by Andrew Frisicano

Baby Gramps

[Baby Gramps] plays his songbook of old-timey songs with the dexterity of an, erm, old-timer (he plays what he calls "stunt guitar" and what others have termed "extraordinary"). No longer "knee-high to a tootsie-wootsie" (as he would say), he's officially grown into his geezer status. Some date Gramps' beginnings on the Seattle music scene as far back as the early '60s. "Before that, I was in Texas by way of Arkansas by way of Alabama," he told Patrick Ferris in an interview reprinted on Gramps' website. And though you might be inclined to file Gramps under roots -- blues and folk in particular -- he's also found a niche among the rock crowd as a street performer and opening act. I recollect seeing him on every trip I've ever taken to Seattle that involved entering a nightclub. I asked my friend, Seattle-based author and journalist Charles R. Cross, for the hometown perspective on Baby Gramps: "He is a Seattle institution, along the lines of the Space Needle, Pioneer Square, and the Pike Place Market." [Crawdaddy]

Baby Gramps fingerpicks an old National steel guitar and shares at least a few similarities with Tom Waits: his outward appearance borders on hobo chic, his voice growls like a idling Buick, and his origins are purposefully mysterious in a way that transcends age. It's hard to place Baby Gramps in a specific context other than "America" and a time other than "somewhere in the past." He's never put out a studio record, despite playing consistently for the last 40-plus years. The samples above come from 2003's Same Ol' Timeously, one of Gramps's three live CDs released on his own Grampophone label.

Baby Gramps occasionally leaves his Pacific Northwest homebase for jaunts around the North East. That's what he'll do this June, as he plays Upstate New York before coming to NYC for a five-night run. Starting with a Friday, June 12th show at Terra Blues, Gramps will play Barbes on June 13th (Sat), Jalopy Theatre on June 14th (Sun), the Kitchen Club on June 15th (Mon) and finish with a show at Zebulon on June 16th (Tues).

His song "Cape Cod Girls" opened the Hal Willner-compiled Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys collection, which came out on Anti in 2007.

A video of Gramps performing "Cape Cod Girls" with Akron/Family on Letterman (a venue that doesn't do his full-on vaudeville act justice), with all tour dates, below...

Baby Gramps "Cape Cod Girls" on Letterman

Baby Gramp - 2009 Tour Dates
May 29 - Underground Coffeehouse at WWU, Bellingham, WA
Jun 05 - Our Fest, Sherman, NY
Jun 06 - Our Fest, Sherman, NY
Jun 08 - Record Archive, Rochester, NY
Jun 09 - The Acoustic Lounge, Waverly, NY
Jun 10 - The Nines, Ithaca, NY
Jun 12 - Terra Blues, New York, NY
Jun 13 - Barbes, Brooklyn, NY
Jun 14 - Jalopy, Brooklyn, NY
Jun 15 - The Kitchen Club, NY
Jun 16 - Zebulon, Brooklyn, NY
Jun 24 - Don Quixote's International Music Hall, Felton, CA
Jul 10 - Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR
Jul 11- Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR
Jul 24 - The Sage Gateshead, UK
Jul 25 - The Sage Gateshead, UK
Jul 31 - The Luminaire, London, UK
Aug 22 - Red Bicycle, Vashon Island, WA