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David Grisman

David Grisman
Background information
Also known as Dawg
Born (1945-03-23) March 23, 1945
Hackensack, New Jersey, US
Genres Bluegrass, newgrass, new acoustic, folk, jazz, americana
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, producer, session musician
Instruments Mandolin, mandola, mandocello, banjo, piano, saxophone, keyboards
Labels Electra, Sugar Hill, Pastel Records, A&M, Warner Bros., Acoustic Disc
Associated acts Even Dozen Jug Band, Old and in the Way, David Grisman Quintet, Jerry Garcia, Earth Opera, Peter Rowan, Muleskinner, Andy Statman, Martin Taylor, DGBX

David Grisman (born March 23, 1945 in Hackensack, New Jersey) is an American bluegrass/newgrass mandolinist and composer of acoustic music. In the early 1990s, he started the Acoustic Disc record label to help spread acoustic and instrumental music.


  • Biography 1
  • In media 2
  • Family 3
  • Discography 4
  • Acoustic Disc record label 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Grisman grew up in a Conservative Jewish household[1] in Hackensack, New Jersey.[2] He started his musical career in 1963 as a member of Even Dozen Jug Band. His nickname "Dawg" was affectionately assigned by his close friend Jerry Garcia in 1973 (the two met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe show at Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania). "Dawg Music" is what he calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz, as highlighted on his album Hot Dawg (recorded Oct. 1978, released 1979).[3] Stephane Grappelli played on a couple of tracks on Hot Dawg and then the 1981 recording Stephane Grappelli and David Grisman Live. It was Grisman's combination of Reinhardt-era Jazz, bluegrass, folk, Old World Mediterranean string band music, as well as modern Jazz fusion that came to embody "Dawg" music.[4]

Grisman's father had been a professional trombonist at one time and had young David begin piano lessons at the age of seven. In the early 1950s, Grisman heard the beginnings of rock 'n' roll and was influenced by pop music and everything he heard. Following his father's death, when David was 10, he drifted away from the piano. He took it up again when he was about 13 or 14, soon discovering folk music through the Kingston Trio, a group that became popular during the American folk music revival.

David and three friends from his school then met folklorist and musician Ralph Rinzler in Passaic, New Jersey, and became greatly influenced by Rinzler's vast knowledge about traditional music. During this period, Greenwich Village in New York City was already bustling with folk musicians, and David realized what he wanted to do with his life. In 1963, Grisman played in the Even Dozen Jug Band, who recorded an album that year on Elektra Records.

Grisman did a Red Allen and Frank Wakefield session for Folkways Records in 1963 but didn't perform with Red Allen and the Kentuckians until 1966. Also in 1966, Grisman recorded Early Dawg, a live recording from a show in New York that featured the talents of Del McCoury on guitar and vocals, and Jerry McCoury on bass. The album was not released until 1980. Grisman then played mandocello on Tom Paxton's album Morning Again (Elektra, 1967).[5]

In 1967, Grisman was in a psychedelic rock group called Earth Opera with Peter Rowan. In 1973, Grisman joined Rowan, Vassar Clements, Jerry Garcia and John Kahn to form the bluegrass group Old and in the Way. It was while with this group that Garcia gave him his nickname, after a dog he saw behind Grisman while they were driving in Stinson Beach.[6] In 1974, Grisman, Rowan, and Richard Greene joined Bill Keith, and Clarence White, in the group Muleskinner. In 1974, Grisman was also in The Great American Music Band. Then in 1975 he started his own band, the David Grisman Quintet (DGQ), which released its first album in 1977.

Grisman also played Sweet Forgiveness (1977).

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at DelFest, May 30, 2010

In addition to performing with the Quintet, Grisman also performs with his bluegrass group, the DGBX (David Grisman Bluegrass Experience). Other members of the DGBX are Keith Little on banjo, Chad Manning on fiddle, Jim Nunally on guitar and Samson Grisman on upright bass. He has also recorded an album and toured as a duo with John Sebastian. Grisman is featured with other musicians on "Common Chord" an album of traditional and contemporary folk tunes.

In media

  • The documentary “Grateful Dawg" (October 14, 2001) chronicles the deep friendship between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.[7]
  • David Grisman appeared on the Grateful Dead's album American Beauty (1970).
  • Grisman wrote much of the bluegrass music for the 1974 Roger Corman film Big Bad Mama. It was played by the Great American Music Band, and they were recorded and mixed by Bill Wolf.[8] His other film scores included Capone (1975), Corman's Eat My Dust! (1976), and King of the Gypsies (1978).
  • David Grisman sued YouTube in May 2007, complaining in federal court that YouTube should be required to prevent individuals from posting recordings of Grisman's music.[9] Grisman's attorneys requested voluntary dismissal of the suit.[10]
  • Grisman was a judge for the 6th and 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.[11]


Grisman is married to Tracy Bigelow and was married twice before. He has three grown children: Samson, Gillian, and Monroe. Samson, a bassist and recording session musician living in Nashville, often performs with his father. Gillian, a filmmaker living in Novato, directed “Grateful Dawg,” and the music documentary ”Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores”.[12] Monroe, named for bluegrass music pioneer Bill Monroe, lives in Fairfax and plays in the Tom Petty tribute band, Petty Theft.[13]


Acoustic Disc
Founded 1990
Founder David Grisman
Genre New acoustic, folk, bluegrass
Country of origin  United States
Location San Rafael, California
Official website

Grisman has released albums with his own groups (David Grisman Quintet and Old and in the Way), performed in collaborations (with Jerry Garcia, Andy Statman, Martin Taylor, John Sebastian, Tony Rice), played in psychedelic band Earth Opera with Peter Rowan, produced a number of solo records and cooperated with many other artists in different genres.[14]

Acoustic Disc record label

Acoustic Disc is an independent record label founded by Grisman in 1990. The label, based in San Rafael, California, specializes in folk, bluegrass, and New Acoustic Music.


  1. ^ Berkofsky, Joseph (June 16, 1995). "Mandolin-Playing Duo Plucks Tunes from Jewish Past", Jweekly. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  2. ^ Lindsey, Caroline. "Veteran Musician Grisman Continues Innovation", Greensboro News & Record, August 14, 2003. Accessed July 5, 2008.
  3. ^ Horizon SP-731 LP Jacket
  4. ^ Quill, Greg, "Beyond the Pale, Creaking Trees build on common ground", Toronto Daily Star, February 10, 2005
  5. ^ Bio on
  6. ^ Hislop, Christopher (February 18, 2010). "The innovative David Grisman Quintet plays Portsmouth". SeacoastOnline (Dow Jones Local Media Group). Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  7. ^ Sullivan, James (2 October 2001). "Dawg days / David Grisman's daughter makes film about his bluegrass partnership with Garcia". SF Gate. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Big Bad Mama entry in The Compleat Grateful Dead Discography
  9. ^ "YouTube hit with another lawsuit". Contra Costa Times. May 15, 2007. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  10. ^ Steve Bryant (August 6, 2008). "YouTube Lawsuits: A Roundup — Online Video News". Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Past Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
  12. ^ Whiting, Sam (7 October 2012). "Gillian Grisman’s film ‘Village Music’". SF Gate. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Dan Taylor (4 March 2015). "Petaluma’s David Grisman gets back on road". The Press Democrat (Petaluma). Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  14. ^ David Grisman discography at Allmusic

External links

  • Acoustic Disc official website
  • David Grisman at The Music Box Collection of reviews
  • Biography on
  • David Grisman discography at the Grateful Dead Family Discography
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