I first encountered the name Grant Grieves in the late 1970s, when I bought a German compilation LP (“That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll”, NPR 7305) that included Grant’s “Four In the Floor” as the closing track. It could easily pass for a 50s recording, but I found out much later that it was recorded as late as 1969.
Grant Grieves was born (in 1938) and raised in Kansas City, but had to move around a lot as a youngster. His parents, Lester and Louise Grieves, separated when he was very young and his father worked as a welder, a car salesman, a house painter, an oiler on a dredge and a pipe liner. Lester taught all these skills to his son. Grant’s interest in music started at the age of ten when he got a guitar from his cousins Chuck and Jack, who showed him some chords. While living in Houston in the 1950s, Grieves began to write songs. His early musical influences were Lefty Frizzell, Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow, among others. When rock n roll started to happen, his music was also influenced by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
According to Jim Raper, author of the “Great Unknowns” series in Now Dig This, Grieves was a member of Conny and the Bellhops, who cut a great instrumental called “Shot Rod” for the Damon label. Interviewed by Stuart Colman for Now Dig This, Grant denied that he ever was in that group. “I never even knew them.”
Grant made his first record in 1959. With an old school buddy, Russ Piburn, he went to see “Tennessee” Jim McDonald, who co-owned the K.C.M. label in Kansas City. Russ and Grant had written two songs, “The Guns” (an answer to “Dont Take Your Guns To Town” by Johnny Cash) and “Honky Tonk Women” and these were released under the name The Strangers. Though the record sold well locally, it would take ten years before Grieves made another record. Originally recorded as a demo in 1969, a sped-up version of “Four In the Floor” came out on the Big K label from Kansas City in 1970 and also got a UK release in 1971 on the Injun label. Two more singles on Big K followed, “Honky Tonk Fever” and “Shake It Baby”. By then, his young sons Terry and Dug were already backing him up on guitar and drums, which they have continued to do until today.
In 1973, Grant moved to Nashville, where he met songwriter Kent Westberry, who also owned Crackerbox Records. Kent released two records by Grant, “Good Time Girl”/”I’ve Got You” (1975) and “I’ll Get To You”/”From Nine To Five” (1976), credited to “Grant Grieves and the Flashbacks”. Grant and Kent became partners and worked the road with a “Hee Haw” type show, impersonating country stars.
Even though he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame in 2001, few people outside his immediate environment had heard of Grant Grieves. Therefore it was quite a surprise when Grieves emerged (rather than re-emerged) on the rockabilly scene in 2004 with a CD of new recordings (“Red Hot! Rockin’ Now And Then,” Wildhair Music 1423). Highlight was the opening track, a completely original interpretation of the Riley – Luman classic “Red Hot.” The 9-track custom CD (recorded in Nashville in 2002) received a rave review in Now Dig This, the only criticism being that its playing time was only 28 minutes and 50 seconds. “It features nine fine moments in music that sound as if they come from a seasoned pro rather an ‘unknown'”, wrote Howard Cockburn. Surprised by the European demand for the CD, Grieves dug up some demos and released another 9-track CD called “Nashville Demos”, which is more country than rockabilly. In 2007 this was followed by another CD on the Wildhair Music label, “Ridin’ High,” this time with a slightly longer playing time (35:22). A mix of original compositions (including a remake of “Four In the Floor”) and rock n roll classics, the CD met with another positive review from Howard Cockburn (NDT 290, May 2007). I believe there are plans to bring Grieves over to the UK in 2008.
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman (NDT interview), Terry Gordon.
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