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”, presented by City National Bank, 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.
A selection of artifacts featured in Western Edge includes:
- 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).
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