Today, we wish a happy 77th birthday to bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman. A piano player growing up, Grisman’s musical influences steered him in the direction of rock, folk, and traditional music early on in his teen years. While living in Greenwich Village, he met many different folk musicians and went on to become a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band. In 1966, he recorded Early Dawg, which featured a young Del and Jerry McCoury; the live album didn’t see the light of day until 1980.
David Grisman – “Prisoner’s Song”
[Video: David Sheffield]
In 1967, Grisman sparked a friendship with Peter Rowan and formed Earth Opera, a group that was very much in the spirit of the psychedelic rock scene of the late ’60s. Though the band didn’t get much commercial success, it paved the way for the Boston-based group to meet some other influential musicians down the road.
Earth Opera – “The Great American Eagle Tragedy”
Shortly after Grisman met Jerry Garcia, the guitarist invited him to play on the Grateful Dead‘s 1970 album American Beauty. This foreshadowed the beginning of a musical relationship that would result in many collaborations for years to come. Grisman’s mandolin has become synonymous with both “Ripple” and “Friend of the Devil”.
Grateful Dead – “Ripple”
When Grisman and Rowan teamed up with Grateful Dead lead guitarist and fellow bluegrass aficionado Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, and John Kahn to form Old & In The Way in 1973 and record the self-titled album, they more than likely wouldn’t have expected the album to be the best-selling bluegrass album of all time (only to eventually be succeeded by the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?). However, it did further cement a great friendship and creative chemistry between Garcia and Grisman, a man the Dead leader dubbed “Dawg”.
Old & In The Way – Old & In The Way (Playlist)
The Pizza Tapes….the story behind this two-night session between Grisman, Garcia, and acoustic guitarist Tony Rice is something out of the old folklore tradition. While Grisman and Rice were recording at his studio in 1993, Dawg invited Garcia to come over and record. Apparently, a pizza delivery guy stole Garcia’s copy shortly after the sessions and then began circulating tapes at various shows on Dead tour. Some of the bootlegs were confiscated, and Grisman eventually went on to release the now aptly dubbed The Pizza Tapes in 2000.
Garcia / Grisman / Rice – “Shady Grove”
[courtesy of Ultranothing]
The String Cheese Incident were born from the traditions of Grisman, Rowan, the Dead, and bluegrass as a whole. So at the 2015 Gathering of the Vibes, the Colorado genre-fluid act welcomed Grisman and Rowan during their set to bridge the generational gap.
The String Cheese Incident – “Land of the Navajo” – 7/31/15
[Video: mk devo]