When many people think of the roots of country music they tend to think of the Eastern United States. Hillbilly music from the Appalachian Mountains formed the genre’s foundations in the 20s. Decades later, Nashville became the hub of all things country. However, the West Coast played a major part in the formation of country music. From the resurgence of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys in the 40s to the rise of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in the 50s and 60s, California produced a massive amount of great music. But it didn’t stop there. Los Angeles was also the birthplace of country-rock. This fall, the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum will celebrate those Western trailblazers with a new exhibit called Western Edge.
Instead of delving into the early days of California’s country music scene, Western Edge will examine the country-rock pioneers of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The exhibit will feature artifacts and interviews from trailblazers like Poco, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Desert Rose Band, Rosie Flores, Dwight Yoakam, and more.
Western Edge Celebrates an Important Era in American Musical History
In the 60s, you could find the beating heart of the counterculture movement on the West Coast. At the same time, Los Angeles became the place to go to make it in the music business. As a result, young musicians from across the country flocked to LA. According to the Country Music Hall of Fame, many of those artists were fed up with the “teeny-bopper” fixation of rock & roll and wanted to make music for adults. They drew inspiration from classic country music, folk music, and bluegrass and combined them with the burgeoning rock & roll of the time.
Western Edge will celebrate the close-knit communities of LA-based artists that blended these American musical traditions into a sound that would stick around for generations to come.
By the early 70s, this fusion of country music and rock had become one of the most popular sounds in the United States. More importantly, it inspired generations of musicians including country legends like Dwight Yoakam.
Dwight Yoakam talked a little about what makes Western Edge so special. “Everybody’s dealt with the first incarnation of the sound, from the Depression up through Buck and Merle, but not many have dealt with the thing that came after, the things that inspired me as a teenager and in college and that drew me to the West Coast,” he said. After being inspired by early country-rock pioneers, Yoakam says it’s an honor to be included in the exhibit. “It’s an honor to be part of this exhibit that has to do with that next stage of the Tom Joad road that led to California’s version of country music.”
See the New CMHoF Exhibit This Fall
Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock opens on Friday, September 30th. You don’t need to rush to Music City to take it in, though. The exhibit will be available until May of 2025.
The Country Music Hall of Fame will celebrate the opening of Western Edge with two nights of live music. On opening night, the lineup will consist of country-rock pioneers and artists who were influenced by the Los Angeles scene. Performers that night include Dave Alvin (the Blasters), Rosie Flores, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco), Jeff Hanna (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Chris Hillman (Desert Rose Band, The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), and many more.
On Sunday, October 2nd, The Desert Rose Band will take the stage for the first time in more than a decade. In a recent interview with Variety, Chris Hillman said that this will be the last time he takes the stage with Desert Rose Band. After this, the band will be officially retired. So, if you ever wanted to see them live, this is your chance.
You can get tickets and more information for both concerts as well as the exhibit on the CMHoF website.