Jerry Garcia: A Bluegrass Journey Exhibition Opening Weekend Celebration

Article Contributed by Dennis McNally | Published on Monday, January 22, 2024

The opening weekend of "Jerry Garcia: A Bluegrass Journey" Exhibition at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum launches with an immersive experience of exhibition tours, live music, historic panel discussions, and more to celebrate the bluegrass career of music icon Jerry Garcia. The exhibition explores Garcia's early years as a banjo player, his deep connection to bluegrass, the influence it had on his legendary career, and will run for two years.

Before gaining fame as a psychedelic guitarist with the Grateful Dead, Garcia aspired to play banjo for bluegrass icons like Bill Monroe. His bluegrass roots shaped his musical journey, leading to exceptional guitar skills and a profound impact on the rock genre. He indeed became a truly first-rate banjo player, and ironically it was that personal training that led to the exceptional single-note guitar runs that made him a rock legend.

The exhibition traces Garcia's musical evolution from folk and bluegrass scenes in the '60s to forming bluegrass bands like the Black Mountain Boys. It delves into pivotal moments, such as his road trip to explore bluegrass in 1964, and highlights collaborations with influential bluegrass musicians like David Grisman, Tony Rice, and Peter Rowan.

There was a thriving folk scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there Garcia found other good players, creating bluegrass bands such as the Hart Valley Drifters, the Black Mountain Boys, and several others. But the audience and musician base in Northern California was limited. In 1964, Jerry and his friend Sandy Rothman got into Jerry’s Corvair and drove east, to seek out bluegrass legends and pioneers Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, and the Osborne Brothers. Homesick, Garcia returned to the Bay Area, having decided that that was where his heart was, and began playing in a jug band, Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. The band morphed into the Warlocks, which became the Grateful Dead, and the rest is history.

In 2021, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum embarked on a journey to capture Garcia's bluegrass legacy through interviews with family, contemporaries, and those influenced by him. The exhibition features 12 of Garcia's personal instruments, custom-made shirts from his early bluegrass era, recordings, and other artifacts, creating an immersive experience in a 1000-square-foot gallery.

The museum has conducted over 20 interviews to help tell this story, sitting down with David Nelson, Eric Thompson, Sandy Rothman, David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Sara Ruppenthal Katz, Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia, Dennis McNally, Del McCoury, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle, Sam Bush, Vince Herman, and more to capture their perspectives of Jerry Garcia and his love of bluegrass music.

Three days of concerts and artist panel discussions are slated for exhibition opening.

The museum's dedication to preserving bluegrass history, coupled with support from Daviess County Fiscal Court and Visit Owensboro, has brought this exhibition to life. Opening weekend festivities include three days of concerts featuring the Sam Grisman Project and house band Leftover Salmon. Throughout the weekend they will be joined by special guests including Peter Rowan, David Nelson, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie McCoury, Eric Thompson, Pete Wernick, and Kyle Tuttle. Attendees can expect more artists to be announced at a later date.

Also included in the $295 ticket are documentary screenings, exhibition tours with interactive displays, artist panel discussions, and advance access to exclusive merch. Panelists include Sara Katz, Vince Herman, Rob Bleetstein, and more in addition to the weekend artists.

The opening celebration will be rounded out with pre-concert lounges and an overall intimate concert experience, with all live music and activities taking place in one location at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, which overlooks the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Join us at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum for an unforgettable celebration of Jerry Garcia's enduring connection to bluegrass music. More information and tickets can be found at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum website.