Some music people believe the 60’s Boston band Earth Opera once had a good shot at being the East Coast answer to the Grateful Dead. It never happened, but it’s easy to understand such enthusiasm. The band’s core members featured singer/songwriter/guitarist Peter Rowan and mandolin virtuoso David Grisman, and also included John Nagy on bass, Paul Dillon on drums, and Bill Stevenson on keyboards. The group’s sound leaned more towards the new psychedelic movement than the bluegrass music at its roots. Signed to Elektra, the ensemble released an eponymous debut drenched in “far out” psychedelia, and though it didn’t sell well, Elektra gave the band a second shot. The Great American Eagle Tragedy was highlighted by the 10-minute title track, still a daring gambit in those days. Earth Opera never attracted much of a listenership outside Boston and broke up in 1969. Both Rowan and Grisman later played and recorded with Jerry Garcia. Rowan was a member of Seatrain and forged a solo career, while Grisman formed his own acclaimed quartet and did extensive soundtrack work. The band’s discs are available on Wounded Bird Records.
(by Dean Johnson)
Published on December 28, 2012