Texas Guitar Great David Grissom Digs Way Down Deep
David Grissom has a résumé that most guitarists can only dream of. From his early days with Hank III in Killbilly, Grissom went on to playing, along with Jimmy Pettit and Davis McLarty, for Joe Ely from 1985 to 1991. A hell-for-leather band that could hang with the Clash or just about anyone else, for that matter, that ensemble is still one of the top acts ever to come out of Texas.
Courtesy of LC Media A young David Grissom (l) and the other members of one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever.
Grissom left Ely to work with John Mellencamp before forming Storyville, an all-star Austin blues-rock ensemble. Following the shelving of Storyville, Grissom toured with the Allman Brothers as well as the Dixie Chicks.
Grissom also is a seasoned session player and was signed to Houstonian Frank Liddell's Carnival Music in Nashville for some years as a songwriter. He recently released his third solo recording, Way Down Deep, that features the usual deep grooves and monster licks we've come to expect from the lanky guitar slinger.
He comes to town Sunday for a writers-in-the-round session with Lisa Morales and legendary Austin guitarist Casper Rawls. Rocks Off caught up with him at home in Dripping Springs.
Rocks Off: After years of hard touring with Joe Ely, Storyville and Dixie Chicks, what is the primary consumer of your playing time these days?
David Grissom: My own material and working to become a better musician on every level. I've done the Nashville publishing deal thing, tons of touring and lots of records. Aside from really missing all the studio work I was doing for a lot of years, I'm much more interested in pursuing my path as a player and writer.
Unfortunately, the fact that CD sales are down drastically has eliminated the bulk of the sessions I used to get called for.
RO: You're known for a unique style/approach. Who were your first teachers, what did you pick up from them that became part of your sonic signature?
DG: My first three teachers each introduced me to three distinct styles which became fundamental to me developing my own thing. My first teacher turned me on to Keith Richards and Hendrix, the second teacher steered me into blues, the three Kings and Magic Sam, and my third teacher was a jazz guy.
From him I discovered Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell and others. On top of that, my father listened to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings every night, and I hit all the bluegrass festivals that came to Louisville, where I grew up. Norman Blake and Doc Watson were big influences.
RO. I remember David Holt talking about playing an acoustic part live in a TV performance by Carlene Carter and him saying the pressure was tremendous but, "That's the kind of playing that separates the men from the boys." What would be your top "I can't fuck this up," "men from boys" moment?
DG: Hmmm..., I don't know. I have felt that in sessions occasionally when I may play the intro and first verse by myself just backing up the artist. Knowing that all these great players are sitting there in a very expensive studio depending on you to get it right can add some pressure, but really, you just have to trust that those 10,000 hours paid off.
RO: You were on hand when the first Chris Knight recordings were made. What was your impression of him at that point? Did you think "he's really got it," or was he just another newbie in Nashville who might never be heard from again?
DG: I felt very strongly that he was an incredibly gifted artist. Very volatile at times, but really eloquent as well. I am always attracted to that contrast in writers, and I think it comes through in the depth and imagery in his songs.
I never thought he would be accepted by the Nashville mainstream machine, but really admired the guys that were behind him.