Interview with David Grisman

David Grisman
David Grisman

Interview by Scott Preston

For more than 40 years, mandolinist/composer David Grisman has been busy creating “dawg” music, a blend of many stylistic influences (including swing, bluegrass, latin, jazz and gypsy) so unique he gave it its own name. In doing so, David has inspired a whole new genre of acoustic string instrumental music with style and virtuosity while creating a unique niche for himself in the world of contemporary music.

Praised for his mastery of the instrument as well as his talents as a composer, bandleader, teacher and record producer by the New York Times, David’s role as an acoustic innovator continues to grow. After recording for several major and independent labels, Grisman founded his own company, Acoustic Disc, which he runs from his studio in northern California.

In 1990, David founded the Acoustic Disc label with his friend and manager, Craig Miller, and two other long-standing friends from New York, Artie and Harriet Rose. To date label has released 55 CDs, including six with Jerry Garcia, all produced or co-produced by Grisman.

David Grisman has always been a pioneer. He has deeply influenced several generations of musicians through his own musical explorations, and with the continuing success of Acoustic Disc has helped make artist-owned independent labels a viable force in the modern music business. (source –

Cincy Groove: What led you to create Acoustic Disc?

David Grisman: Actually it was a serendipitous happenstance. I had just built a studio and was ready to make my next album. My record company at the time (MCA) was in the process of dropping me (or at least making my artistic life miserable,) and two old friends, Artie and Harriet Rose, had just moved to the Bay area and were looking to start a music-related business. These events converged and since CDs were the new thing, we all said, “Why not start our own label?” With my long-time manager, Craig Miller, we had all the necessary ingredients.

Cincy Groove: What was your first experience with the mandolin?

David Grisman: Hearing Ralph Rinzler (noted folklorist and mandolinist) play one in my junior high school english class. I’ve never been the same since that day.

Cincy Groove: Who have been some of your favorite collaborations?

David Grisman: Well I’d have to put Jerry Garcia at the top of that list, but it was a huge thrill as well as a challenge to work with Stephane Grappelli, and of course, the many creative musicians who have been and are currently in my quintet and bluegrass band. Also my latest musical partnership with John Sebastian has been a real hoot.

Cincy Groove: What projects are you currently working on?

David Grisman: The two big ones, somewhat interrelated are:
1 – Transferring all of my multi-track masters (40 years worth) to the digital domain.
2 – Creating a large number of new and previously unavailable projects for our new digital download website, Look for it in the near future.

Cincy Groove: When was the first time you played with Jerry? What was the last thing you recorded with him?

David Grisman: The first time was in the parking lot of Sunset Park, an outdoor country music venue in West Grove, Pa in 1964. The last thing we recorded together (as well as his last session) was “Blue Yodel No. 9” for a Jimmy Rodgers Tribute CD that Bob Dylan was overseeing. We also issued another take from that session on Been All Around This World (Acoustic Disc – ACD 57).

Cincy Groove: Are there any new bands that impress you?

David Grisman: Yes there are. I like The Infamous String Dusters, Crooked Still and the Punch Brothers. They are all taking bluegrass-rooted music to new and interesting and exciting places. I also produced a recording of another young band, Old School Freight Train, several years ago. They also are very impressive. Of course there are lots of “old” bands that impress me as well. I went to see Sonny Rollins last year and he sounded as “new” as it gets.

Cincy Groove: Do you remember the name of the first band you were ever in?

David Grisman: Sure do. It was the Garret Mt. Boys from Passaic, NJ. Our first gig was in between records at a local “record hop.”

Cincy Groove: What led to the creation of the album “Not For Kids Only” ? I have bought the cd for all 4 of my nieces and nephews. It puts a smile on my face to see a 4 year old sing along to your songs.

David Grisman: I have to give myself credit for that idea. It seemed like a natural for Jerry although his first reaction was negative. I persisted until one day when we got together with no particular agenda and I greeted him at the door with a book of several thousand children’s songs, and of course, he fell right into it. What could be easier than kid’s songs?

Cincy Groove: What was the first recording that was put out on your Acoustic Disc label?

David Grisman: Dawg ’90 (ACD 1) Still in print, by the way.

Cincy Groove: What advice would you give to somebody who wants to play the mandolin?

David Grisman: Go for it, but be prepared to spend half your life tuning, and the other half being out of tune.

Cincy Groove: What was it like the first time you saw Bill Monroe?

David Grisman: A very exciting moment. I described in detail in an article that the NY Times asked me to write when he died. It was also the first time I saw Frank Wakefield, who was also very impressive.


Upcoming David Grisman tour dates:
for complete show details visit –

David Grisman Quintet 2008 Tour Dates
6/8/08 Lawrence, KS Wakarusa Music Festival
6/21/08 San Rafael, CA Marin JCC
7/26/08 Floyd,VA Floyd Fest #7
11/22/08 Chicago, IL Congress Theater

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience & Other Artists 2008 Tour
5/3/08 San Diego,CA Adams Ave. Roots & Folk Festival DG with Bluegrass Experience
5/23/08 New York,NY BB Kings DG with Bluegrass Experience
5/24/08 Cumberland,MD 1ST Annual Del Fest DG with Bluegrass Experience
5/25/08 Alexandria, VA Birchmere Music Hall DG with Bluegrass Experience
6/23-28/08 Santa Cruz,CA Mandolin Symposium Daily
7/12/08 Winnipeg, MB Winnipeg Folk Festival DG with Bluegrass Experience
7/18/08 Ancramdale,NY Grey Fox Festival DG with Bluegrass Experience
8/1-2/08 Edmonton, Alberta Blueberry Bluegrass Festival DG with Bluegrass Experience
8/8/08 Pigeon Forge,TN Stringtime In the Smokies DG with Doc Watson
8/9/08 Asheville,NC The Orange Peel DG with Bluegrass Experience
9/27/08 St Louis, MO Sheldon Concert Hall DG with John Sebastian
10/10/08 State College, PA The State Theatre DG with John Sebastian