Born March 23, 1945; married, three children; raised in Passaic, NJ, studied piano and mandolin as a teen, moved to New York City to study English at New York University in 1963. Addresses: Acoustic Disc Records, P.O. Box 4143, San Rafael, CA 94913. Web: http: //www.sfm.com/dawgnet.
Mandolin player David Grisman has explored American folk, bluegrass, and jazz music traditions for over thirty years with a prolific and seemingly inexhaustible passion, creating his own niche and individual sound instead of conforming to existing molds. With a style known as Dawg and his own record label, Acoustic Disc, Grisman blends bluegrass, swing, jazz and gypsy troubadour sounds. Long considered an innovator both in and outside of the bluegrass realm Grisman has been nominated for a Grammy Award four times.
To list the noted musicians who have played with Grisman over the decades would read like a "Who's Who" in contemporary music. He worked extensively with the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, as well as Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Stephane Grappelli, Darol Anger of the Turtle Island String Quartet, Maria Muldaur, Dolly Parton, James Taylor, Mark O'Connor, John Sebastian, and dozens upon dozens of other Dawg-influenced musicians. Grisman set the standard for a new generation of mandolin artists; his bands served as top-tier training grounds for many of the most lauded instrumentalists in the acoustic music world, including Tony Rice, Mike Marshall, Mark O'Connor, Darol Anger, and Rob Wasserman. Grisman's distinctive mandolin sound is heard on over 100 different recordings.
With influences as like Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and Nick Lucas, Grisman's offerings are remarkably diverse and his Dawg sound is instantly recognizable. On his Garcia/Grisman album, recorded with Jerry Garcia, he spans blues with "The Thrill Is Gone," country with "Dawg's Waltz," and Irving Berlin with "Russian Lullaby". He and Garcia also collaborated on a children's album, Not For Kids Only, which covers classical folk songs such as "Freight Train" and "Shenandoah".
Grisman was raised in Passaic, NJ where, despite a warning from his piano teacher that it wasn't a "real" instrument, he discovered the joys of mandolin playing. He taught himself to play in the style of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, and moved to New York City to study English at New York University. Grisman quickly immersed himself in the blossoming folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He landed his first job as a mandolin player in 1964 with Red Allen and the Kentuckians.
His recording career began in 1966 while with the Even Dozen Jug Band, which included Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian. Grisman's interest turned to jazz in 1968, and he attempted to play the alto saxophone without much success. Grisman then began studying his bluegrass mandolin mentors--Bill Monroe, Frank Wakefield, and Jesse McReynolds--and composing original tunes without a particular outlet in mind. As he was working on original material, he found himself in demand as a session player, and gained experience with a diverse array of material. He was often called to play on two or three cuts for an album instead of the whole album, which was frustrating for Grisman since it meant his employment was sporadic. Thoroughly devoted to the mandolin, Grisman vowed to use it in ways it had never been used before.
In 1970 Grisman contributed mandolin tracks to the Grateful Dead's landmark album, American Beauty, and it was also around this time that Grisman formed the Great American Music Band with fiddler Richard Greene. Greene moved on to play with Loggins & Messina. A few years later, Grisman joined Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Vassar Clements, and Peter Rowan to form the bluegrass band, Old and In The Way, and released Old and In The Way to much critical acclaim in 1974. The album remains one of the biggest-selling bluegrass albums ever recorded.
In 1976 Grisman formed the David Grisman Quintet which, in its various configurations, has groomed many spectacular alumni. Grisman has also influenced a new generation of musicians, including banjo artist Bela Fleck and dobro artist Jerry Douglas, by being the first to take a traditional bluegrass instrument beyond its traditional limits.
Grisman told Acoustic Guitar's Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, "There's something (special) about the original guys and their original disciples. Bluegrass is a kind of music, for me, that came out of a certain time and place--between 1948 and 1958 in the Southeast, basically." Grisman played with some of the original masters of the idiom, and feels the first flash of bluegrass, much like Robert Johnson and blues, is the trueest form of the music. Grisman was so steeped in the original art form that he, too, became a master of the idiom and eventually opened the door for progressive elements in bluegrass.
When playing and composing his music, Grisman is a true perfectionist. Bill Varble of the Medford Mail Tribune referred to Grisman's music as, "what would happen if James Brown had taken up mandolin." Since mandolin is the backbone of bluegrass, Grisman's music is often pigeonholed as bluegrass, and Grisman finds this frustrating, telling Billboard's Chris Morris, "For 20 years, my contract for personal appearances has said that you can't use the word 'bluegrass'." Grisman's 1996 release, Dawganova, is a foray into Latin sounds, primarily bossa nova, featuring Argentine guitarist Enrique Coria, percussionist/violinist Joe Craven, flautist Matt Eakle, and bassist Jim Kerwines. Grisman's second release in 1996, was the more jazz oriented, Tone Poems Vol. II, featuring guitarists Martin Taylor and Tony Rice; the release features the use of 41 different instruments.
Acoustic Disc's material is stamped with the words, "100% handmade music." Grisman's modest Dawg Studio was built in 1990 in his garage and an unused bedroom in his home. His label's first release, Dawg '90, garnered a 1990 Grammy nomination. Between 1990 and 1996, Acoustic Disc released 18 albums. Grisman told Morris, "One of the things that bothers me is that the music business at large is stomping on culture. It's come to musicians pandering to what is going to sell the music."
