The BEAT DADDYS

 

Larry Grisham is a survivor, plain and simple. Both personally and professionally, he has overcome obstacles most people will never face. Time and again he not only met these challenges, but rose to them and came out the other side stronger for the experience. But isn't that what the Blues is all about?

Larry was born in southern Indiana in 1953 and moved about much as a child, attending sixteen different schools before graduating from high school. He did, however, spend several formative years in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky living with his grandmother (whose first cousin happened to be legendary Country/Blues guitarist Merle Travis). This is where young Larry started to soak up the music. Not only was he exposed to the area's indigenous Bluegrass, Blues, Gospel and Soul Music, but like most kids his age he was taken with the new sound of Elvis, The Everly Brothers and later The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Stax and Motown. Soon Larry learned to play drums, and enough guitar to start fooling around with trying to write his own songs. He went off to Lander University in South Carolina on a basketball scholarship but moonlighted playing drums with various Rock and Soul bands. Like a lot of young musicians in the late 1960s Larry discovered the Blues. It was a powerful force and by the time he left university the die was cast. He'd decided to pursue music as a career.

He went back to his hometown of Evansville, Indiana and formed a Rock band called The Phonz in the late 1970s. Between 1980 and 1984 the group recorded two 45s and an EP for the small independent Limp Dog record label. The Phonz were a regional success but had run their course when Larry met Blues guitarist Tommy Stillwell and joined his band Stillwell in 1985, playing mostly Blues standards. By 1986 Larry and Tommy had decided to get serious about the music business and formed The Beat Daddys to showcase their original material. The band quickly became a success, toured the mid southern states and opened concerts for touring acts like Johnny Winter and Koko Taylor. In 1988 the group signed with Camelot Records and their debut album "Houserocking Rhythm & Blues" was released the following year. The record garnered substantial radio airplay and sold respectably enough to attract the attention of the most powerful Blues record company in the South.

The Beat Daddys signed with Malaco Records and in 1992 released the critically acclaimed album "No, We Ain't From Clarksdale" on the Waldoxy subsidiary imprint, recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound studio. The record was an instant success and began a whirlwind of activity for the band. They toured relentlessly, sharing the stage with artists as diverse as B.B. King, Foghat, Mighty Sam McClain, Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, Omar & The Howlers, 38 Special, Tower Of Power, Robert Cray, Elvin Bishop and James Cotton. Needless to say, The Beat Daddys had a broad appeal and a bright future ahead. They followed up with the album "South To Mississippi" in 1994, on which the group is augmented by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Muscle Shoals Horns. The following year Tommy Stillwell decided to leave the band and was replaced by Britt Meacham, the legendary Muscle Shoals studio guitarist who played lead on Bob Seger's multi million seller "Old Time Rock & Roll". They also added original Wet Willie drummer Lewis Ross and recorded their "Live" album in 1997. Larry Grisham had a franchise to look after and was not about to let the Beat Daddys falter.

By the mid 1990s Larry was firmly entrenched in the Malaco family. He co-wrote with George Jackson ("Down Home Blues", "One Bad Apple", "Old Time Rock & Roll") and A.D. Prestage ("Shade Tree Mechanic", "I'm A Blues Man") and Larry's songs were recorded by Little Milton ("Love Of A Woman"), Dorothy Moore ("I'll Always Love You" and "Blues In The Night" which was used as the theme song of a television show of the same name in Sweden) and One Eyed Cat ("Train In The Distance", "Ruby's Blues"). He also played harmonica on recording sessions at Malaco, most notably on Bobby "Blue" Bland's Grammy nominated hit record "I'm A Blues Man". The Beat Daddys recordings were also featured on several Malaco compilations, including the incredible box set "The Last Soul Company". By the late 1990s Larry was living in Pass Christian, Mississippi and the band was going strong. At the turn of the century The Beat Daddys recorded "Delta Vision" at Kingsnake Studio in Florida with the aid of Allman Brothers Band keyboard player Johnny Neel (the album also featured a guest vocal by Sonny Rhodes). The record was released in 2001 and the band continued its relentless working schedule. It seemed there was nowhere to go but up for the Beat Daddys.

Then, in 2005, tragedy struck.

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but it completely wiped out the coast of Mississippi. Larry Grisham lost everything. Everything, that is, but his will to survive. Survive? Hell no! He found the strength to rise again even stronger. He lived in a FEMA trailer for the next eight months, trying to regroup and decide his next move. Out of all this turmoil came one of Larry's finest works. The album "Five Moons" was recorded in Nashville and released in 2006. It contains some of Larry Grisham's finest, most heartfelt songwriting. Wanting to put the Katrina nightmare behind him, Larry decided to relocate to the Nashville area, settling on a small farm outside of the city. The group continued to tour and released their second live album "Live At The Quincy Blues Fest" in 2007. Logistics were becoming an increasing problem for the group, however, as Larry was now living hundreds of miles from his Gulf Coast based musicians. Something had to give.

In early 2009 The Beat Daddys rhythm section quit en masse. Larry and Britt soldiered on for a few months using pickup musicians, when Larry contacted his old friend, bass player Jeff "Stick" Davis. Davis had played with the group for a while in the late 1980s and was happy to help out. Jeff had been a founding member of the Amazing Rhythm Aces as well as a veteran sideman with artists like B.B. King, Al Green, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Ron Wood, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush and Jesse Winchester to name but a few. When Larry laid out his concerns for the future of The Beat Daddys, Jeff suggested a couple of his Nashville pals. Guitarist/songwriter/producer (and a recording artist in his own right) Fred James soon came on board as Britt Meacham bowed out. Fred had also played with the Amazing Rhythm Aces and handled guitar chores for artists as diverse as The Sam Lay Blues Band, Tommy Tutone, Frank Frost & The Jelly Roll Kings, Dr. Hook and Billy Joe Shaver. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Winter, Koko Taylor, Charlie Musslewhite, Son Seals and Junior Wells & Bonnie Raitt. He's produced albums for Homesick James, Roscoe Shelton, The Delta Jukes, David Olney, Johnny Jones and many others. To complete his "wish list" rhythm section, Davis chose drummer Waldo LaTowsky. Waldo had played with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (appearing on his Grammy nominated Alligator Records release "No Looking Back") and Bo Diddley,  as well as recording with Frank Frost, Homesick James, Al Garner, The Roadrunners, Johnny Neel, and Mary-Ann Brandon. He had also toured and recorded with Chet Atkins and Country Music chanteuse Suzy Bogguss. The Beat Daddys suddenly had a powerhouse, all-star lineup.

The newly revamped band is hard at work touring and writing songs for their next Malaco release. You've really got to hand it to Larry Grisham. Thanks to his unwavering dedication, The Beat Daddys have risen up yet again just when it seemed the odds were irretrievably against them. The future looks mighty bright for the group, but one thing you can be sure of......no matter where or when you encounter The Beat Daddys.......Larry Grisham will be at that drivin' wheel.

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