The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum has announced its next major exhibition with two separate events at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and the museum’s Ford Theater in Nashville. The exhibit, Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock, presented by City National Bank, will be housed in the museum’s newly transformed 5,000-square-foot gallery and will open Sept. 30 for a run of nearly three years.
Western Edge will examine the tight-knit communities of Los Angeles-based singers, songwriters, and musicians who, from the 1960s through the 1980s, embraced country music, frequented local nightclubs, and created and shaped the musical fusion known under the name “country-rock”. – ultimately having an indelible and lasting impact on popular music.
The exhibit will examine the rise of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt and many others who found commercial success by fusing beats and attitude rock & roll with country and bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies.
The musical contributions of these pioneers were expanded upon by the next generation of Los Angeles roots music performers – the Blasters, Rosie Flores, Los Lobos, Lone Justice, Dwight Yoakam and many others – who again drew inspiration from American traditional music. Mixing hard-edge honky-tonk, Mexican folk music, rockabilly and punk rock, these artists – along with their country rock predecessors – inspired future generations of country and American artists.
Today’s announcement included special performances by several artists central to the exhibition’s narrative:
Multi-Grammy Award winner Dwight Yoakam and country rock star Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Desert Rose Band and more) performed “Sin City” and “Time Between” together at the Los Angeles Troubadour.
Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris performed “The Road,” her song in tribute to fellow country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, at the museum’s Ford Theater in Nashville. Harris also joined Jeff Hanna (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and country singer and songwriter Matraca Berg on stage for a performance of “Mr. Bojangles” in the museum theatre.
The Western Edge exhibit traces the story of young musicians who, in the 1960s, settled in Los Angeles as a bastion of youth-oriented counterculture and a burgeoning recording center. Newcomers found a rich local music scene rooted in clubs such as the Ash Grove, which featured young bluegrass bands including the Dillards and Kentucky Colonels alongside previous generations of masters of American roots music.
The exhibit also highlights the Troubadour’s historical significance to West Hollywood, which served as an important haven for like-minded artists. It provided space for creators to collaborate with a healthy dose of competition, challenging each other to write better songs, create tighter harmonies, and master their instruments.
“A new hybrid sound has grown from humble beginnings in a few small LA nightclubs and has quickly become one of the most popular musical styles around the world,” said Kyle Young, general manager of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, these artists and musicians also found community in their appreciation of traditional country, folk and bluegrass music. They built on this foundation, creating songs of unusual lyrical depth and layered musical richness – adding new textures to rock sounds that resulted in a completely original form of American music.
The museum’s curatorial and creative teams conducted over 40 hours of filmed interviews and collected an array of significant artifacts from central figures in the music movement for display at Western Edge. The exhibit will feature stage outfits, instruments, original song scripts and more. Interactive elements will illustrate the connections between the artists who make up the musical communities explored in the exhibition, allowing access to audio recordings, performance clips, original interview footage and historic photographs.
Western Edge’s opening weekend will include a pair of unique concerts at the museum’s CMA Theater, made possible in part by exhibit travel partner American Airlines:
Western Edge: Los Angeles Country-Rock in Concert – Friday, September 30 at 7 p.m. An all-star lineup of musical luminaries associated with country-rock will perform, as well as torchbearers who have been influenced by the sounds and artists of the music scene from Los Angeles. Performers include Dave Alvin (The Blasters, The Knitters), Alison Brown (A tribute to California bluegrass), Rodney Dillard (The Dillards), Rosie Flores, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco), Jeff Hanna (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) , Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Desert Rose Band), Bernie Leadon (Hearts & Flowers, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Eagles), John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Wendy Moten (in tribute to Linda Ronstadt) and Herb Pedersen (Desert Rose Band and instrumentalist for Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons and many others). The house band will be led by guitar virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist John Jorgenson and includes JayDee Maness (steel guitar), Steve Duncan (drums) and Mark Fain (bass). More performers to add.
Desert Rose Band – Sunday, October 2 at 7 p.m. For the first time in over a decade, the Desert Rose Band will come together for a special concert. In 1986, former Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers member Chris Hillman founded the band with Herb Pedersen and John Jorgensen. The original lineup included Bill Bryson (bass guitar), JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar) and Steve Duncan (drums). The original band members will take the stage for the highly anticipated event, with famed Nashville bassist Mark Fain replacing the late Bill Bryson. The Grammy-nominated group has garnered hit singles and won numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
Tickets for the events go on sale to the public this Friday, June 24 at 10 a.m. here.