RIP Marty Grebb

January 2, 2020 was a sad day in the musical world – marked by the untimely passing of Marty Grebb.

on January 3, 2020 No comments
By Sharon Budman

Grammy Awards 1990
© Heather Harris

What a tragic beginning to a new year. I’m still stunned at the news of my longtime friend and musical collaborator, Marty Grebb’s sudden passing. I pray he is truly ’smooth sailin,’ free from his terrible pain and finally at peace. I send my love and deep condolences to all his beautiful family.
I am very grateful to have had Marty in my band off and on from the middle 70’s through the early 90’s. He was an incredibly talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, equally home on keys, vocals, guitar and sax as he was one of the most soulful singers I’ve known.
He was also a great inspiration for my getting sober in ’87. We will remember him always and honor the gift of friendship and music he gave us.
Here are some of my favorites:
Heartbreaker (from his High Steppin’ album, 2011)
Soul Mate, a duet we did on his Smooth Sailin’ album in 1999.

Bonnie Raitt


Marty Grebb was born into a musical family in Chicago on September 2, 1945. His dad Harry was an accomplished saxophonist, who played in the big-band era. Marty began learning music at the age of 8. His brother was a masterful guitarist who has written music instruction books etc. At the age of 12, he joined his first band, and played with some older musician until the age of fifteen when he formed a new band, “The Exceptions,” with Peter Cetera, his high school buddy. By age sixteen, Marty met Calvin Carter at Vee Jay records, who signed him to a record deal which then opened the door to him meeting other popular musicians. During this time, he appeared on many popular TV shows including the Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Tonight Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, and The Merv Griffin Show just to name a few.

In 1966, the Buckinghams, a local Chicago band that actually was a fan of “The Exceptions,” lost its keyboard player and asked Marty to join. The Buckinghams went on to achieve six, top-ten, national selling hits together with Marty for Columbia Records and three top-twenty albums. He shared lead vocals with Dennis Tufano on “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”


In 1969, Marty moved to Los Angeles and was asked to join the band, Lovecraft, which was being managed by Bill Graham. From that band, he moved on to The Fabulous Rhinestones, and returned back east to continue his musical journey. He co-produced their first album. The Fabulous Rhinestones became the opening act for many groups such as Sly and the Family Stone, The Eagles, and the Doobie Brothers. Marty even got to play with John Lennon at a Peace Festival held in New York City. During this time out east, he also had some recording sessions with Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, Tito Puente, Jack DeJohnette, and Joe Walsh while up in Woodstock, NY.

All of this took place around 1972 when he met Bonnie Raitt, who was recording her second album, “Give it Up,” and had asked Marty to play on the album. Here he played tenor sax on her version of Rudy Clark’s ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ and alto sax on ‘You Told Me Baby.’ Marty played on many of Bonnie’s albums, including the classic Nick of Time (‘Love Letter’ and ‘I Will Not Be Denied’), Longing in Their Hearts (‘I Sho Do’), Road Tested, and the last one, Fundamental.

Getting ready for a show at Fitzgerald’s on White Oak, Houston in 1984.
Band members include:
Bonnie Raitt
Johnny Lee Schell
Ivan Neville
Marty Grebb
Tony Braunagel
Hutch Hutchinson

© Ben DeSoto /Houston Chronicle

He moved back to Los Angeles in 1974 and began playing with Leon Russell, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, Greg Allman, and Bonnie Bramlett, and he also did some recording with members of the group Chicago. He played with so many – what a career he had. Over many years in the industry, he played with the best of the best, including John Lennon, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Tanya Tucker, and others including most recently, The Weight Band. Below is a posted, more comprehensive listing of his musical life, collaborations, and brilliance.

Who was Marty Grebb you ask? He was a multi-instrumentalist and highly talented musician who had an amazing career.


There are many condolences posted across Facebook and the internet.

