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See Graham Nash’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum Treasures

Handwritten lyrics, a Joni Mitchell painting, the jeans Nash wore at Woodstock and other memorabilia from singer-songwriter’s “Touching the Flame” exhibit

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Graham Nash, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH

Carl Harp

Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has launched "Touching the Flame," an exhibition of more than 140 objects chronicling the life in music and art of rock legend Graham Nash, from his fledgling years in skiffle bands in the north of England, through his breakthrough with the Hollies and his decades-long journey with Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young. Drawn from Nash's personal collection, and including items from the museum's archive and loans from friends, the exhibition brings together original song manuscripts, guitars, letters, photographs, political memorabilia, vinyl records and artwork, accompanied by commentary from Nash.

"Graham Nash: Touching the Flame" was conceived in October, 2014, when Nash participated in the Hall of Fame Museum's 19th-annual Music Masters series, a tribute to the Everly Brothers. On view at the time was "Paul Simon: Words and Music," the museum's first biographical exhibition based on an artist's direct involvement in creating a first-person story. "They had just opened the Paul Simon exhibition," Nash recalls. "I was walking through the exhibit with Joel Peresman [president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation], taking it all in. And Joel said, 'You're next.'"

"Graham loved the way 'Words and Music' showed Paul Simon's creative process," says Hall of Fame Museum curator Karen Herman, "and what it's like to be a writer. When he was at the museum last year, he was asked why he collects. And he said, 'to touch the flame of that moment when something really special was created.' As soon as we heard that, we knew we had it." Herman returned to Cleveland with Nash's treasures and began organizing them into a narrative based on the idea of harmony. "We stressed harmony by starting with the Everly Brothers, moving on to Graham's first harmonizing with Crosby and Stills, and finally to the singing booth where you can harmonize with Graham yourself," she says.

Nash arrived at the press preview looking fit, trim and exuberant. In the midst of his own exhibition, he beamed like a kid in a candy store — the kid who grew up poor in the north of England after the war and still can't believe his good fortune. He walked through the exhibition, stopping along the way to talk to Rolling Stone about a few of the items on display that have special meaning for him."If there's one thing I'd like people to take from this," he says, "it's look at what one person from a humble background did with his life. If I can do it, you can too."

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Carl Harp/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Phil Everly’s Guitar

The Everly Brothers, Don and Phil, were incredibly important to me, and to my friend Allan Clarke. We first met them when they performed in Manchester in 1960. I was 18. Allan and I waited for hours in the rain on the steps of the Midland Hotel just to meet them. They stumbled in at around 1:30 a.m. and took the time to talk to us — to encourage us to follow our dream, which became the Hollies. This is Phil's guitar from 1963, and it's one of my prized possessions. I mean, that's one of the Everly Brothers' guitars, for God's sake.

Years later, on the road with CSN, I got a call from Phil in Toledo, Ohio. I said, "Hey, Phil, why are you calling me in Toledo?" He said, "You know that theater where you're playing tomorrow? We're playing there tonight. Do you want to come?" I went to their soundcheck, and Don looked at me and said, "OK, what are you going to sing with us tonight?" I was fucking dying. Onstage with The Everly Brothers? This was a lifelong dream. I tried to be nonchalant. "How about 'So Sad'? I love that song." Somewhere I have a board tape of me singing 'So Sad' in three-part harmony with the Everly Brothers. Just stunning. Between the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, that was it. They were my main influences when I was growing up.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Carl Harp/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Hollies Memorabilia

The small record at the top of this display of Hollies material from my collection was our very first recording, from 1960. We were still the Fourtones then. We went to a local Manchester record store with a studio in it and made that disc. And here, of course, is the Hollies' bass drum artwork. The photo at the top left is of me and Allan Clarke when we were 15 years old, along with photos from our first trip to America and my original handwritten lyrics for "Stop, Stop, Stop."

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Carl Harp/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Woodstock Jeans

Why do I still have the jeans I wore at Woodstock? I still have them because I don't throw anything away that I think might be valuable, and I always thought that Woodstock was a very interesting sociological event, though I must tell you that if everybody who told me they were at Woodstock was really at Woodstock, the planet would have tilted. Those are the jeans I wore there, and the belt, and when I look at them, my first thought is, "I'll never fit in them again." But I do get a flashback when I see them. Look at all those patches. I wore those jeans for years.

I've just been listening to some of the tracks that we did at Woodstock. We did pretty well, considering that the monitoring system sucked. We could hardly hear ourselves. You try playing "Guinnevere" with two voices and one guitar and half a million people out there. That was only the second time CSNY had ever played in front of an audience.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Buddy Holly’s Guitar

I don't have pictures of myself on the walls of my house. You won't see any gold or platinum records. But there's one picture of me that I cherish — this shot of me playing "Peggy Sue" on Buddy Holly's guitar, the one he used to write the song. It belongs to a friend in Seattle, Michael Malone. I was performing at the Experience Music Project, built by an amazing man, Paul Allen. Michael brought it for me to hold and I couldn't resist playing it for the audience.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

“From an Idea to a Reality”

