Dru Lombar - vocals, guitar; Larry Howard - vocals, guitar; Stephen Miller- vocals, keyboards; Joe Dan Petty - bass; Rick Burnett - drums
In an effort to extend the reach of southern rock artists, the epicenter label, Capricorn Records, launched an ambitious European Tour toward the end of 1976. The tour featured an exciting triple bill of Grinderswitch, Bonnie Bramlett and the Marshall Tucker Band, three of the most respected Capricorn artists outside the Allman Brothers Band. Serving double duty on the tour was Grinderswitch, who not only kicked off the program each evening, but also served as the musicians for Bonnie Bramlett. Arguably the greatest white soul singer in America, Bramlett was likely the most recognized artist on the bill, having conquered Europe earlier in the decade during her years co-fronting Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. One of the most anticipated nights occurred at the tail end of the tour, when these artists took to the stage of the Birmingham Odeon. Expectations were high, the performance was sold out and both the BBC and the King Biscuit Flower Hour recording engineers were on hand to record the night's festivities for later broadcast. Here we feature the complete unedited Grinderswitch set, which kicked off that memorable evening.
The genesis of Grinderswitch occurred in 1972 when Allman Brothers crew member, Joe Dan Petty, decided to put together a band of his own. Word reached guitarists Dru Lombar and Larry Howard and along with drummer Rick Burnett, they relocated to a farm outside of Macon, GA and began writing and rehearsing the band into shape. They soon gained the attention of Capricorn head honcho Phil Walden and the following year they recorded their debut album, "Honest To Goodness." Over the course of the next three years, the band would work virtually non-stop. They released two more critically acclaimed albums, Macon Tracks and the most recent at the time of this performance, Pullin' Together. Grinderswitch were perpetually on the road, opening concerts for label mates, the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, and Marshall Tucker, all of whom had audiences that embraced the band's sound. Grinderswitch would soon face major challenges, with the onslaught of Disco music changing the musical landscape and the downsizing and eventual collapse of Capricorn Records right around the corner. However, at the time of this recording, they were at their peak and soon to record what would become their defining career statement - the album Redwing.
This recording captures the band just before that pivotal time, prior to recording the Redwing material, when they were at their most promising stage of development and the future never looked brighter. Following the introduction, Grinderswitch kick things off with the high-energy rocker, "Higher Ground." One of the key tracks on Pullin' Together, the group's most recent album at that time, and fueled by the chugging organ of keyboardist, Stephen Miller, and the guitars of Lombar and Howard, this would set the stage for an exciting set. "I'm Satisfied," another track from Pullin' Together, follows. Essentially a love song, this takes the rare approach of expressing contentment, rather than longing, and the unison guitar playing of Lombar and Howard accentuates its feel-good vibe.
The good-time vibe continues on the aptly titled "Kiss The Blues Goodbye." A celebratory up tempo blues, this contains an impressive organ solo from Miller before shifting into a laid back groove which builds back up to an infectious jam. The most accessible song of the set follows with "Kill The Pain," which shows the band heading in a more commercial direction with impressive results. This features a lovely jam which builds to a soaring conclusion, reminiscent of the Allman Brothers' own "Ramblin' Man."
The highlight of the set follows with a lengthy excursion into "Pickin' The Blues," a standout number from their Macon Tracks album. This segues directly out of the previous song beginning as an Elmore James style boogie. Before long, Grinderswitch are in full flight and this extended jam showcases these musicians at their best. Plenty of dynamic changes throughout and the soloing of Miller (now on piano) and Lombar is tasteful and expressive, building to an explosive finale. The audience is entranced and demands an encore for which Grinderswitch gladly oblige. Once again mining material off the Pullin' Together album, they close their set out with a joyous romp through the old Falcons classic, "You're So Fine," setting the stage for Bonnie Bramlett to begin her set.