Taken from the Facebook Page of “The Weight Band”

Martin Grebb, center, seen here with The Weight. Grebb, a Chicago musician, is best known for his early years in The Buckinghams and for his longtime role in Bonnie Raitt’s band. © Bob Skinner

“Our hearts are heavy with the news of our brother, Marty Grebb’s passing. We want to send heartfelt condolences, thoughts, and prayers to his loving family, friends and fellow musicians. Sometimes we don’t understand a person’s journey – but we do need to have compassion. Marty was a great friend, an amazing musician and a tremendous asset to The Weight Band during his tenure with us. He has been -and will continue to be missed. We pray he’s found his peace. With love, sadness and respect: Jim, Brian, Albert, Michael, Matt, Randy, Byron, Mark, Tony and Barbara.”

Marty Grebb’s death is a loss to the musical community, but it’s an even bigger loss for his family and friends. As we start this new year, it is important to remember that everyone has a struggle, we just may not know what it is. What we do know is that feelings are real. In this case, he was suffering from the pain of a terminal illness and the pain of a broken heart.

Heartfelt condolences to his family, children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends. (Funeral information has not yet been announced at the time of publishing) May his memory be a blessing, and may he rest in eternal peace. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, No not just for some but for everyone.” (Burt F Bacharach / Hal David)Q

Live performances and recordings by Marty Grebb:

Bonnie Raitt 25 years (both) many albums
Leon Russell 10 years, (both) on and off forever
B.B King recordings
Rosanne Cash (both)
Otis Rush (both)
Chicago member
Junior Wells live
Elton John (both)
Etta James (2 time periods)
Musical director (2nd time), keys, sax
Steven Stills with Etta James live TV show
Billy Preston live and recording
Muddy Waters live
and his son Big Bill Morganfield live
Aaron Neville recording
Ivan Neville both
J J Cale live, recording
Charles Brown live
Eric Clapton live, records, composer
Maria Muldaur live, composer, records
The Dells many live performances
Paul Butterfield (both)
Michael Bloomfield (both)
The Memphis Horns (on Baritone sax)
Les Paul live
Jeff Beck live
Sippie Wallace live
Larrie Londin both
Martha Reeves live
Gregg Allman live
Duane Allman live
David Sanborn live, recordings
Claudia Lennear live
John Lee Hooker live
Stevie Ray Vaughn live
Glenn Campbell live
Roy Clark live
Johnny Gimble live
Vince Gill both
Joe Walsh both
Richard Pryor live for TV the Richard Pryor Show
Robin Williams live performance
George Carlin (a sketch in which I played sax in a scene)
George Carlin “Playin with your Head”
The Ed Sullivan Show live
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour live
The Tonight Show live
The Jerry Lewis Show
Saturday Night Live (5 appearances varying artists)
Pure Prairie League live
Marshall Tucker live
Taj Mahal live, co-writer, recording, arranging
Joel Sonier recording
Bobby Charles co writers
Terry Danko live, recordings, additional brother
Aaron Neville producer, writer, recording
Zigaboo Modeliste live, and recording
Dr. John live and recording , liner notes
Peach both, writer, producer
Olivia Newton John recordings, co-arranger
Travis Tritt recording
Little Richard recording
Tanya Tucker recording
Natalie Cole live
Jennifer Warnes recording
Steven Seagal both
Richard Manuel live, recording, co-writing
Rick Danko live recording
Garth Hudson live, recording, co-writing
Levon Helm live , recording, co-writing
Merle Haggard live
Ivan Neville co writers, co producers, recording
George Benson live
Stevie Nicks live
Willie Nelson both
John Lennon on stage appearance
The Guthries live
Tim Hardin live
Karen Dalton recording
Bonnie Bramlett live, recording
Bekka Bramlett live
Anna Grebb live, recording
Jim Keltner live, recording
James Gadson live, recording
Bob Glaub live Recording
Leland Sklar both
Doyle Bramhall live, recording
Ginger Baker live
Delbert McClinton live
Roger McGuinn both
Little Feat live
Steve Cropper recording
Robert Lamm both co-writing
Loudon Wainwright recording
Rufus Wainwright recording
The Right Band Live TV weekly Rock ‘N Roll Tonight
Normal Adults recording
~independent bands I was a member of~
The Quintones live —early recordings (age 12 to 14)
The Exceptions both
The Buckinghams both
Lovecraft both
The Fabulous Rhinestones both
Chicago both and other bands also~~

