David Grisman

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David Grisman
Grisman in 2006
Grisman in 2006
Background information
Also known as"Dawg"
Born (1945-03-23) March 23, 1945 (age 78)
Hackensack, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, record producer, label owner
Instrument(s)Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello, Piano, Saxophone, Vocals
Years active1963–present
LabelsKaleidoscope, Horizon, Warner Bros., Rounder, Acoustic Disc

David Jay Grisman[1] (born March 23, 1945) is an American mandolinist. His music combines bluegrass, folk, and jazz in a genre he calls "Dawg music". He founded the record label Acoustic Disc, which issues his recordings and those of other acoustic musicians.


Grisman grew up in a Conservative Jewish household[2] in Passaic, New Jersey.[3] His father was a professional trombonist who gave him piano lessons when he was seven years old. As a teenager, he played piano, mandolin, and saxophone.[4]

In the early 1960s, he attended New York University. He belonged to the Even Dozen Jug Band with Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian. He played in the bluegrass band the Kentuckians led by Red Allen, then in the psychedelic rock band Earth Opera with Peter Rowan. He moved to San Francisco, met Jerry Garcia, and appeared on the Grateful Dead album American Beauty.[4] He played in Garcia's bluegrass band Old & In the Way with Peter Rowan and Vassar Clements.[4][5] When Grisman was 17 years old, he was invited on stage by Doc Watson to join him on mandolin for a rendition of “In the Pines”.[6]

Garcia named him "Dawg" after a dog that was following him while they were driving in Stinson Beach, California.[7] "Dawg Music" is what Grisman calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz[8] as highlighted on his album Hot Dawg (recorded Oct. 1978, released 1979).[9] 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.[10]

The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience performs at DelFest on May 30, 2010.

In the 1970s, he started the David Grisman Quintet with Darol Anger, Joe Carroll, Todd Phillips, and Tony Rice. They released their eponymous first album in 1977 for Kaleidoscope Records and their second, Hot Dawg, two years later for Horizon Records, the jazz division of A&M Records. When the quintet recorded for Warner Bros. Records, the membership changed to include Mike Marshall, Mark O'Connor, and Rob Wasserman, with occasional guest appearances by jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.[4]

In the 1980s, Grisman formed the record label Acoustic Disc, which issued his recordings and those by other acoustic musicians.[11] The folk and bluegrass part of his personality emerged when he recorded with Mark O'Connor, Tony Rice, and Andy Statman.[4]


Grisman is married to Tracy Bigelow and was married twice before.[12] He has three grown children: Samson, Gillian, and Monroe. Samson, a bassist and recording session musician living in Portland, often performs with his father.[13][12] Gillian, a filmmaker living in Novato, California, directed Grateful Dawg and the music documentary, Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores.[14]

Monroe Grisman, named for bluegrass music pioneer Bill Monroe, lives in Fairfax, California, and plays in the Tom Petty tribute band Petty Theft.[12]

Mandolin Symposium Aug 2004 Backstage with John Paul Jones, David Grisman, Monroe Grisman, Chris Thile, and Mike Marshall

In media[edit]

David Grisman, Chris Thile and Enrique Coria at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in 1998

Grisman's song "Dawggy Mountain Breakdown" was the opening theme song for Car Talk on NPR.[15]

Grisman sued YouTube in May 2007, asserting in federal court that YouTube should be required to prevent individuals from illegally uploading recordings of his music.[16] Grisman's attorneys requested voluntary dismissal of the suit.[17]

The documentary Grateful Dawg (October 14, 2001) chronicles the friendship between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.[18]

Grisman was a judge for the 6th and 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.[19]

He wrote much of the bluegrass music for the 1974 film Big Bad Mama directed by Roger Corman. It was played by the Great American Music Band, and they were recorded and mixed by Bill Wolf.[20]


Acoustic Disc[edit]

Acoustic Disc
Founded1990 (1990)
FounderDavid Grisman
GenreJazz, folk, bluegrass
Country of originU.S.
LocationSan Rafael, California
Official websiteacousticdisc.com

Acoustic Disc is an independent record label founded by Grisman in 1990.[11] The label is based in San Rafael, California, and specializes in bluegrass, folk, jazz, and Dawg music.


  1. ^ "BLUEGRASS AT THE BEACH". ASCAP. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  2. ^ Berkofsky, Joseph (June 16, 1995). "Mandolin-Playing Duo Plucks Tunes from Jewish Past" Archived August 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, J. The Jewish News of Northern California; retrieved March 31, 2012.
  3. ^ "Andy Statman - National Heritage Fellow". www.nyfolklore.org. Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ginell, Richard S. "David Grisman". AllMusic. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  5. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Old & In the Way". AllMusic. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  6. ^ Hatfield, Stephen. ""Review: Doc & Dawg" (September–October 1997)". No Depression. Archived from the original on October 3, 2012.
  7. ^ Hislop, Christopher (February 18, 2010). "The innovative David Grisman Quintet plays Portsmouth". SeacoastOnline. Dow Jones Local Media Group. Archived from the original on February 20, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2010.
  8. ^ Live in San Francisco Stephane Grapelli on YouTube, with special guest star David Grisman and his band (1982).
  9. ^ Horizon SP-731 LP Jacket
  10. ^ Quill, Greg, "Beyond the Pale, Creaking Trees build on common ground", Toronto Daily Star, February 10, 2005.
  11. ^ a b Hitchcock, Paul. "David Grisman". www.wmky.org. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Dan Taylor (March 4, 2015). "Petaluma's David Grisman gets back on road". The Press Democrat. Petaluma. Archived from the original on March 7, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  13. ^ "String master David Grisman to perform with latest edition of his bluegrass-fusion quintet". The Mercury News. December 16, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  14. ^ Whiting, Sam (October 7, 2012). "Gillian Grisman's film 'Village Music'". SF Gate. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  15. ^ "Car Talk: Music on the Show". cartalk.com. Archived from the original on March 26, 2016. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  16. ^ "YouTube hit with another lawsuit". Contra Costa Times. May 15, 2007. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  17. ^ Steve Bryant (August 6, 2008). "YouTube Lawsuits: A Roundup — Online Video News". Gigaom.com. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  18. ^ Sullivan, James (October 2, 2001). "Dawg days / David Grisman's daughter makes film about his bluegrass partnership with Garcia". SF Gate. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  19. ^ "Past Judges". Independent Music Awards. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
  20. ^ Big Bad Mama entry in The Compleat Grateful Dead Discography Archived June 13, 2015, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]