"I had played in Mankato on occasion, liked it and I always loved river towns," he said. "Mankato State seemed like a logical fit."
It didn't Grams long to start networking. During his Minneapolis years, he'd become acquainted with members of Mankato’s City Mouse. On his second night in town, Grams recalled attending a City Mouse performance in the basement of the now-defunct Cellar Hotel. Grams soon formed a local trio, Tennisshoe Ernie, with Tom "Foote" Husting and Ron Arsenault.
"I've had the great fortune of playing with several top-notch bass players," said Husting, who branded his buddy "Mr. Pocket" on account of Grams' loyalty to musical rhythm and time. "He is among the best I know."
After Husting moved to Nashville, Grams and Arsenault founded the Blitz Boys, a bluegrass-western swing hybrid. Grams graduated from Mankato State in 1976, left the Blitz Boys and moved to Tucson in 1979.
He lived in Mankato for only two years, but Grams' influence is still felt almost four decades later.
"(City Mouse/Blitz Boys bassist) Dave Pengra called me up when the Blitz Boys did a reunion show up there a few years back," Grams said. "And he said, 'The funny thing is, they're still doing your arrangements.'"
Grams' parents now live in New Ulm, affording their son annual reunions with his friends and former bandmates. This week, he sets forth on a Midwest working vacation with his collaborator, slide guitarist Danny Krieger, for a bundle of gigs. Wednesday night, the duo played at Grams' parent's apartment cooperative in New Ulm. The tour continued Thursday at the Wine Cafe and closes Sunday night with a post-Rock Bend Folk Festival show at Patrick's in St. Peter.
"We are all really close," he said. "With musicians, there's a real strong sense of camaraderie and love here in Tucson, too. But Mankato is the only place that I've been to that comes close to down here in terms of how close everyone is and everyone helps everyone out. Everybody's like, 'You're my favorite.' 'No, you're my favorite!'"