The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 6, 2013

Golden Grams: Former Mankatoan returns for area music tour, Rock Bend Folk Festival

Former Mankatoan returns for area music tour, Rock Bend Folk Festival

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As a teenager, Grams absorbed music on the radio. He was drawn to bass-heavy Southern soul music from Wilson Pickett and the Stax Records roster; Elvis Presley and 1960s California surf-rock were also key inspirations.

"I heard a lot of different music," he said. "My folks liked big band stuff, and whenever I went to my mom's parent’s dairy farm outside Lake Osakis, Minn., grandpa always had polka and country music playing in the barn."

By 1964, Grams found his true instrumental love: the bass guitar. First the electric bass, and later, the upright double bass.

"I was in a band and they already had two guitar players," Grams said. "I figured they didn't need a third, so I went out and bought my first bass and amp."

Grams attended the University of North Dakota, primarily "to avoid the (Vietnam) draft,” he said. Grams spent nearly four years in Grand Forks and was a year shy of graduating pre-law before he flunked his physical and moved to Minneapolis in 1969.

"I crammed a four-year college program into 10 years," Grams, 64, said in his customary deadpan delivery.

Sweeping changes in musical tastes led him back to academia and, eventually, Mankato.

"Honestly, disco is the reason I went back to school," he said. "I had a band for two years. We played six nights a week, 50 weeks a year. Disco came along, and all of the sudden, we didn't have our circuit anymore. As soon as people quit listening to music and started watching it, it all changed. But I wasn't about to quit music."

In 1968, Grams' parents settled in St. Peter. By the mid-'70s, south central Minnesota supplied all the ingredients a 20-something Grams desired — family nearby, higher education, a body of water and bustling music community.

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