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Bonnie Raitt Remembers Record Exec Joe Smith, Who Signed Her Twice: ‘He Really Nurtured Me as an Artist’

on December 12, 2019 No comments
by Bonnie Raitt

“So sorry to mark the passing of my friend and record company mentor, Joe Smith. For signing me to Warner Brothers Records in 1971 and then to Capitol Records in 1989, I owe both my start and later career breakthrough to Joe. Aside from being one of the most beloved and respected executives in the music business, his support of the more non-mainstream artists like Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, The Meters, Little Feat and myself, was what drew me to Warners in the first place. In a business that became more preoccupied with short term profits and commercial viability, what set Joe apart is that he believed in supporting artists for the long haul, allowing us to stretch and grow at our own pace and direction. Giving me that second chance for Nick of Time has made all the difference in my life and career. He was a dear friend and one of the least phony, most warm hearted and loyal people any of us in this business will be blessed to know.
My sincere condolences to Donnie and all his beautiful family.”
Bonnie Raitt

“Joe believed in supporting artists for the long haul, allowing us to stretch and grow.”

I went out to California in 1970 because Capitol Records was showcasing me at the Troubadour. While I was out there, I called Joe Smith, who was at Warner Bros. Records at the time, and asked if he could take a meeting.

I felt a bit sheepish going over to Warner Bros. after Capitol flew me out, but Warner was really where I wanted to be. It was the label that was hip enough to give James Taylor, Ry Cooder and Randy Newman enough rope to do whatever they wanted. They were at the top of my list.

At the time, Joe assured me he was not interested in changing the way I looked or controlling how I sounded. He really nurtured me as an artist. “We make our money from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and Frank Sinatra,” I remember he said to me then. “We do that so that we can develop artists like yourself.”

In a business that became more preoccupied with short-term profits, Joe believed in supporting artists for the long haul, allowing us to stretch and grow. Joe was such a warm and engaging guy. And he was the same Joe Smith the whole time. That’s why he was so beloved by artists especially. He would have been completely supportive if I had gone and made an album on the back of a flatbed truck with Mississippi Fred McDowell. He would have thought it was great.

In the mid- to late ’80s, [my former managers] Danny Goldberg and Ron Stone were shopping for a new label deal after I left Warner Bros. They were telling labels: “She doesn’t want money to sign, but she wants artistic control.” I said, “I’ll do the work. I sell around 150,000 records. I tour all the time. I do lots of press — but I’m not looking for somebody to reinvent the wheel. I’m not going to redesign my look and my sound to be commercial.”

By that time, Joe had moved over to Capitol-EMI [from Elektra/Asylum]. He was a natural fit there. Fifteen years after he first signed me to Warner Bros., he gave me a second shot. He said to [my managers]: “Listen, we’re not going to spend a lot of money. She can do what she wants. We expect modest sales, but I would be happy to have Bonnie.” I signed the deal with Capitol for one album, and Joe knew that I wanted to do a stripped-down-sounding record with Don [Was] producing. Giving me that second chance for [1989’s] Nick of Time has made all the difference in my life and career.

Joe loved Nick of Time. We had tremendous personal affection for each other. He was so happy that I got my life together and that he was the person who was able to give me that second shot. I feel like he was in my family. The Grammys for that album [including album of the year] were an astonishing victory for both of us that no one expected. Joe was so proud and grateful, as I was. We were really glad that we had taken a chance on each other.

The last time I saw him was in 2015, when he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jackson Browne and I gave impassioned talks about him and then there was a wonderful lunch at the Wilshire Country Club with his family and decades’ worth of people who knew him in the record business. People paid tribute to him for hours.

He was a dear friend as well as one of the most sincere, warmhearted and loyal people any of us in the business will be blessed to know.

As told to Melinda Newman

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of Billboard.

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Bonnie Raitt: Mistress of the Blues

on December 3, 2019 No comments
By Steven P. Wheeler

Call her the Queen of Interpretation, Madame Grammy or even Mistress of the Blues. Back in 1995, I had a chance to sit down with Bonnie Raitt, the redheaded California native when she was at the very top of her commercial success. She had just released her first live album, Road Tested, a beautifully raucous two-CD collection that covered her stellar early years right on through her Grammy fame.

