Oddly enough, I would have never even dreamed of becoming a writer during my days in grade school and high school. I really wanted to work for NASA, or be a rock star, or both. But I did create my own music magazines and comic books as far back as tenth grade. My first real thoughts of writing were spurred by a professor at Spartanburg Methodist College by the name of Dave Shuping, who made me feel as though I had a gift for writing. That encouragement, combined with years of reading the great music writers like Lester Bangs, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, and Dave Marsh, created a desire in me to get serious about writing.
Back on high school I had written music articles for the school newspaper, I even had my own Music Hall of Fame. I remember getting some guys mad at me because I panned the Black Sabbath “Sabbotage” album and they thought it was high art. Of course, my reviews of The Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band were always glowing. Go figure.
At SMC, I tried to kick it up a notch. Writing in the school paper about local and national bands and such was commonplace. Somewhere along the line I had my first article published in The Spartanburg Herald Journal in my hometown of Spartanburg, SC. It was a profile on local musician David Haddox, who played drums in my band at the time.
After college I worked at various newspapers in Spartanburg County and in North Carolina, always pushing my agenda for rock and roll writing, which doesn’t really fly with editor’s who are trying to cover the City Council’s board meeting or the latest fender bender out on the frontage road.
While working at The News Leader of Landrum, SC and her sister publication The Polk County News Journal of Columbus, NC back in the ‘80’s some friends and I started an ecology newspaper called Utopia. It was all about recycling, Earth Day and all of that good stuff. The two pages in the center were all music and all mine. I did CD reviews, commentary, show reviews and more. Unfortunately, the 500 issue run coupled with the fact that we only published three issues kind of made my efforts go nowhere.
In 1991, I was working at WTYN Radio in Tryon, NC while at the same time reporting for the paper The Tryon Daily Bulletin. I was doing a play at the Little Theatre when I met James Irwin, and within three months, he and I were publishing the first alternative press newspaper in Greenville, SC. The bi-weekly tabloid was called EDGE Magazine, and for three years we had a blast. This was my first real, honest to God forum for my editorial commentary. I got to do reviews and music writing on my own terms and it was a blast. I was given the chance do interview everyone from George Harrison to Gene Simmons, from Paul Riddle of Marshall Tucker to Artimus Pyle of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was a great training ground.
Then in 1994 I broke ties with EDGE and started the decidedly more artsy The Color Green, which continued along the same lines, bringing interview opportunities with Chet Atkins, Carrot Top, Peter Criss from KISS, and Gregg Allman.
Somewhere along the line there a friend named Russell Hall introduced me to his editor at Goldmine, the national monthly magazine for record collectors, and I started writing reviews and articles for them. Soon I became their go-to guy for Southern Rock. Besides writing huge stories on blues diva Koko Taylor, prog-band Kansas and head banger Ted Nugent, I created deep cover stories on The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Texas rocker Edgar Winter and Gov’t Mule among others.
Soon I was writing for online venues like Suite 101, Y’all Magazine and print publications like Relix, Hittin’ The Note, Blue Suede News, Mojo, Discoveries, and many others. Of course all of those gigs took a back seat when we started GRITZ in 1998. GRITZ has afforded me countless opportunities, including getting up close and personal with the very finest Southern rockers and other musicians on the planet.
Some of the high points right off the top of my head have been my three hour plus conversation with the late Tom Dowd, a man who went from working on The Manhattan Project to producing the greatest LP of all time, The Allman Brothers Fillmore album. Talking to Gary and Dale Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd while they were on tour in Scotland was cool, and getting to know so many heroes before they died, Dru Lombar, Duane Roland, Little Milton Campbell, Ray Brand, Hughie Thomasson, George McCorkle and Jakson Spires among them. Of course it was a thrill to interview Dickey Betts, Bonnie Bramlett, Gregg Allman - and Charlie Daniels has been great each time we have done interviews, which has been six times in ten years. And meeting and interviewing Capricorn Records alumni like the late Phil Walden and the genius Johnny Sandlin were also quite high on my list. Of course interviewing and getting to know actor/musician Billy Bob Thornton may actually top the list.
When asked about writing, I always say the same thing. If you plan to write, you should read as much as possible. There is no writing without reading. As far as books on the subject, I only have two to recommend. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg is a must, and Stephen King’s “On Writing” is another.
God knows how much I love playing music and getting onstage and just rocking the house. I love acting on both stage and screen, drawing my cartoons and entertaining. But if you ask me what my true bliss is, the reason I feel the good Lord put me on this Earth, it is writing. Writing is my solace. My escape. Ronnie Van Zant once sang “All I Can Do is Write About it.” Me too. If I didn’t have that, I’d be one sad bison. I am a writer. I am the Gritz Man, - coo coo cachoo.
Keep it Real. Keep it Southern