Many temporary exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame come and go (the Florida Georgia Line one can’t go away fast enough). But every three years or so, a new major exhibit is installed that delves deep into an era or influence in country music. The current major exhibit is called Outlaws and Armadillos, and focuses on the Outlaw era in country music in the mid 70’s, as well as the connection of Austin, TX and the Armadillo World Headquarters. A few years ago, the Hall of Fame also delved into the Bakersfield Sound coming out of California.
The next major exhibit will also delve into the California influence in country, just later in the timeline. Called Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country Rock, it will span from the 1960s to the 1980s, and will start with the original pioneers that first took country influences and infused them with rock such as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt, and eventually The Eagles. It will also focus on early West Coast bluegrass bands such as The Dillards and the Kentucky Colonels.
The exhibit will also feature artists who came up in part through the West Coast punk scene, even if they were almost exclusively country themselves, as well as acts featuring a Hispanic influence. This will include artists such as Rosie Flores, Los Lobos, The Blasters, Lone Justice, Dwight Yoakam, and more. Though “Los Angeles” is in the name of the exhibit, it’s important to point out that many of the artists who influenced country rock were from The South originally, including Dwight Yoakam and Gram Parsons. They just found more fertile ground for their version of country music on the West Coast, and often were more country than some or most of the artists coming out of Nashville at the time in the Countrypolitan era.
“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,” says Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame. “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.”
Similar to how the Hall of Fame’s previous major exhibit focused on the importance of a venue to the movement (Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin), so will this new exhibit, taking aim at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, which housed so many of the performances from country rock pioneers, especially early in their careers. The new exhibit was announced in a dual press conference and performance broadcast from The Troubadour, with Dwight Yoakam and Chris Hillman performing, with others speaking from the Ford Theater at the Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Another venue vitally important to the country rock era was The Palomino Club. Though it’s no longer around to partner with, it may be just as significant to country music in Los Angeles as The Troubadour. None of the press materials or statements mention to The Palomino in the Hall of Fame’s announcement, but Saving Country Music has confirmed that The Palomino Club will also be part of the exhibit, and is referenced specifically in some of the 40+ hours of interviews the Hall of Fame conducted for the exhibit.
We’re also not seeing any mention of The Grateful Dead, who may have not been as commercially successful in the era as Buffalo Springfield or The Eagles, they’re arguably just as influential, if not more, with the legacy of The Dead still going strong today in part to the continued resonance of country albums such as Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.
Opening on September 30th, the new exhibit will be accompanied by a concert featuring 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).