One of rock’s greatest slide guitarists with a voice from heaven that can switch from gravelly blues to angelic pop perfection, Raitt, who celebrated her 70th birthday just last month, is one of only two females to make it on both Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Singers of All-Time” and “100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time” lists (Joni Mitchell being the other). In fact, only 12 males were even able to make both lists, putting Raitt in rarified historic company.

Beginning with her classic 1989 Nick of Time album for which she won three Grammy Awards, Raitt has garnered ten Grammys in all over the years (along with 16 other nominations), selling millions of albums and topping the Billboard Album Charts twice, not to mention her ongoing success on Billboard’s Blues, Americana and Folk Charts.

Her most recent album, 2016’s Dig in Deep, topped all three of those charts while hitting #11 on the Top 200 Album Chart and #3 on the Rock Chart. In short, Bonnie Raitt is still as much with us today as she ever was, whether on the road or in the studio every few years.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s latest recording, “Everybody’s Crying Mercy,” was just released last week as part of the If You’re Going to the City: Tribute to Mose Allison album. All proceeds from this all-star tribute to Raitt’s late friend benefits the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which helps musicians who need financial assistance to cover medical bills.


Raitt’s live recording of Mose Allison’s “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” has just been released for the new charity album, If You’re Going to the City: Tribute to Mose Allison.

As we sat down in 1995, Bonnie was eager to talk about all things, from her new album and her sobriety to her activism on behalf of the aging blues performers who she was so inspired by. As she said, “I’ve been stuck in the studio lately, and I’ve been dying to talk about this new record, so I’m excited to talk to you.”

A Personal Story

But before we started, I just had to share a personal turning point in my life with her. After all, it was a song she had written that hit me in the gut when I was vulnerable and open to the universe. It was one of those personal moments that all of us music fan have had at one time or another. When a song speaks directly to your soul.

I still remember that one spring night in 1989. I was driving home from a part-time job I was doing while trying to get some sort of writing career going. It had been a long day and I was feeling mentally exhausted, spent, and still in the midst of a months-long decision of when to give my notice and pursue a writing career full-time.

I had been writing for various magazines and local papers for a few years by that time, but I had kept side jobs to keep myself housed, fed and off the streets. But I knew deep down that if I was ever going to turn my writing into a career, I had to give myself over to it completely and follow the muse without a net.

In other words, suck it up, bite the bullet, and be content to live on mac & cheese for the foreseeable future.

As this subtle yet bouncy keyboard intro came on my car radio, I began to ease up inside. Then came this angelic voice, beaten with experience and age, singing of making difficult choices before its too late. It was the title track of an album that would soon become a global phenomenon for a down-and-out veteran artist named Bonnie Raitt.

And when I heard these lines from “Nick of Time” that she wrote and sang, my decision was made. It was the power of music coming home to roost. When we are fortunate enough to feel that spiritual guidance through song:

When did the choices get so hard?
With so much more at stake
Life gets mighty precious
When there’s less of it to waste
Scared to run out of time


I remember that moment like yesterday. It was time to put up or shut up, and I gave notice the next day and embarked on a writing career in music that would last a few decades. When I relayed that story to the Southern California resident herself—and definitely not the only such story she has heard over the years. But she seemingly took it to heart, smiled, put her hands to her chest, and said, “Wow, thanks for saying that. You just made my day, Steve. I really appreciate that.”

And with that we were off…

Them Burbank Blues

So just how does a white girl, raised in a Quaker family, in the city of Burbank in Southern California grow up to become one of the most successful blues musicians of all-time, while mixing in folk, rock and pop along the way?

The daughter of noted Broadway star, the late John Raitt, Bonnie grew up with music in the household but it wasn’t until she discovered the blues that her musical light was lit.

“When I was 12 or 13, a lot of it came from folk music and folk/blues,” she explained. “Then the Rolling Stones turned me on to Howlin’ Wolf, my brother turned me on to John Lee Hooker, and once you get a taste for it, you just can’t get enough of the blues. I don’t know about you, but I just went for it and still love it to this day.”


Bonnie and blues legend John Lee Hooker perform in 1991.

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