A Little Brass To Add Some Class
In the late 80’s, Rob Grill decided to enhance the groups live performances with a duet of brass instruments to bring some of the big hits to another level for the audience. An expanded example of this is the PBS 60’s Pop Rock Reunion DVD that caught the group with many brass instruments in support. Two musicians that helped develop this technique were Dr. Richard Fanning (trumpet) and Kevin Osborne (trombone). Dr. Fanning kindly communicated with us concerning his engagements with The Grass Roots. During his career, he has rubbed elbows with many musical legends and is an accomplished Jazz musician and university teacher.
I, along with Kevin Osborne, joined Rob for assorted gigs throughout the east coast starting right after the Monkees’ tour in 1987. My girlfriend (now wife) had moved to NYC and I joined her there in October of ’87. Larry Nelson and Dusty Hanvey had already been working for Rob before the Monkees tour and quickly returned to him full time. The venue/promoter paid for our addition to the groups regular performance. Therefore, Kevin and I only worked a handful of gigs throughout the next six months or so. After this time, the group stopped using brass except for special occassions like the PBS Special.
The gigs I remember were:
Radio City Music Hall (Oct. 1987) – oldies show MC’d by Paul Shaffer (David Letterman’s Music Director) and featuring other acts like Ben E. King. It was great to play about four Grass Roots tunes on that famous stage.
We played a gig outside of Philly sometime around that winter. I remember getting on the wrong highway and driving to Atlantic City instead of Philly. We barely made it in time to play (Kevin and I) and I don’t think Rob was too happy (probably another reason we stopped being asked to play).
We played twice in Atlantic City. Once at the Trump Plaza and again at the Trump Castle. Those were extended weekend gigs (Thursday – Saturday).
The best part of playing with The Grass Roots were the guys in the band. I especially enjoyed hanging out with Larry Nelson. He is very funny, as is Dusty. David Page was a lot of fun too! Such good guys. The Trump Plaza gig included all our girlfriends or spouses. Rob’s wife Nancy was there, plus LuAnn (now Nelson), my wife Jane (now Fanning), and I think Melissa (now Hanvey) was there as well. We all had a great time on those weekends. In fact, earlier in Spring of ’87, Kevin, Larry, Dusty, David Page and I all played at the Tropicana in Atlantic City with Gary Puckett’s band. That was a blast as well.
I know I was really looking forward to playing more with Rob, since I had just moved to NYC and needed gigs. I was disappointed when Rob dropped the horns but understand.
I lasted almost two years in NYC, trying to make it as a full time trumpet player. While there, I was able to travel to Europe for a month long tour and did some nice tours and concerts. However, it was not enough to survive in NYC without what we call in the business – a day gig. Mine was in the financial district (just a block from where the WTC was). I was then offered a college teaching position in North Carolina, which led to my desire to teach. I still play as often as possible but it’s not much these days. I miss gigs like GR and especially miss those musicians mentioned above.
Thanks to Dr. Fanning for his memories of a little brass that added an element of class to The Grass Roots live presentation almost twenty years ago! Visit his site here