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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