Former Location –
Formally a furniture factory and showroom, the site was converted into the Ash Grove in 1958 and later, The Improv. Ed Pearl, who was a 21 year-old music enthusiast, opened the club for the emerging folk and rock musicians of the 1960’s. The Ash Grove would go on to help usher in a progressive culture that shaped the era.
The Ash Grove was probably the greatest folk/blues club of the sixties. In 1965 it hosted The Rising Sons, a blues/rock ensemble with Taj Mahal.
Regular performers that played here include:
Ed Cassidy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Canned Heat, The Byrds, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf, Albert King, Freddie King, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Johnny Guitar Watson, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, The Chambers Brothers, Maria Muldaur, and many others.
The great L.A. Band Spirit made its public debut here as did Ry Cooder.
A lot of great performances were recorded here including:
Live At The Ash Grove 1967 – Vol. 1 by Spirit
Live At The Ash Grove 1969 by The Byrds
Live at The Ash Grove by Jimmy Witherspoon & Robben Ford
A fire in 1973 left nothing but the shell of the building, it was remodeled into the Improv, which is there today.
The Ash Grove
8162 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles CA 90046
Ed Pearl was a strident leftist and had a Socialist bookstore in the tiny lobby. The club was firebombed 3 times by the John Birch Society. Admission was $5, with (I think) a one drink minimum. I saw many blues greats there from 1970 to 1973, when it closed permanently. Many folk, country and international artists also performed there and the audience was always full of musicians.
I attended the Ash Grove during my college years. Besides being a great place to hear music, it was also a meeting spot for us anti- war folks ( Vietnam). We sometimes meet to plan protests.
I remember one time when Donald Sutherland’s wife invited us back to her house after a meeting and I met, then 4 or so. Keifer.
my parents were friends with the Ash Grove crowd so I went there as a kid and then later as a teen. Every time it burnt down, Herman Brotman was on the reconstruction project. He also was folk music enthusiast and his family and mine often went to Bob DeWitts in Topanga Canyon for the hootenannies which I pretty much could not stand but now realized my parents and their friends were having fellowship and fortification against the disgusting McCarthey House of UnAmerican Activities hearings and witch hunts. Hermans children were talented musicians, Stuart Brotman played in the first Canned Heat band that debuted on Lloyd Thaxton teen TV show and later joined Kalaidescope and United States of America. Eve Zanni, his daughter is a fine jazz singer. it really was a “people’s place”
In 1966, I worked at the Troubadour nearby and would go to the Ashgrove for a smaller, mellower vibe. Saw Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder playing backup for Jesse Colin Young. There was an even smaller venue in West Hollywood, a coffee house called The Balladeer. My friends and I saw David Crosby, John Fahey, John Kay, Jim McGuin and others before any of them were widely known or recorded. At the Troub, I waited tables and saw Donny Hathaway, Cheech & Chong, Tim Buckley (who I lived and traveled with for a few years), the Eagles, and so many more – it was so long ago – hard to remember who else. Those were the days.