The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is set to open its next major exhibition, Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock on Friday, Sept. 30 for a nearly three-year run.
Western Edge will trace the Los Angeles-based communities of visionary singers, songwriters and musicians who, between the 1960s and 1980s, frequented local nightclubs, embraced country music, created and shaped the musical fusion “country-rock” and, ultimately, made a lasting impact on popular music.
The exhibit surveys the rise of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and others who found commercial success with a hybrid of rock sensibilities and country instrumentation and harmonies. These trailblazers’ musical contributions were expanded upon by the next generation of L.A. roots music performers — the Blasters, 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 country-rock predecessors — provided inspiration to future generations of country and Americana artists.
“Western Edge examines a time of boundary crossing and great communal creativity,” said Kyle Young, chief executive officer of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “This adventurous synthesis of traditional and contemporary sounds not only fueled creativity for generations of L.A. musicians, but grew into an American phenomenon that still reverberates in music today. Along with the exhibition, we are offering an official playlist, a companion book, special concerts and public programs which will be scheduled throughout the run. Through these multiple avenues we look forward to sharing the rich and multi-layered story of country-rock’s enduring impact.”
The museum’s curatorial and creative teams conducted more than 40 hours of filmed interviews and collected an array of significant artifacts for display in Western Edge, which will be housed in a newly designed 5,000 square foot gallery space.
An introductory film narrated by multiple Grammy Award-winning artist Dwight Yoakam, a key figure in the exhibit’s story, will be presented inside the gallery, along with stage wear, instruments, original song manuscripts and more. Interactive elements will allow visitors to explore the connections between artists who made up these musical communities through audio recordings, performance clips, original interview footage and historical photographs.
Some Western Edge artifacts include:
- The Flying Burrito Brothers’ stage costumes —The exhibit will reunite three of the four custom Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors suits featured on the cover of the band’s 1969 debut album,The Gilded Palace of Sin, including Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s black velvet suit with embroidered dinosaurs and a pterosaur outlined with rhinestones, Gram Parsons’ suit with chain-stitched marijuana leaves, poppies, pills, pinup girls and a radiant cross, and Chris Hillman’s blue velvet suit — decorated with peacocks, seahorses, the Greek god Poseidon and a shining sun.
- Bernie Leadon guitar — From 1972 to 1975, Leadon played an extensively modified 1962 Fender Telecaster with the Eagles onstage and on recordings, including “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise.”
- Dwight Yoakam jacket — This Mex Tex brand jacket, ornamented with fringe, conchos and cowhide yoke overlay, was worn by Yoakam in the 1986 music video for his debut single, “Honky Tonk Man,” which went to #3 on Billboard’s country singles chart.
- Emmylou Harris stage costume — Harris wore this Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors cowgirl outfit onstage with Gram Parsons and during her solo career.
- Louie Pérez manuscript — Pérez’s handwritten lyrics to the title track of Los Lobos’ 1984 album, How Will the Wolf Survive?, co-written by David Hidalgo.
- Michael Nesmith stage costume — Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors designed the elaborately embroidered, rhinestone-accented ensemble for Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, c. 1967. It is ornamented with chain-stitched peacocks, orchids, musical notes and American flag motifs.
- Dave Alvin guitar — The battle-scarred 1964 Fender Mustang was Alvin’s primary guitar with the Blasters and the Knitters. The first electric guitar he owned, it still has bits of glass embedded in it from beer bottles thrown at Alvin by rowdy audience members.
- Jeff Hanna stage costume — These leather chaps and vest, ornamented with silver conchos, were part of the cowboy outfit worn by Jeff Hanna on the cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album All the Good Times (1971).
Western Edge Playlist
In anticipation of the opening, the official Western Edge Playlist is now available on Amazon Music. TheWestern Edge Playlist on Amazon Music features songs compiled in collaboration with the exhibit’s curators and follows the Western Edge exhibit’s narrative across three decades of music.
The playlist is categorized into three eras, representing the breadth and depth of the movement. Songs from a variety of artists are included, from country-rock pioneers the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Dillards, International Submarine Band, Taj Mahal and more, to artists who solidified the movement and took it to new heights, including Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Michael Nesmith & the First National Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young, among others.
The playlist is rounded out by the next wave of influential roots-inspired L.A. artists, including the Blasters, Desert Rose Band, the Knitters, Lone Justice, Los Lobos, Maria McKee, Rank and File, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam and more.
