After Hours Musicians can always cite one record that set them off on their musical path. For Steve Grills that record was Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits. It was the blues that was calling him even if he couldn't exactly put a name to it. Grills was surrounded by music at an early age. His dad owned a club called The Nugget from 1969 to 1972 where artists as diverse as John Prine, Steve Goodman, Little Feat, Miles Davis, Freddie King and Harry Chapin performed. Leafing through his father's collection he was drawn to records by Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed and Big Bill Broonzy. A promo copy of Andrew Odom's Bluesway album led him to Earl Hooker, setting him on path to discover the masters of electric blues guitar. It wasn't long before Grills picked up the guitar, learning by listening to the records of Freddie King, who would become a major inspiration on his playing. Eventually Grills gravitated to the clubs where he encountered two bluesmen that would have a major influence on him: Albert Collins and Robert Lockwood. Grills would catch Collins whenever he played local joints like Red Creek or the BK Lounge and would drive all over New York to catch his gigs. Grills first met Lockwood in 1978 and the two developed a friendship that lasted until Lockwood's passing in 2006. Grills recalls a time he was playing Lionel Hampton's "Red Top", a song Lockwood performed, when Lockwood chuckled and took the time to show him the proper changes. Lockwood, who didn't give praise lightly, obviously saw something in Grills and invited him to perform at his annual Legendary Blues Festival. Grills visited him at his home in Cleveland numerous times and the two performed together on a CD by legendary harp man Shakin' Smith. Never one to show off, Grills nonetheless possesses and encyclopedic knowledge of blues guitar styles, flawlessly able to play the styles of everyone from Tampa Red to Freddie King to Robert Lockwood to Earl Hooker. Like his relationship to Lockwood, his connection to Hooker has a personal connection. For many years Grills worked with J.J. Jackson, whose tenor playing graced some of Earl's recordings on the Cuca label. Jackson gave Grills a 1964 Fender Bassman amp that Earl used, it's white tolex painted black for an updated look. Jackson passed in 1998 but the Hooker connection is retained on this recording with the presence of pianist Ernest Lane. Growing up in Clarksdale Lane had the right background for a bluesman; his father was a barrelhouse pianist, his boyhood friend was Ike Turner and Pinetop Perkins was a friend of the family who showed the youngsters a thing or two. When he was just a teenager Lane hooked up with legendary slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk. Nighthawk eventually took him to Chicago where he backed him on several memorable sides in the late 40's including the blues classics" Anna Lee Blues' and "Sweet Black Angel." After Nighthawk he played with Earl Hooker, Houston Stackhouse and others before heading to the California in 1956. There he worked with Jimmy Nolen, George "Harmonica" Smith and was recruited by old buddy Ike Turner to be a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. After leaving Ike he joined a group called the Goodtimers who eventually wound up backing the Monkees for about a year on tour. Through the late 60's/early 70's he played and recorded for Canned Heat before giving up music altogether. Recently Lane played on Ike Turner's comeback record, toured the US and Europe with Ike's band up until Ike's death in 2008 and released a couple of CD's under his own name. Joe Beard is the big man on the Rochester blues scene, a mentor to countless local musicians, and an internationally known artist who's performed at major festivals around the country and the world. He's also released a series of acclaimed records on the AudioQuest label. Joe was born in Mississippi, working his way through Memphis and Chicago before settling in Rochester in the late 50's. Joe and Steve have been playing together for over twenty-five years and still perform regularly in town. Grills actually made his debut on stage between Joe's set at the K&T Tavern when he was just nineteen. Bassist Steve Gomes is an old friend of Grills, going back nearly 30 years when they worked together with Shakin' Smith. Gomes is a highly regarded musician, considered to be one of the finest bass players on the blues scene. Gomes career began in California, where he played with John Lee Hooker. He later joined Ronnie Earl's band the Broadcasters. For the last decade Gomes has been part of the studio "house" band for the Severn label recording with such artist as Daryl Nulisch and Lou Pride. On drums is a long time musical partner of Grills, Michael Plouffe, whom Grills has worked with for over 25 years. Plouffe has worked with Larry Davis and Jonny Rawls among others. Over the years Grills dedication to the blues has not wavered. As evident by this recording, he is not trying to expand on the genre, rather playing with reverence and taste. He is not trying to out play his contemporaries, he has nothing to prove, only a love and respect for the genre that he wishes to share with his audience. Jeff Harris Host of Big Road Blues, Jazz90.1.