Letters of congratulations read at the “Best of the West” award on October 12th, 2013

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ed pearl note from PeteSeeger
Roz Larman, Wendy Waldman, Ry Cooder, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt,  Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Robert Hilburn

Ed Pearl,

The Ashgrove was a very special place.  Howard, my son Allen, and I were frequent visitors.  It was a great place, thanks to Ed Pearl, that afforded you the opportunity to see many folks who eventually went on have wonderful careers.

From Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Loudon Wainwright lll, Taj Mahal, Joan Baez, Steeleye Span, Flatt & Scruggs, Mance Lipscomb, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson with Clarence Ashley.  If my memory is still correct, Doc made his singing debut at The Ashgrove.

I will never forget the night Mike Seeger was there, and Peter Seeger just happened to drop by and joined Mike on stage.

It was the place to be at in the late '50s through the early '70s.

Roz Larman (past recipient of the FAR-West Ambassador Award)-FolkScene

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I must have been fifteen. I can’t imagine that my folks would let me go there when I was fourteen. But I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, and to this day I have never understood why my mother would drive me over the hill from Encino to MelroseHollywood at night to go to the Ash Grove. However,  I have always been deeply grateful that she did! I went so often that I became a regular,–I’d just walk right in without paying. I was always the youngest person there. Years later, Dave Alvin and I compared notes, and he told me that he did the same thing at the same age-but somehow I guess we were both so engrossed in the music that we didn’t meet in those days. Once I had my license, I was there every weekend.

        In those days of course, in the majority of clubs, the acts would come to play for several days-usually Tuesday through Sunday, two sets a night. And the musical palate was so broad–you could hear every blues musician alive, many of the great bluegrass bands, jug bands, solo artists, new folk rock bands, musicians from other countries, ethnic, folk, experimental, instrumental, borderline psychedelic folk, new bands, poets, some jazz, foreign musicians, emerging artists of all types–and legends. And if you were crazy about them, you could go back and see them again the next night!

        By the time I was sixteen, I was looking for something–a sound I had in my head– a sound that combined blues with contemporary sensibilities–in some way I hadn’t found. My life changed the night I walked in and saw a long, tall,  lanky and very handsome young black man sprawled on a chair by himself onstage, with a dobro in his lap. He played his version of “Corrina,” a song we all knew from blues repertoire. Hearing the way Taj Mahal approached a traditional piece, combined with his flawless execution and magnetic soul showed me so much about so much–how you could look at a piece of music, how you could sing it, and most importantly, how you could perform as a solo artist in so relaxed and yet powerful a manner. I became a friend and student of Taj’s and I love him to this day.

        I received my musical education standing in the back at the Ash Grove. I rarely took a seat. I’d get my hot cider and lurk in the shadows. I saw and met many of the great figures of the folk music world in those days, just to name a very few: Lightnin Hopkins, Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Clarence and Roland White, Bill Monroe, Ry Cooder, Fred McDowell, Kaleidoscope, Taj Mahal and his amazing band,  countless Chicago blues bands, Johnny Otis,  Etta James, of course, the Kweskin Jug Band, brilliant new singer songwriters and well known solo folk artists. The list is huge and rich.

        In the front of the club there was a record store, which stocked exclusively folk, blues, ethnic, jazz and some classical records. I built a fantastic collection of vinyl from the Smithsonian, Folkways, Arhoolie and other obscure labels–of every kind of folk music available in those days. ALL of my allowance went to these records, which I still have to this day.

        The Ash Grove was my musical home–I spent my teens there, every weekend. Without a doubt, my life would have been completely different had I not grown up standing in the back of that wonderful, comfortable, funky place. This is the most valuable piece of my early training-the fact that I was able to see so much great music, live, close up, and in such astonishing variety. To this day I am grateful beyond measure that the Ash Grove was such a haven for intelligent, diverse music and thought, and I am quite clear that it was my true university.

        But– the most exciting (and terrifying)  moment in my young life, was the first time I played there as an artist myself–talk about a dream come true!

