Don Grashey

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Dominic Michael Guarasci (November 1, 1925 – September 12, 2005), better known as Don Grashey, was a songwriter and music producer, best known as the owner of Zero Records and Gaiety Records.

Early life[edit]

Grashey was born in 1925 in Port Arthur, Ontario (now known as Thunder Bay). As a teenager Grashey first dabbled as a songwriter, teaming up with singer Jim Amadeo (aka Buddy DeVal). Together they struggled for more than a decade trying to get a foothold in a music industry that was still in its infancy, especially in Canada, so most of their efforts were directed to record companies and publishing houses in the U.S.

Producing career[edit]

In the late 1950s Don Grashey met Charles Chuck Williams in Thunder Bay, and the pair moved to Vancouver where with the financial help of Norm Burley, a retired lumber industry executive, and Art Phillips (who would later become Mayor of Vancouver), they formed Zero Records. Don was the company's President, overseeing the A&R Department and the publishing company Trilite Music. Grashey ran the business as he saw fit, signed the acts he wanted to record and promoted them without interference from any of the other shareholders. He had cheque-signing privileges for the company bank account to prevent any recurrence of a previous fiasco he had with Jury Records.

In 1955 Don Grashey began to broaden his involvement in the music industry with this budding new star under his wing, Don wrote the song "Are You Mine", and had Myrna Lorrie and Buddy DeVal record it as a duet. Their Abbott Records release in 1955 zoomed to the top of the charts in the U.S. The classic song became so popular that two other duet versions were released simultaneously in the U.S. with Ginny Wright & Tom Tall scoring a #2 hit and Red Sovine and Goldie Hill earning a Top 20 hit…all charting and being played on radio at the same time. "Are You Mine" has since been recorded by George Jones & Margie Singleton, Ernest Tubb & Loretta Lynn, Lucille Starr & Bob Regan, Carroll Baker[1] & Jerry Palmer, George & June Pasher and others, making it one of the all-time classics in country “duet” songs.

In 1959, Charles Chuck Williams heard Loretta Lynn perform at a backyard jam session held in a converted chicken coop [2] in Vancouver, British Columbia, just over the border from Custer, Washington where the singer was living.[3] Chuck and Grashey returned on a Sunday and Grashey believed she was 'terrific'. Grashey signed Lynn to Zero Records on February 1, 1960. With their initial support, Loretta Lynn went on to become one of country music’s ‘greats’, although she seldom mentions Grashey and William's involvement in her career.[4] One notable exception can be found in her first autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter. In the 1976 book, Lynn gives a single-sentence nod to Grashey: "There was one fellow named Don Grashey who had some business sense, and he ran the record company for Mr. Burley." [5]

Grashey produced Lynn's first recording session which took place in Hollywood in March, 1960 and resulted in the hit single "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl." The session used Western Recorders studio and Don Blake as engineer. The backup musicians were Speedy West as steel guitarist and leader of the band, Harold Hensely, fiddle, Roy Lanham on guitar, Al Williams on bass and Muddy Berry on drums. Loretta Lynn did a second recording session for Zero records in 1960, after Grashey had left the company, and he believed that in later years she may have confused the two sessions, for the description of her Zero Records days that she gives in Coal Miner's Daughter contains inaccuracies.[6]

Songwriter, George Petralia - Carroll Baker - Producer Don Grashey

Don Grashey along with his partner Chuck Williams were the driving forces behind Carroll Baker the lady with the big voice, a voice filled with the emotion that only seasoned performers were supposed to have. George Petralia, a songwriter and sculptor, heard Carroll Baker[7] on a live radio show from the Hayloft Jamboree in Markham, Ontario, and he introduced her to Don Grashey, and sponsored her first recording. Don Grashey went on to produce her records and managed her career from the beginning until the late nineteen eighties. George Petralia, who had written the song "Mem'ries of Home", asked Carroll Baker to record it; the resulting hit stayed on the charts for 26 weeks in 1970. Carol Baker, the singer, "Canada's Queen of Country Music and Canada's First Lady of Country", was nominated for 18 years in a row in the Women's Country of the Year category. Carroll went on to win three Juno Awards. She was named entertainer of the year in 1979 and country artist of the year in 1980. She also received CCMA Awards as female vocalist of the year in 1982 and 1985 and for top-selling album (Hymns of Gold) in 1986, and for best-selling album (Christmas Carroll) in 1990.

As a songwriter and music publisher, Don Grashey was nothing short of prolific. In addition to the mega success of "Are You Mine", his early career songwriting included recordings of "Are You The One" by Jim Reeves and "I’m Your Man (I’m Your Gal)" recorded by Nashville trio The Browns. In Canada his songs were recorded by Jerry Palmer (who cut some 20 of Grashey’s compositions, including the Top 10 hits, "Did I Forget To Tell Her", "Not Living, Not Dying (Just Hanging On)" and "A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words"; Del Rondo, StoneRidge, Kevin Waara, Sheila Ann, Carol Artyn, John Winters, Cindi Cain, etc.

Don Grashey’s 50-plus years were recognized in 1980 when he was presented with the RPM Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame Award; and in 1989 he was among the inaugural inductees into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. His career memorabilia is currently on display in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame museum in Calgary.

Death[edit]

Don Grashey died on September 12, 2005 in hospital, a songwriter and producer best known for managing the careers of Canadian Country Music Hall of Famers Myrna Lorrie and Carroll Baker at the age of 79; Carroll Baker sang at his memorial mass.

Ironically, Don Grashey’s passing occurred on the morning of the presentation of the 2005 Canadian Country Music Awards Show, and came only 10 days after the death of his longtime music business partner and friend, Chuck Williams.[8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Caroll Baker Website". Carrollbakersinger.ca. 1968-04-20. Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  2. ^ "Honky Tonk Make Believe", Don Grashy - Co. Joseph Mauro,"MY RAMBLING HEART" (Washington. D.C., 1995), pp. 47
  3. ^ "The Castaways (1963-1966)". Members.chello.at. Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  4. ^ [1] honkytonkgirl.ca Loretta Lynn's Lost Chapter
  5. ^ "LORETTA LYNN: COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER" (Vintage Books eBook, N.Y., 2010, originally published Henry Regnery Co. Chicago, 1976), Chapter 13, pp 3
  6. ^ "Honky Tonk Make Believe", Don Grashy - Co. Joseph Mauro, "MY RAMBLING HEART" (Washington. D.C., 1995), pp. 45
  7. ^ "Carroll Baker Answers". Answers.com. Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  8. ^ Country Music News Obituaries - DON GRASHEY / CHUCK WILLIAMS 2007
  9. ^ Country News