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 in an effort to preserve and spread acoustic or instrumental music.
Grisman grew up in a Conservative Jewish household in Hackensack, New Jersey. 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). 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.
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).
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. In 1974, Grisman, Rowan, Kahn, and Richard Greene joined Bill Keith, Clarence White, and John Guerin 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 mandocello on Bonnie Raitt's album Sweet Forgiveness (1977).
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, along with New Grass Revival, are generally considered the modern day interpreters of the new bluegrass-influenced fusion sound, sometimes called newgrass.,
The documentary Grateful Dawg (2000) chronicles the deep friendship between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.,
David Grisman appeared on the Grateful Dead's album American Beauty (1970). To this day, Grisman complains (jokingly) of how Jerry Garcia vetoed the length of the mandolin part featured on the studio version of "Ripple".,
"Dawggy Mountain Breakdown" is NPR's Car Talk's theme music.,
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. Grisman's attorneys requested voluntary dismissal of the suit.,
Grisman was a judge for the 6th and 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.