During embryonic development, muscles differentiate in the appropriate places and motoneurone growth cones find the appropriate muscles; both events occur concurrently and with remarkable specificity. What are the cellular interactions that orchestrate this coordinated development of nerve and muscle? In the development of vertebrate skeletal muscles, motoneurone growth cones arrive in the periphery along stereotyped routes and enter the appropriately located masses of mesodermal cells usually before differentiated muscle fibres appear and before the masses cleave into separate muscles. We find that a similar sequence of events occurs in the grasshopper embryo. We are interested in how mesodermal cells become organized into the appropriate muscles and what guides motoneurone growth cones to their appropriate targets. Fortunately, in the grasshopper embryo the mesodermal cells in the periphery and motoneurones in the central nervous system (CNS) are large, accessible and in many cases individually identifiable from early in their development. We report here the discovery of a class of large mesodermal cells, which we call muscle pioneers, that arise early in development when the embryonic environment is relatively simple and distances short. By their growth and association with particular sites along the ectoderm, the muscle pioneers appear to erect a scaffold for later developing muscles and motoneurone growth cones.