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“I knew...that there was a folk club in Los Angeles called the Ash Grove. I’d seen posters of folk shows at the Ash Grove and used to dream about playing there.”
— Bob Dylan, Chronicles
 
 
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The ASh grove Legend

    Bob Dylan dreamed of playing there. Bonnie Raitt called it crucial and legendary for its many musical, social and political connections. Mick Jagger thanked the owner for the musical education he received there. 

     From 1958 until its closing in 1973 the Ash Grove was Los Angeles's preeminent roots music venue. In a time of increasingly successful commercial pop and folk music, the visionary owner, Ed Pearl championed the most obscure, raw and talented performers from across the United States.

    These artists went on to become the legendary icons of blues, bluegrass, and folk, many making their first trip west to play the Ash Grove. Among the thousands of artists to perform on its stage were Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson. If they were authentic and had something to say, Ed booked them.

    At the same time, Pearl cultivated a devoted group of young people, aspiring musicians who came night after night to listen and learn at the feet of these musical masters. Watching every note played, hearing every story told, these Ash Grove alumni went on to become legends in their own right. Musicians like Taj Majal, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead incorporated the traditional instruments and licks they absorbed at the Ash Grove into their own bands and changed the sound of contemporary music.

    Never a businessman, always operating on a shoestring and breaking all the rules, Pearl made the Ash Grove his platform to change the world. He fused the Ash Grove's traditional music with the radical politics of a turbulent era that altered the world. It became an experimental classroom and cultural center where people exchanged ideas and musical riffs on and offstage, and where patrons and artists could really interact. It was a mixing place for people from widely different backgrounds, where the rich rubbed elbows with the working class, where celebrities, students, hippies, Black Panthers and truck drivers all came together.

    Those who sat in those seats at the Ash Grove say it was more of a home than a club, and that there never was a place like it, before or since. Time and again, eminent musicians, artists, filmmakers, educators, community activists and public servants tell how the Ash Grove changed their lives.

   And then, the club was burned… not once, but three times.

 

“I can’t think of a better lens through which to view such an important part of our cultural history than a documentary on this wonderful club.”
— Bonnie Raitt
“Ed Pearl is one of the most creative and thoughtful people who ever presented folk music in the U.S.A.”
— Pete Seeger
“It looms large in my history because that is where I met Roger McGuinn. If there had been no Ash Grove, there would have been no Byrds.”
— David Crosby
“I got my improvisational approach from Scotty Stoneman... the first guy to set me on fire.... I went down to hear him the first time at the Ash Grove in L.A. in 1965.... The place was transfixed.”
— Jerry Garcia
“At this place in West L.A. at that time you could have this education and not go wrong. People say, ‘How did you learn this music?’ I said, ‘that’s how, by being at the Ash Grove, with Ed, by the bar at my chair.”
— Ry Cooder

The Filmmakers

 

Ash Grove Film, LLC

Based out of Los Angeles, California, Ash Grove Film LLC is producing this documentary with the cooperation of Ash Grove Music, Inc., a non-profit foundation whose mission is to continue the legacy of the original Ash Grove club through concerts, lectures, community performances, support for young artists and other initiatives that support roots and folk music and related arts in the Los Angeles area. You can find out more about their activities at ashgrovemusic.net.   

 

Executive Producer / Director : Fred Aronow

A veteran filmmaker who has worked in Los Angeles for the last 40 years, he started in New York working with Shoshoni Productions working on the groundbreaking PBS series Vanishing Wilderness (1971). As part of the Wintersoldier Collective he worked on the production and international release of the feature documentary Winter Soldier (1972). He followed that up with work on the PBS Special Black Coal, Red Powerthe made-for-PBS feature A Secret Space, and the independent Guyanese feature Aggro, Seizeman, before moving to the west Coast. His work since that time has continued his focus on issues of justice, human dignity, ecology, access to healthcare and the many issues that negatively and positively affect the daily lives of people around the world. 

Initiating Executive Producer : Jerry Kay

A former Ash Grove employee, who video-recorded a series of interviews back stage at the Ash Grove, all lost in the fires. Inspired by Ash Grove performances of Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino, Kay spent six years as a full-time organizer for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Worker's Union. For five years, he co-produced and hosted a live folk jazz and gospel music radio show on Santa Cruz, California's NPR station, KUSP. Kay co-produced a recording of Hawaiian songs, The Tau Moe Family with Bob Brozman, designated an outstanding folk recording by the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center.

Producer / Editor : Spencer Showalter

Spencer is a recent graduate of the prestigious Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. Moving to Los Angeles, he became lead photographer and videographer for the LA Music Blog, making him an integral part of the LA music scene. His Artist Promos have been featured on Buzzfeed.com attracting thousands of views from around the world He recently directed the debut music video for Ben Taylor’s album, Clouds in the Dirt. Spencer is also currently producing and developing marketing videos for such companies as Red Bull Business Insights

Initiating Director / Coproducer : Aiyanna Elliott

Aiyana Elliott is an award winning filmmaker, selected by Variety as one of the top ten Digital Video directors to watch. Her feature film, The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack was awarded The Special Jury Prize for Artistic Achievement at the Sundance Film Festival and she was awarded the IFP Anthony Radziwill Documentary Achievement Award

 

 

 

PROJECT STATUS

   Beginning in 2006 under the direction of Aiyana Elliott, Sundance-award-winning daughter of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, we have interviewed over thirty past Ash Grove performers former Ash Grove staff, and notable patrons. 

   We filmed and recorded the Ash Grove's 2008 50th Anniversary UCLA Royce Hall sell-out concerts and workshops and the organizing of the event.

   We gathered archival footage, photos, fliers and original taped Ash Grove concerts music of the performers. Work on the project was on the back burner for several years, but in 2015 a new team was designated by Ed Pearl and the Board of Directors of Ash Grove Music, Inc. They began work on the film under the supervision of Fred Aronow. 

   Adding a few new interviews and other footage, we are now working to complete a first rough edit of the film, while locating and arranging licensing for necessary archival film, photographs and music.

   To complete the film, financing will be required for editing, licensing, legal and technical processing. The licensing costs alone for film, photographs and recorded music is estimated to be about $200,000. A minimum of $300,000 to $400,000 could get us close to finishing. We will take every possible course that cuts costs as long as we can tell the Ash Grove's story in a way that is as dynamic and engaging as the Ash Grove was itself.