Exhibit companion book
An illustrated and in-depth exhibit companion book will supplement the gallery presentation, with a foreword by Linda Ronstadt and a main essay by longtime Los Angeles music journalist Randy Lewis.
The book, available on Sept. 30, will feature historical photographs and artifacts from the exhibit, as well as supporting essays by Mary Katherine Aldin, Dave Alvin, James Austin, Alison Brown, Steve Fishell and Holly George-Warren.
Opening weekend concerts and programming
In support of the exhibit’s debut, the museum will host two opening weekend concerts, including the reunion and final performance of the Desert Rose Band, as well as a host of newly added discussions and performances. The concerts and programs are made possible in part by the Academy of Country Music and exhibit travel partner American Airlines. Family programs will also be offered in the Taylor Swift Education Center.
To purchase admission to opening weekend programming, visit the museum’s website here. Tickets for the CMA Theater concerts are on-sale now with a limited number still available. All other programs in the Ford Theater and Taylor Swift Education Center are included with museum admission and can be reserved this Friday, Aug. 26, beginning at noon Central. Read the full slate of festivities below:
- Interview and Performance with Dave Alvin
Friday, Sept. 30, at 2:30 p.m. (Ford Theater)
Dave Alvin is a founding member and lead guitarist of L.A. roots-rock bands the Blasters and the Knitters. His songs have been recorded by the Blasters, X, Dwight Yoakam and others.
- Western Edge: Los Angeles Country-Rock in Concert
Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. (CMA Theater)
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 L.A. music scene. Performers include Dave Alvin (the Blasters, the Knitters), Alison Brown and Rob Ickes (in tribute to California bluegrass), Rodney Dillard (the Dillards), Rosie Flores, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco), Vince Gill and Wendy Moten (in tribute to Linda Ronstadt), Gunnar and Matthew Nelson (in tribute to Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band), Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden and John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Desert Rose Band), Bernie Leadon (Hearts and Flowers, Flying Burrito Brothers, Eagles), Herb Pedersen (Desert Rose Band and instrumentalist for Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons and many more) and the Watkins Family Hour (in tribute to Jackson Browne).
- Songwriter Session with Richie Furay
Saturday, Oct. 1, at noon (Ford Theater)
Richie Furay is a founding member of the bands Buffalo Springfield and Poco. Furay wrote “Kind Woman,” “My Kind of Love,” and “Nobody’s Fool” for Buffalo Springfield and “A Good Feelin’ to Know,” “Anyway Bye” and “Do You Feel It Too” for Poco.
- Family Program: Explore Steel Guitar
Saturday, Oct. 1, at 1:30 p.m and 2:30 p.m. (Taylor Swift Education Center)
During this all-ages program, musician-educators Adam Ollendorff and Robin Ruddy will provide background information about the steel guitar family as they explore the sounds of lap steel.
- Panel Discussion: From Bluegrass to Country-Rock with Rodney Dillard, Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, John McEuen, Larry Murray and Herb Pedersen
Saturday, Oct.1 at 2:30 p.m. (Ford Theater)
The group will discuss the bluegrass influences that led to the creation of the Los Angeles country-rock music scene.
- Creative Zone: Sparkle, Fringe and Rock & Roll: Wearing the Western Edge
Sunday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m. (Taylor Swift Education Center)
This all-ages program explores the fashions presented in the exhibit. Participants make their own new accessory that shows off their style and personality.
- Musician Spotlight: West Coast Steel with Dan Dugmore, Steve Fishell, JayDee Maness and Al Perkins
Sunday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. (Ford Theater)
The program features pedal steel players who were all important musicians in the Los Angeles country-rock scene.
- Film Screening: “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (2019)
Sunday, Oct. 2, at 3 p.m. (Ford Theater)
Linda Ronstadt narrates this documentary, which follows her life and career from her upbringing in Tucson, Arizona, to the present day and highlights her rise as the “Queen of Country-Rock.”
- Concert: Desert Rose Band
Sunday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. (CMA Theater)
The award-winning Desert Rose Band will reunite for a final concert. Original members Steve Duncan, Chris Hillman, John Jorgenson, JayDee Maness and Herb Pedersen will take the stage for the highly anticipated event, with acclaimed Nashville bassist Mark Fain replacing the late Bill Bryson.
For more information on the Western Edge exhibit and its supporting programs and elements, visit the exhibit landing page on the museum’s website.