HOUSTON— The music generally referred to today as Rock grew out of Blues and Rhythm and Blues and exploded on the U.S. national scene in the mid-1950s. One of the musicians who helped define the style was saxophone player Grady Gaines, who toured with such stars as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, and many others. Gaines tells his story in a new book that is really “out there.”
During the wild early years of rock n’ roll, Little Richard was king, and sax player Grady Gaines was on top of the world -- as well as Little Richard’s piano.
As shown in a scene from the 1956 film Don’t Knock the Rock, white teenagers loved the music and that helped break down racial barriers, but Gaines says the musicians did not fully appreciate their impact.
“We didn’t know that it was going to be rock n’ roll, because we all thought we were doing rhythm and blues,” said Gaines.
Gaines credits Little Richard and his flamboyant style for what happened.
“He actually is the first one who created the rock n’ roll stuff, Richard, Little Richard is… He had funny jokes to tell. He always had something exciting to make you laugh. To be around him, your whole spirit just lifts because he was that type of guy,” Gaines recalled.
But in his new autobiography, Gaines tells how Little Richard quit performing at the height of his fame to become a minister. Elvis Presley then became king, and Grady Gaines went on to play with Sam Cooke, who had a different style.
“If I played with Sam Cooke, it would be mellow and I tried to make my band sound Sam Cooke style,” Gaines said.
Gaines later played with a long list of stars and returned to Houston, where he continues to perform with his own band.
He is also promoting his book, I’ve Been Out There, along with co-author Rod Evans, who helped him tell his story.
“I went to Grady’s house and I just sat down with a tape recorder and after researching his life I came up with a bunch of questions to ask him about different segments of his life,” said Evans.
Gaines feels the book truly captures the events of his life.
“I tried to tell them all in that book as much as I could remember and every time I read that book it is just like me living my life over again,” he said.
One regret, said Evans, is that he was not able to interview Little Richard.
“Initially, I thought I was going to be able to get him into the book and talk to him about bringing Grady into his band, but his health just declined to the point that he just wasn’t really up to doing it,” said Evans.
At the age of 81, Grady Gaines keeps playing, mostly for private parties, and fans, young and old, marvel at this living legend of rock n’ roll.