Here's a scan from one of my notebooks. Before I went to sleep one night, I had an idea. I wanted to do a show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. I wrote down the names of all these artists I wanted to come and play. I made a list of people I thought could help raise the funds. Next to the pages, I wrote, "From an Idea to a Reality." And the reality was more than 90,000 people at the Rose Bowl for the 1982 Peace Sunday concert, just from an idea.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Graham Nash by Joni Mitchell

This is a painting by Joni Mitchell of me sleeping with her cat Calico when we were living together in Laurel Canyon in 1969. I wrote "Our House" there.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Nixon Letter

This is a very simple piece of paper, very small, very few words, but the words are insane: "Dear Mr. Secretary: I hereby resign the office of President of the United States. Sincerely, Richard Nixon." This letter was sent to Henry Kissinger on August 9th, 1974. He and Kissinger starting the secret bombing of Cambodia, which ended up with the kids protesting at Kent State and four of them being killed, and Neil writing "Ohio," and all that followed. We stopped our own single that was going up the charts, "Teach Your Children," to put "Ohio" out. That's how important it was to us to let the American people know we were killing our own children and that our country was in deep trouble. We were glad when Nixon was forced to resign. We did a show back East during CSNY's 1974 tour. He resigned in the middle of our show, and I was in front of 80,000 people. I only said, I think, two words: "He's gone." And everyone knew exactly what I meant.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Live Aid Band List

This is the dressing room list of code names for the people who played at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985. It was posted backstage, and when the show was over and everyone left, it was still there. I thought, that's a work of art, so I just took it.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Man in Black

I took this photograph of Johnny Cash in Nashville in 1969 when Joni was appearing on Cash's television show at the Grand Ole Opry. He had just done a duet with Bob Dylan and was standing off to the side, maybe trying to figure out if he'd done it right. Is that not the Man in Black?

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

“Just a Song”

Once, when I had some time while on vacation in Maui before I had to go back to Los Angeles, I was at the house of a dealer friend of mine. Not anything weird, just a little pot, you know. And he said to me, "You're a big-shot songwriter. I bet you can't write a song before you go." Forty minutes later, "Just a Song" was written, and that's the original lyric. I spent years off and on writing "Cathedral." I was talking about people's religion, and I had to make sure every single word was correct. "Just a Song" was the biggest single hit CSN ever had. Go figure.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

David Crosby on Linoleum

This is a linoleum block I made of Crosby from a picture I took of him when I knew he was contemplating suicide. David was in a very dark, very blue place. I projected the photograph onto this piece of linoleum, traced it out roughly, and then cut the block.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Sun Studios Tile

I once went to Sun Studios in Memphis. It had been closed for 20 years. It was dusty and dark. But I had a friend who was taking care of the building before it was brought back to life. He invited me over for a visit, and I was thrilled to be in that room where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins made all that great music. My friend says to me, "Do you want one of the ceiling tiles?" I said, "Shit, yeah, I do." Looking up at the ceiling, he said, "OK, let me figure this out. That was '67, that was '65 — oh, yeah, that color white, '57. Right here, that's where Elvis stood." He got a ladder, took it down, and there it is.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Portrait of Mother

This is a photo I took of my mother Mary when I was 11, in 1953. She was 33. It was the first image I took where I realized that it's possible that I see differently than most people. Normally my mother would be making the bed, or cooking breakfast — mother stuff. I'd never seen my mother in this contemplative mood. I'd never seen her either looking into her future or wondering if her life had been what she wanted or thinking about her past. I don't know. I only know that that's an incredible moment in my mother's existence.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Mama Cass

If I had not met Mama Cass Elliot, I would never have met David or Stephen or Neil or Joni. My life would have been completely different had I not met this woman. She knew that David and Stephen had been doing two-part harmonies and that David had been thrown out of the Byrds and the Springfield was breaking up. She knew I was unhappy with the Hollies. I believe in her mind, she thought, "That might be an interesting blend." I swear, I'm sure that Cass knew what David and Stephen and I would sound like before we did. I took this photo at Cass' house on Mulholland Drive in 1969. She was the Gertrude Stein of Los Angeles, bringing together people from various disciplines — movie people, writers, composers — to talk about art and life. She was very important.

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

With the Queen

Here I am with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2010, receiving the OBE, Officer of the British Empire. It was phenomenal. I couldn't help thinking about my mom and dad and how proud they would have been of me standing there with the Queen of England. She asked me how the Hollies were doing. I said, "Quite frankly, Mum, I've been away for 45 years and I didn't know anyone was watching what I did in the States." And she said, "And now you know."

Graham Nash; Cleveland OH; Touching the Flame; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Garrett White

Singing Booth

The singing booth was the Hall of Fame's idea. They're interested in interactivity, an experience that goes beyond an artifact behind glass. They said, "You sing harmony. Can we do anything with that?" And that developed into the booth. I sang "Bus Stop," "Teach Your Children" and "Wasted on the Way," with melody and harmony tracks. Visitors can sing along and then receive an MP3 of their session with me.

The program registers the number of notes sung in tune. So I recorded some after-show comments. If it needs work, you'll hear, "Hey, wait a second! Are you even trying? Come on, now … we've got a song to sing. Get into it!" If really needs work, you'll hear, "Holy Toledo, do you have a real job? I wouldn't give it up if I were you." And if you're good, you'll hear, "Maybe you can be the next Crosby, Stills and Nash. You never know."