Earl Grant was an American pianist, organist, and vocalist popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Earl drew huge crowds at the Copacabana in NY and the Flamingo in Vegas. He also toured in Europe, Australia and Japan. During his short life, Grant cut 30 albums for Decca. This track is from the Decca album “Gently Swinging.”
Grant’s unique Hammond organ style made use of big block chords and wonderfully percussive staccato glissandi. Being born one of twelve to a Baptist Minister, Earl cut his teeth playing in church and later honed his skill while serving in the army.
Earl died instantly in a car accident in New Mexico, at the age of 39. He was driving from Los Angeles to Juarez, Mexico for a gig. His 17-year-old cousin was also killed in the accident.
I first discovered the music of Earl Grant at the age of 14 when I landed a gig playing in a bar two nights a week for several months. There were several recordings of Earl in the juke box including: Ebb Tide, Volare and, I Can’t Stop Loving You. Although I never got drunk, I got to sample practically everything behind the bar. The patrons were very generous in those days. If only my friends who used to steal from their parents’ liquor cabinets only knew.
The bartender and owner were huge fans of Earl’s music as were many of the patrons. One night my school bus driver walked in with his wife. The whole place lit up as he walked into the bar. He was the meanest bus driver in the whole district and all the kids hated him but in the bar he was jovial and very much loved. When he saw me, he screamed my name and came running over with the biggest smile. It turned out that he too played the organ and loved Earl Grant.
The bus stop was three tenths of a mile from my house. After that night, the next day he dropped all the kids off at the assigned bus stop location and told me to stay on the bus, he then drove to my house and dropped me off there. That continued every day since and he always smiled and dispatched of me with a pop gun gesture as I crossed in front of the bus. He would often ask,
“Are you going to the bar tonight?”
Sometimes he would hand me sheet music or record albums as I got off the bus. He also invited me to his house quite often for his family parties and gatherings where we would each take turns playing for them. He had a wonderful and caring family and these gatherings revealed to me why he was so mean to the kids on the bus. You know, it’s impossible to go through life unscathed. Nor should we want to. By the hurts we accumulate, we measure both our losses, follies and our accomplishments and, we learn to love, forgive and survive.
I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, that that scrawny 14 year old boy I once was, just by being there, helped that man who lost much, to realize that life was worth another chance. That’s life.