown dates and unknown photographers.
Can anyone reading provide any assistance in determining their origin? I'm looking for venues, dates (year?) and photographer's names...and of course, any memories that you feel like sharing.
|interview, final run 1974|
|#20 Hank Ballard ("Tore Up Over You")|
|#21 Press conference, NY Hilton 1979, photo by Elliot Newhouse.|
|#22 Backstage at Blues For The Rainforest Benefit? Photographer Jay Blakesburg?|
|#24 Photographer Herb Green|
|#27 Ragged But Right photo session with the JGAB.|
|#34 with Ashley Judd (Smoke)|
|#37 Buffalo 7/4/86|
|#40 Candlestick Parl|
|#40a Candlestick Park|
|#1 Madison Square Garden 9/79, photo by Eliot Newhouse|
|#2 Madison Square Garden 9/79, photo by Eliot Newhouse|
|#3 The Ark, Boston 1969|
|#6 4/11/72 Newcastle|
|#7 per Rolling Stone-London, either 3.81 or 10/81, unknown photographer|
|#9 1974 final run|
|#16 Golden Road interview? Photographer Jay Blakesburg?|
|#51 Jerry and Delaney Bramlett, Festival Express, McMahon Stadium, 7/3/70m, unknown photographer|
|#51a Is that JenDee sitting with Jer??|
|#55 Red Rocks 8/79|
|#56 That's Bob Matthews|
|#59 could be from "Jerry Garcia: The Complete 1985 Interview" by Jas
Obrecht: "I spent the morning of Saturday, January 12, 1985," which
appeared in Frets magazine issue of July, 1985.|
|#65 That's Christine McVie|
|#69 That's Doug Sahm, 11/23/72 Armadillo World Headquarters|
|#70 That's Edie Brickell and Rob Wasserman, Trios, Photographer Jay Blakesburg?|
|#71 Egypt 1978|
|#75 Festival Express 1970, what venue/date?|
|#76 Festival Express 1970, what venue/date?|
|#77 Touch of Grey filming|
|#79 6/18/67 Monterey with Mountain Girl|
|#81 That's Gaylord Birch|
|#91 That's Robert Hunter, Stanford University 1962 from Blair's book.|
|#105 That's Janis Joplin|
|#118 JGB 10/31/87|
|#120 Jerry and Meredith(?) 1979, photo by Eliot Newhouse|
|#129 That's Mountain Girl|
|#130 5/11/69 Aztec Bowl|
|#133 Press conference, NY Hilton 1979, photo by Eliot Newhouse|
|#134 4/26/70 York, WI|
|#138 For the December 10-12, 1972 WInterland run, Jerry, Bob, Phil and Keith all wore spangled Nudie jackets. I wonder what became of them?|
|#139 For the December 10-12, 1972 WInterland run, Jerry, Bob, Phil and Keith all wore spangled Nudie jackets. I wonder what became of them?|
|#140 Veneta, OR 08-27-72|
|#141 Golden Gate Park Bandshell, 7/16/88, That's John Cippolina and Norton Buffalo, I think.|
|#143 That's Pete Townsend and Debra Koons, backstage at Oakland Coliseum Oct 9 or 10 '76|
|#144 5/24/70 Newcastle|
|#146 Thompkins Square Park, NYC 1967|
|#147 Rainforest Benefit|
|#149 8/27/72 Veneta Photographer Sam Foo|
|#150 That's Sanjay Mishra|
|#155 Providence hotel 4/4/85, unknown photographer|
|#158 Laguna Seca 1988 with Los Lobos|
|#163 white pants|
|#173 white pants|
|#177 For the December 10-12, 1972 WInterland run, Jerry, Bob, Phil and Keith all wore spangled Nudie jackets. I wonder what became of them?|
|#178 the only known performance photo of The Warlocks, although it is obviously staged. Reputedly it is a promo photo for The In Room in Belmont, although nobody knows.|
|#180 That's Willie The Cop|
|#183 NYE 12/31/78 Photographer Lance Newberry|
|#184 NYE 12/31/78 Photographer Lance Newberry|
|#185 12/31/78 photographer Lance Newberry|
|#186 Golden Gate Park, but what venue in the park?|
|#188 That's Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil, 2-27-90 Oakland Arena|
|#189 York Farm, Mt. York, Wisconsin, 4/26/70|
|#190 Kresge Plaza, Stratton Student Center steps, M.I.T., 5/6/70 (free show)|
|#192 7/2/71 Fillmore West|
|#193 Jon McIntire|
|#201 Holleder Stadium, Rochester, NY 9/1/79, photo by Elliot Newhouse|
|#202 Silver Stadium, Rochester, NY 6/30/88|
|#206 Frankfurt, Germany 4/26/72|
|#208 white pants|
|#209 (same show as #208) white pants|
|#210 (same show as #208 and #209) white pants|
|#212 JGB 5/21/76 La Paloma, Ed Perlstein|
|#215 red shirt|
|#216 8/27/72 Veneta, OR Photographer Sam Foo|
|#218 Dark void in between|
|#219 4/24/71 Duke|
|#220 Bruce Hornsby on accordian|
|#221 Zuna Wire West Photos|
|#228 Human Be-in 1967? Photographer Lisa h. Beln, Who is that child?|
|#229 Bickershaw Festival 5/7/72 Yes, that's Phil!|
|#231 Denver 9/2467, Les Paul Special TV guitar. Is that David X kneeling down?|
|#235 Some Forgotten Street|
|#236 Another Forgotten Street|
|#240 5/2/87 Robert Minkin?|
|#242 2/11/70 Fillmore East, Photographer Amalie R. Rothschild|
|#245 Photographer Bruce Ginsberg|
Ok, that's it for now....