As One Grits to Another...
by Michael Buffalo Smith
Steve Grisham is a Southern Rock road dog. A man with the Southern Rock running through his very veins. A Florida singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and engineer, Grisham, also known as “Grits,” is a former member of The Outlaws, and currently leads an outstanding Southern Rock band called Ghost Riders. WIth a new album selling well in Europe and another album just out in the states, there is plenty of new Ghost Riders music available, and according to Steve, this is only the beginning.
Where were you born and raised?
Pittsburgh, Kansas. There was a lot of great music from around that area when I was growing up. Steve Gaines, the band Kansas, Leon Russell....
Who were some of your earliest musical influences?
Some of the first things I can remember hearing are the Beatles and AM radio. "Downtown" was that by Petula Clark? "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" was one the first guitar riffs that I heard that got me excited. Then listening to AM radio - Bloodrock, Led Zeppelin, things like that.
Were you a fan of Southern rock during it's prime?
Isn't Southern Rock still in it's prime?
Tell me about some of your early bands.
My first band was in grade school. I started playing piano first, then went to drums. My second band was in Junior High and High school. The high school band has just re-united as Red Wing. The drummer Steve Zaremba, hadn't picked up sticks in, well let's say, several years. Bob Fansler on bass, from Miami, Oklahoma. It was a fun project.
Then I started playing clubs around Pittsburgh, Kansas and Miami, Oklahoma. That’s where I saw Steve Gaines (Lynyrd Skynyrd) playing. Along with Kansas in the clubs around the area. I was in several bands during that era. Better Daze, Fingers and then I started a band called Double Trouble, (before SRV) with Glen Sears, Slugger Trask, Ronnie Brooks and Terry Thomas. At that time Steve Gaines left town to be in Skynyrd. Then the plane went down. What a loss. Bob Gaines, Steve's brother, played drums and was staying in Ronnie Van Zant’s house in Doctor's Inlet. So I made drive down to Florida for the first time, and fell in love with it. I stayed in Ronnie Van Zant’s house for about six months, mowing the lawn and keeping folks away, and practicing with the band that Bob, Terry Thomas, and Glenn Sears had. I went back to the midwest for a few weeks and realized I needed to go back to Florida. I did that and joined the band Man Alive, with John Moss (formerly of Crawdad, Steve Gaines’ band prior to Skynyrd) and lived on Amelia Island for several years.
When and how did you come to join The Outlaws.
I auditioned. I believe I joined in 1982 or ‘83. I had written the hit song "Keepin' Our Love Alive" for the Henry Paul Band, so I knew Henry and he told me about the audition.
Give us your thoughts on Hughie Thomasson.
Hughie was a great guy. Always full of energy and positive. We would fish from time to time. The last time I saw him was at the House of Blues in Orlando. He came up and said "Grits!" and gave me a great big hug.
How did Ghost Riders come to be formed.
I found Pug somehow and started using him at my studio, Mira Vista. He introduced me to Jimmy Bennett and Phill Stokes. I brought in Barry.
Who all is in the band?
March ‘09 will be Ghost Riders fifth anniversary of our first gig in Apollo Beach, Florida. Right now, the same members that we started with. Barry Rapp (Henry Paul Band), Pug Baker, Phil Stokes (Pure Prairie League) and Jimmy Bennett (Levon Helm). George McCorkle was filling in for Jimmy for a while.
I know you were working with George McCorkle at the time of his passing. What were the plans, and did you guys get to play together/record?
Yes. George spent a good amount of time here at the studio before his passing. He was basically filling in for Jimmy Bennett. We wrote "Travel Light" (on Fortune Teller 2.0) and recorded it with Ghost Riders.
Talk about the original Fortune Teller, release and how that record did for you.
Fortune Teller sold mostly in Europe. It got us going. Then we released Back To The Rock for Europe release only. Now we are on to Fortune Teller 2.0. With the backing of Beyond.FM and Norm Levy. Norm is really making a muscle for us and intent on bringing the Ghost Riders to the forefront.
Norm owns Media Street, and they make Digital Pictures/Mp3/4 players. We are positioning ourselves to be on top of the digital market, which ever way it turns, with the latest in digital distribution. Each product that Beyond.FM and Media Street offers can be loaded with Ghost Riders music.
Tell us about Mira Vista Studios.
It’s been going now for about nine years. Having great fun producing great acts.
Who are some of the folks you have worked with?
Steve Gaines, Lari White, Tom Wopat, Gretchen Wilson, Charlie Daniels,Tim Lindsey from Molly Hatchet, Randall Hall, Steve Goorman, Dan Toler, Billy and Tommy Crain, Blackfoot, Outlaws, Bo Bice, Charlie Allen, Gregg Allman, Foghat, Sparky, Hurry
Sundown, South Paw, Devon Anderson, Larry Paxton, Paul Lime, Fred Newell, Billy Greer (bass Kansas), Patrick Johansson (drummer for Yngwie Malmsteen), Robery Nix, Ace Moreland, Rick Derringer,The Band House Live, Jeff Hale (drummer for Waylon Jennings), Johnny Neel, Jimmy Gunn and others.
How in the world did you get Gretchen Wilson on your record?
She's on there? (Laughs) I did a recording project for Sharon Vaughn and she was the demo singer on it before she got signed. I had the idea to turn it into a duet and Sharon liked it.
Has Ghostriders toured Europe yet?
Nope. We did a gig in Norway a couple of years ago. When we find enough venues that will book us or a booking agent that will, we will be happy to go.
What are the future plans for Grits?
We just signed a major deal with Norm Levy and his company called Beyond.FM located in Deer Park, NY. They are really into the band, and will be supporting all our touring efforts this year. You can get free downloads there from Fortune Teller 2.0, our newest album. It combines four old songs from Fortune Teller and ten new songs. You can download the whole album, DRM free, at http://ghostriders.beyond.fm - Plus album art, pictures and video. And you can view our calendar there. We are working on musical projects with various artists at the label, like, DJ Johnny Juice and Sly and Robbie, to be released through out the year.