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The Original Dawg

David GrismanThe number of decades that mandolinist David Grisman has been creating music is only rivaled by the number of genres that his brand of acoustical music spans. Grisman is the original master of “dawg music,” and it has nothing to do with hip hop or rap.

Grisman began piano lessons in 1952 at the age of 7. After three years, he lost interest in the piano and his attention swayed toward the mandolin. Like many budding folk musicians in the late 1950s, Grisman discovered folk music through the Kingston Trio and the lively Greenwich Village music scene. Grisman started his musical career in 1963 as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band. His close friend Jerry Garcia gave him the nickname “Dawg” in 1973. They first met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe concert.

“Dawg music” is what Grisman calls his fusion of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz, as highlighted on his 1979 album Hot Dawg. It was Grisman’s amalgamation of Reinhardt-era jazz, bluegrass, folk, Old World Mediterranean string band music and modern jazz fusion that personified “Dawg” music.

In 1975 Grisman got together with guitar virtuoso Tony Rice, multi-instrumentalists Mark O’Connor, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger — and featured guests such as violin genius Stéphane Grappelli — and formed the David Grisman Quintet. Although the lineup has changed through the years, the DGQ continues to produce music with the same confidence and finesse as it did 35 years ago.

This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, October 7, 2010

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