Arriving in Newburyport on Friday will be a well-traveled California musician who has ventured down rock and country roads, and over gypsy jazz and bluegrass paths.

Along the way, John Jorgenson has written, recorded or toured with The Byrds, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Emmy Lou Harris, Bob Dylan, Elton John — with whom he toured for six years — and other stellar musicians.

He even portrayed the originator of gypsy jazz music, Django Reinhardt, in the 2004 movie “Head in the Clouds.”

And he played alongside bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs for the last 10 years of his life — including the last time he played banjo. Scruggs popularized the genre’s defining, three-finger banjo picking called “Scruggs Style.”

On Friday, Jorgenson’s musical journey takes him to the stage at the Firehouse Center for the Arts with his bluegrass band — the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band.

The lineup will consist of Jorgenson on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Herb Pedersen on banjo, acoustic guitar and vocals; Jeff Picker on bass; and Patrick Sauber on acoustic guitar and vocals.

“We’ll be playing a lot of original compositions and songs from writers I like,” Jorgenson said from his home in southern California.

Concertgoers will hear songs written by Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark, along with compositions that Jorgenson co-wrote with longtime songwriters JD Souther and Chris Hillman, the original bassist from The Byrds.

Bluegrass fans will recognize the traditional number “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky” by the (Lester) Flatt and Scruggs band, the Foggy Mountain Boys.

The Jorgenson quartet will also play Pedersen’s classics “Wait a Minute” and “Old Train.”

“They are going to hear incredible harmonies, beautiful instrumentals and more interesting and deeper lyrics than you would typically hear in bluegrass music,” Jorgenson said.

One of these songs is by Emmylou Harris and Guy Clark, “Bang the Drum Slowly,” about Harris’ father, a fighter pilot in World War II. Another number is a Crowell song, “Wandering Boy,” about twin brothers from Texas, one of whom is gay.

When Jorgenson likes a particular kind of music, he chases down its roots to get at the style’s core.

“I play all kinds of music from different places and cultures, and try to make it as authentic as possible,” he said.

He’s the son of two classical musicians, raised in Redlands, California, a place called the Inland Empire.

Jorgenson grew up playing piano and then clarinet. Like scores of other musicians who saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he was transfixed by them and embarked on a rock ’n’ roll quest.

He got a footing in the pursuit at age 12 after his parents bought him an inexpensive Japanese-manufactured (Teisco) guitar, a St. George, a garage-band staple.

He graduated from the University of Redlands in 1979, majoring in woodwind performance — bassoon, clarinet and saxophone.

He developed bluegrass skills in a job he landed at Disneyland. By day, he played bluegrass and Dixieland music at the theme park; at night, he drove to Hollywood and played rock and country.

With Hillman and Pederson, he formed The Desert Rose Band, which tallied five No. 1 singles on the country charts, taking Jorgenson to Nashville and a chance to play with other musicians.

Jorgenson still plays a variety of music.

He recently returned from Scotland and Italy, touring with his electric band.



What: John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport

How much: $25

More information: 978-462-7336 or 

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