NASHVILLE, Tenn., and LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 22, 2022) – Today, the Country Music Hall of Fame®and Museum 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 open Sept. 30 for a nearly three-year run.
Western Edge will examine the close-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 as "country-rock" – ultimately making an indelible and lasting impact on popular music.
The exhibit will survey 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 merging rock & roll rhythms and attitude with country and bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies.
These trailblazers’ musical contributions were expanded upon by the next generation of Los Angeles roots music performers – the Blasters, Rosie Flores, Los Lobos, Lone Justice, Dwight Yoakam and more – who once again looked to traditional American music for inspiration. Blending hard-edged honky-tonk, Mexican folk music, rockabilly and punk rock, these artists – along with their county-rock predecessors – provided inspiration to future generations of country and Americana artists.
Today’s announcement featured special performances by several artists central to the exhibit’s narrative:
- Multiple Grammy Award-winner Dwight Yoakam and country-rock luminary Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Desert Rose Band and more) performed "Sin City" and "Time Between" together at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
- Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris sang "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 onstage for a performance of "Mr. Bojangles" in the museum’s theater.
The Western Edge exhibit traces the story of young musicians who, in the 1960s, gravitated to Los Angeles as a bastion of youth-driven counterculture and a rising recording center. New arrivals found a rich local music scene anchored by clubs such as the Ash Grove, which featured young bluegrass bands including the Dillards and the Kentucky Colonels alongside earlier generations of American roots music masters.
Also highlighted in the exhibit is the historical significance of the Troubadour in West Hollywood, which served as an important haven for like-minded artists. It provided a space for creators to collaborate with a healthy dose of competition, spurring one another to write better songs, craft tighter harmonies and master their instruments.
"A new hybrid sound grew from humble beginnings in a few small L.A. nightclubs and quickly emerged as one of the most popular musical styles across the world," said Kyle Young, chief executive officer for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "Inspired by the likes of 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, crafting songs of uncommon 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 have conducted more than 40 hours of filmed interviews and collected an array of significant artifacts from central figures in the musical movement for display in Western Edge. The exhibit will feature stage wear, instruments, original song manuscripts and more. Interactive elements will illustrate the connections between artists that made up the musical communities explored in the exhibit, allowing access to audio recordings, performance clips, original interview footage and historic photographs.
Western Edge’s opening weekend will include a pair of one-of-a-kind concerts in the museum’s CMA Theater, made possible in part by exhibit travel partner American Airlines:
- Western Edge: Los Angeles Country-Rock in Concert – Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. An all-star lineup of musical luminaries associated with country-rock will perform, along with torchbearers who have been influenced by the sounds and artists from the Los Angeles music scene. Performers include Dave Alvin (the Blasters, the Knitters), Alison Brown (in 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 more). The house band will be led by Grammy-winning guitar virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist John Jorgenson and includes JayDee Maness (steel guitar), Steve Duncan (drums) and Mark Fain (bass). More performers to be added.
- Desert Rose Band – Sunday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. For the first time in more than a decade, the Desert Rose Band will reunite for a special concert. In 1986, former member of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers 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). Original members of the band will take the stage for the highly anticipated event, with acclaimed Nashville bassist Mark Fain replacing the late Bill Bryson. The Grammy-nominated group has earned hit singles and won multiple awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
The exhibit will also be supported by multiple educational programs, as well as the release of an illustrated and thoroughly researched book with a main essay by longtime Los Angeles music journalist Randy Lewis, among many other contributors.
More details on the exhibit and the accompanying book will be announced prior to the exhibit’s opening. Information and updates about the exhibit can be found at www.CountryMusicHallofFame.org.