WENDY WALDMAN
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Ed Pearl

In the 1960’s, If you wanted to learn traditional guitar and you lived in Santa Monica, California, you had a definite problem. All the great American guitarists, living or dead, inhabitied an exotic, unknown world, somewhere down big river, as Johnny Cash said, but all that I could see was West Pico Boulevard, and that’s what tortured me.

 What future lay in store for a south Santa Monica backward boy? Pumping gas in Pacoima, sacking groceries in El Segundo? Not a bad life, you might say, just a bit on the dull side.

Now that I’m older, I like things quiet and dull, but in those days of youth, my only thought was to get moving on the instrument and make up for lost time before everyone important was gone, which would happen eventually as we all now know.

 Ed Pearl gave me and people like me who otherwise would have naturally gravitated to Pacoima and El Segundo, a chance at the real thing, a precious opportunity to sit a few feet away from the masters and absorb what we could. And not just the notes, but the thinking and feeling they projected, which travels out from human beings about 2 feet, I should judge. You’re not getting it from records, or the big shows that came later, or from the biased and even ignorant opinions and interpretations of others. Just one man’s opinion.

So I thank Ed Pearl very much because,  in the immortal words of Los Angeles Pachuco band leader, Don Tosti, I learned everything I know form everyone I ever met, especially the people I met at the Ash Grove. Gracias and saludos , ED.   

Ry Cooder
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Congratulations Ed and Chris!

Ed gave me my first professional job opening for, and playing with the Limeliters at the Ash Grove in June of 1960. The opening act was ill and Ed allowed me, a 17 year old kid to fill in. Thanks Ed, you started me on a career that has sustained over five decades.

Chris Hillman was already a bluegrass star when we asked him to join our little band that become the Byrds. His contribution as a fine bass player and songwriter with such classics as "Time Between,"  "Girl With No Name" and "Old John Robertson" paved the way for what would eventually be called "Country Rock" and "American Roots Music."

All the best,

Roger McGuinn
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The Ash Grove was the club in LA that presented real roots music. From Bluegrass to Blues and everything in between, including folksinger/songwriters, at The Ash Grove you could hear the musical pulse of the social changes going on throughout the sixties. It's no secret that folk music holds the true history of our country. Ed Pearl was at the heart of the folk revival, and made it his personal mission to bring us the real thing. I will be forever grateful.

Jackson Browne
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The Ash Grove was home to the people’s music and a forum for a generation of songwriters that had something important to say. Congratulations Ed and the Ash Grove Music Foundation on your FAR-West “Best of the West” Award.

– Bonnie Raitt
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Congratulations Ed,

You and the Ash Grove deserve the honor.

Some of my greatest moments were at the Ash Grove. It provided a venue where one could be seen not just by loud bar patrons, but by literati, intelligentsia and people who wanted to listen to the performers and appreciated my music.

The first time I played there was in 1963, opening for Lightnin' Hopkins, and I have to apologize Ed for showing up a day late, because I stopped to visit this great ranch in Texas, and I only thought I was opening for Lightnin', but when I got there, you had to dock my pay because you said so many people had come to see me!

Then there was the time I was supposed to appear and got bit by a spider on a canoe in Colorado, and my arm swelled up so bad I had to cancel…and you told the customers I got bit by a rattlesnake. But you hired Kris Kristofferson instead, and I was so excited to hear that, I flew there anyways and Kris and Bobby Neuwirth had me come on stage and I could barely get through one song.
Still the Ash Grove was always the place that hired the real authentic performers, not the slick ones playing for the bourgeois audiences. I still miss it. Wish there was another Ash Grove. I'd try hard to make the gigs on time.

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

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After the Ash Grove closed in 1973, LA Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn wrote its obituary, including one notable tribute from an unexpected, yet somehow unsurprising source. "On his way out of the Ash Grove one night, Mick Jagger, a frequent visitor to the club, shook Pearl's hand in gratitude. He simply wanted to thank Pearl for all the entertainment – and no doubt musical education – the club had given him."

Joel Bellman
 

 

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