Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


CAPPS, Grayson

(b 17 April 1967, Opelika AL) Songwriter-poet, singer and guitarist from the southern literary tradition of steamy blues and front-porch Americana. He was conceived in the back seat of a Pontiac Tempest, he says, and born in Opelika because Auburn didn’t have a hospital. His parents both became teachers, and he grew up in Brewton, a typical Southern lumber town, listening to Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, and simple country songs. Later the family moved to Fairhope, a somewhat bigger small town, and Capps got into acting in high school. He said that the 1960s reached Alabama in the 1970s.

He graduated from Tulane University with a degree in acting, and having found that music had more freedom than acting though it was still structured, he formed The House Levellers at age 21, touring across the USA. He said they were theater majors acting like musicians, and called the music 'thrash-folk'. After a few years, traveling in a van together was driving them all crazy; on the demise of that band he squatted on the outskirts of New Orleans, stealing electricity, busking and writing songs. He formed another band, Stavin’ Chain ('slide-driven roots rock'), and toured with the likes of Jeff Buckley, the Wallflowers, and Koko Taylor. They were signed to a German record label, but just when they might have made a living at it PolyGram merged with Universal and a whole bunch of small labels got dropped.

In 1997 he was asked to appear in a documentary film, Anthem, and made friends with the young director, Shainee Gabel, leading him to suggest his father Everett Capps’ novel, Off Magazine Street, for her next project. The result was Gabel's screenplay for one of the most beautiful films of 2004, A Love Song For Bobby Long, named after a song Grayson had written in defence of Bobby, and starring John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson. Grayson did a cameo in the film and had several songs in the soundtrack, though they did not all make the soundtrack CD. The Grayson Capps discography includes Stavin' Chain's Wine (out of print) on Rott Gutt Records and Stavin' Chain (1999) on Ruff Records; the film soundtrack with two Capps songs, and finally his first solo CD, If You Knew My Mind, produced by Trina Shoemaker (Whiskeytown, Sheryl Crow), both 2005 on Hyena Records. Capps is also featured in a collection of short stories, Stories from The Blue Moon Cafe III: Anthology Of Southern Writers, published by McAdam/Cage.

By the time the movie came out, Capps had formed a new band called the Stump Knockers, with guitarist Tommy MacLuckie (b 14 August 1970, Grand Rapids MI) and bassist Josh Kerin (originally from New Hampshire), and others. The music is now called Rott'n'Roll. The Stump Rockers were in Carbondale, Illinois when Katrina hit in August 2005, and drove back home in a roundabout way, wondering what had happened. MacLuckie says that after Katrina they were playing less for a while, but the songs meant more than ever. Named after The Who's Tommy and raised on The Rolling Stones, MacLuckie started out on piano at age five, played drums, moved to guitar and formed own band, which played around Lansing, Michigan for two years, then moved to Chicago in 1991 for three years. Then MacLuckie had had enough of northern winters, moving to New Orleans in 1994, where he fell in love with the meteorological violence. Josh Kerin started playing bass at age fourteen. After gigging around Contoocook and Webster in New Hampshire he decided to tempt fate and move to New Orleans to see if an old Yankee can play music for a living in Louisiana; he'd been there for seven years at this writing.