Art Grayson, who came from Montgomery, AL, was a man of many musical parts. He hustled a living as a writer, producer, label owner, singer and guitarist. For example he produced the first singles by southern soul hero Don Varner and his wife Brenda for his own Downbeat label. And both Don’s “Here Come My Tears Again” and Brenda’s “The Army’s Got Me Crying” were both first class southern deep soul - they were even cut at Fame. But his main opportunity came when he was taken on to be managed by Hoss Allen, the famous WLAC disc jockey. Allen installed Grayson as second guitarist in Gatemouth Brown’s Band who were the initial studio group on the TV show “The Beat”, as well as giving him a TV airing or two as a solo artist. Allen’s Rogana Productions were also responsible for Grayson’s solo 45s, all three of which are well worth seeking out.
The first result of this collaboration was probably Oh My Heartache which Allen leased to Kapp subsidiary 4 Corners. Grayson may well be double tracking his vocal on this self-penned number over the background harmonies from the Graysettes. The bridge passage and the run out groove are the two best parts of this ballad when he pushes his vocal to give more emphasis and weight.
Love Is Hurt appeared on another Kapp subsidiary Congress and is an even keener deep soul item. It sounds like Grayson is again double tracking here but he is much more committed and forceful. The melody of the song is better and the arrangement, particularly the horns more striking.
Grayson’s final 45 was leased to cartoon magnates Hanna Barbera’s record label HBR - and as a fine double sided disc it may just be the best of the lot. I really like the organ underpinning the waltz time ballad “Be Ever Mine”, and the featured guitar (probably Grayson himself) but best of all is the vocal. On this, and on the similarly paced When I Get Home Grayson really does show that he could really holler.
Apparently Grayson continued to earn a living around Nashville through the 70s and Fred James reports that he even gigged with the Commodores in their 80s incarnations.
1. Profuse thanks to Fred James for the superb photos and info.
2. “Be Ever Mine”, "Oh My Heartache”, and “When I Get Home” can all be found on the Road CD “Nashville’s Got The Beat!”. Buy it. All of these plus "Bad Dreams" can also be found on the SPV CD "The Rogana Story".
3. Grayson’s solo performances can be found on episodes 4 and 8 of “The Beat”.