Grisman was nominated for a Grammy for Home Is Where The Heart Is on Rounder Records in 1988, Dawg '90 in 1990, Garcia/Grisman with Jerry Garcia in 1991, and Blue Grass Reunion with Pedersen and Allen in 1992. His last three Grammy nominations were for records on his own Acoustic Disc label. Explaining to Acoustic Musician's Jay Rosenstein how a boy from New Jersey set out to rural America in search of authentic sounds, Grisman said, "I guess I always had a penchant for something that was out of the ordinary."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
David Grisman's Career
First job as a mandolin player in 1964 with Red Allen and the Kentuckians; recording career began in 1966 with the Even Dozen Jug Band, which included Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian; found himself in demand as a session player; contributed mandolin tracks to Grateful Dead album American Beauty; formed the Great American Music Band with fiddler Richard Greene; joined Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Vassar Clements, and Peter Rowan to form the bluegrass band, Old and In The Way in 1973, released Old and In The Way in 1974; formed the David Grisman Quintet in 1976; founded record company, Acoustic Disc, in Mill Valley, CA in 1990.
David Grisman's Awards
Nominated for a Grammy Award for Home Is Where The Heart Is in 1988, Dawg '90 in 1990, Garcia/Grisman with Jerry Garcia in 1991, and Blue Grass Reunion with Pedersen and Allen in 1992. His last three Grammy nominations were for records on his own Acoustic Disc label.
- Selective Works
- Even Dozen Jug Band, Even Dozen Jug Band, Elektra Records; 1963.
- Bluegrass, Red Allen, Frank Wakefield, & the Kentuckians, Folkways; 1964.
- Earth Opera, Earth Opera, Elektra; 1968.
- Whales & Nightingales, Judy Collins, Elektra; 1970.
- American Beauty, Grateful Dead, Warner Brothers Records; 1970.
- Tarzana Kid, John Sebastian, Warner Brothers; 1974.
- Garcia, Jerry Garcia, Rounder Records; 1974.
- Waitress In A Donut Shop, Maria Muldaur, Reprise Records; 1974.
- Old and In The Way, Old and In The Way, Rounder Records; 1974.
- Gorilla, James Taylor, Warner Brothers; 1975.
- Prisoner In Disguise, Linda Ronstadt, Elektra-Asylum; 1975.
- Sweet Forgiveness, Bonnie Raitt, Warner Brothers; 1977.
- Duets, Richard Greene, Rounder Records; 1977.
- That's A Plenty, Pointer Sisters, Blue Thumb Records; 1977.
- Tony Rice, Tony Rice, Rounder; 1977.
- Banjoland, Tony Trischka, Rounder; 1977.
- David Grisman Quintet, David Grisman Quintet, Kaleidoscope Records; 1977.
- Fiddlesticks, Darol Anger, Kaleidoscope; 1979.
- Hot Dawg, David Grisman Quintet, A & M Horizon Records; 1979.
- Quintet '80, David Grisman Quintet, Warner Brothers; 1980.
- Early Dawg, David Grisman Quintet, Sugar Hill Records; 1981.
- Grappelli-Grisman Live, Grisman with Stephane Grappelli, Warner Brothers; 1991.
- Natural Bridge, Bela Fleck, Rounder; 1982.
- Mondo Mando, David Grisman, Warner Brothers; 1982.
- Mandolin Abstractions, Grisman and Andy Statman, Rounder; 1983.
- Acoustic Christmas, David Grisman Quintet, Rounder; 1983.
- Dawg Jazz/Grass, David Grisman Quintet, Warner Brothers; 1983.
- Double Time, Bela Fleck, Rounder; 1984.
- Acousticity, David Grisman Quintet, Zebra Acoustic Zead Records; 1985.
- Home Is Where The Heart Is, David Grisman Quintet, Rounder; 1988.
- Dawg '90, David Grisman Quintet, Acoustic Disc; 1990.
- Garcia/Grisman, Jerry Garcia and Grisman, Acoustic Disc; 1991.
- Blue Grass Reunion, Grisman, Pedersen, Allen, Acoustic Disc; 1992.
- Solos From South America, Enrique Coria, Acoustic Disc; 1992.
- Dawgwood, David Grisman Quintet, Acoustic Disc; 1993.
- Various Artists: 100% Handmade Music, Acoustic Disc; 1993.
- Not For Kids Only, Jerry Garcia and Grisman, Acoustic Disc; 1993.
- Tone Poems I, David Grisman and Tony Rice, Acoustic Disc; 1994.
- Dawganova, David Grisman Quintet, Acoustic Disc; 1995.
- Tone Poems Vol. II, with Tony Rice, Acoustic Disc, 1996.
- That High Lonesome Sound, Old and in the Way, Acoustic Disc, 1996.
- Acoustic Guitar, January/February 1994; August 1995.
- Acoustic Musician, August 1994.
- Billboard, October 14, 1995.
- Bone, September 1994.
- Dawgnet: http://www.sfm.com/dawgnet Dirty Linen, October/November 1993.
- Guitar Player, September 1991.
- Medford Mail Tribune, June 18, 1995.
- New Age Journal, September 1994.