Grand Bank musician big contributor to local music scene
George Grandy celebrates 80th birthday - Part 2
George Grandy has contributed so much to the local music scene over the past six decades that his influence will be felt for many years to come.
Not only has he entertained Newfoundlanders at different venues all around the island; he often took his music and songs to the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon, at times for two- or three-week stints.
Grandy became hooked on music when “at age seven or eight Henry Lee showed me the chords on a guitar,” he said.
Another noted Grand Bank musician of the day, Ewart Vallis, was a big inspiration.
At just 16, Grandy felt he was ready to start playing in public. Soon, he was playing for dances at the old Grand Bank and Fortune Theatres.
In the late 1950s and in the words of Marystown musician Con Fitzpatrick, “George Grandy was in very much demand, playing and singing the music the young people wanted – Elvis, rock and roll, and country, and he would also throw in an accordion tune for the older folks.”
It wasn’t very long before he was regularly performing at the Brent Inn in Salt Pond, Burin.
Over the years at least 30 other musicians have performed with Grandy, including his brother Gordon, now deceased, who for many years was his drummer.
Another long-time local musician, Jim Piercey, obviously has great respect for Grandy.
“George is a very generous man who gave many budding musicians the opportunity to test the waters without judging their talent or skill levels,” he said. “The majority of the successful musicians in this area who started in the 60s, 70s and 80s played at one time or another with him.”
Grandy has written 20 original songs and recorded three LP Albums.
“In recording the albums, he would be accompanied by mostly local musicians, young and older, who, sponsored by George, travelled to St. John’s with him,” according to Piercey.
Grandy, the father of seven children, has had to deal with the loss of his youngest daughter, Deneen, who died in 2006. She was only 38 years old. Then in 2011 he suffered a stroke when, on his birthday, Oct. 12, he woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. He temporarily lost the sight in one eye and spent a week in the Burin Hospital.
In his words, “it was the first time I was ever sick.”
For some months after he needed a walking cane to walk and regain his strength.
Two years ago the Grandys were thrown another curve ball when his 58-year-old wife, Doreen, went totally blind because of both retinas being detached and suffering four bleeds in the span of one month.
As a result of surgery at St. John’s her eyesight has come back somewhat but she is unable to drive or work and is now classified as having low vision.
Grandy was always strong physically, being self employed operating a back-hoe and “loading and unloading my truck myself.”
He is quick to point out that he never ever smoked or drank. To work during the day was a necessity to pay the bills, but music was really the love of his life and his dedication to it has rubbed off on nearly all members of his family.
His son Troy remembers when he was only 10 and playing drums with his father for a Boxing Night dance at the Grand Bank Lions’ Den.
“When we came home, about 3 o’clock in the morning, I would go in by the Christmas tree before I went to bed and play with my gifts.”
Although Troy also learned to play the guitar at a very young age he says he “didn’t put it to good use until I was about 40 years old.”
Troy is currently a member of the five piece popular classic rock band “The Jammers.” He has been playing lead guitar and supplying vocals for the St. John’s-based group for the past seven years.
Grandy’s grandson Chad developed a very special bond with his grandfather from a young age.
“I believe this was partly to do with my father (Todd) not being around and because of course we both lived in the same area,” he said. His earliest memories “were of the house and the music that echoed from that special room in the basement. That magical room, that was the place where it all happened.”
Chad was only about five years old when his grandfather gave him his first electric guitar and amplifier, a Gibson Les Paul copy guitar and a little amp that ran on 4-C batteries.
For the past 15 years he has been a member of the local threepiece band “Skidderpup” playing acoustic and electric guitar. Recognized as an awesome musician, he can pretty well pick up any instrument and play it. Like his grandfather he also writes both music and lyrics.
In the words of Troy Grandy, “this past year was the highlight of our musical life” with all of the members of the George Grandy Family band reuniting and playing together at the Grand Bank Summer Festival and again at George’s 80th birthday party.
George Grandy playing a Fender electric guitar originally owned by American singer/ songwriter Steve Earle.
Three generations of musicians including grandson Chad, George Grandy and son Todd.