Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Ed Pearl

Part One

Part Two

Ed Pearl spent the early part of his childhood in Boyle Heights where he lived among an amalgam of Jewish and Mexican families, a new generation of immigrants from Mexico fast supplanting the Russian and Eastern European enclave.

He took up the guitar and at UCLA, joined the folk song club. As a part of that club, he helped bring Pete Seeger to Los Angeles, even though Seeger was accused of being a Communist and subpoenaed before HUAC.

When Ed met Flamenco musicians from Spain who were stranded in Los Angeles, and who played a kind of passionate roots music he had never heard before, he took on the roll of promoting his first concert performance with the stranded musicians. It was a success and it set him on his life's course.

In 1958, Ed cobbled together $10,000 and opened a club on Melrose Avenue called the Ash Grove. Blues legends, folk musicians, singer-songwriters, and social satirists graced the stage, enlivening one of the most fertile and exciting music venues ever to exist in the city. 

Ed ran the club for 10 years until extremists burned the Ash Grove to the ground before a debate could take place about the Cuban revolution. Ed believed the fire was set by anti-Castro Cubans. Many artists and those who frequented the club as patrons came together to aid in its rebuilding. Some years later, armed men entered the club on a Sunday evening before it opened, terrorized the staff, and set it afire for the second time, although the damage was far less than the first fire. In 1973, it was burned for the third time and Ed Pearl was forced to close the club for good.

Ed worked with the Peace and Freedom party, and through Eldridge Cleaver, who ran for President on the Peace and Freedom ticket, became involved with the Black Panthers.

The lack of a venue of his own did not deter him from continuing to present music. He produced concerts with exiled Chilean artists who had fled Chile after Pinochet took power. 

He later supported the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua and Anti Apartheid struggles in South Africa, all the time using his concert producing skills to present World Music artists in Los Angeles.

In 2008, a fifty year anniversary celebration of the Ash Grove was presented at Royce Hall, sponsored by UCLA. From the sale of tapes from the Ash Grove, he started a non-profit, the Ash Grove Foundation, to continue the work of presenting progressive cultural events.

Currently Ed works with and champions a group of young poetry and rap artists, the Get Lit Players, a group emphasizing literary performance, education and teen poetry. His work with Get Lit represents a younger embodiment of politics and music always prevalent at the Ash Grove.

“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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