The Grapes (band)
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|Origin||Atlanta, Georgia, US|
|Associated acts||Wayside Riders|
|Past members||Johnny Tessavarie
Bassist/vocalist Charlie Lonsdorf formed the band with drummer Preston Holcomb. Early guitarists included Danny Simmons, Katie Moore (of Deep Blue Sun), and Johnny Tessavarie, who suggested the band be called The Dreadful Grapes. This name was used by Ken Kesey to introduce The Grateful Dead at a show they played in Oregon in the 1970s. Early influences for The Grapes, and a large share of the early covers they played, were The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and assorted other groups from the 1960s and 1970s.
After Tessavarie left, the group replaced him with guitarist/songwriter Ramin Dawson. At this point, the band dropped the Dreadful from their name and went through more lineup changes, eventually picking up lead guitarist Mike 'Ted' Norton along the way, as well as second drummer/percussionist Steve Baird. Faced with rising popularity but still being under legal age to play in clubs, they found theaters and warehouses to rent, designed and distributed flyers and hired Reese Webber and Johnny Hayes as sound engineers and Osti as the lighting designer. Hiring their own security as well, they put on shows at venues such as The Arts Exchange, The Trinity Gallery and the East Point Theater and many house parties in Atlanta, including several shows at the Ned Shed.
A nice break came from a band in the nearby town of Athens, Georgia, where they began the righteous exchange of trading opening slots with Widespread Panic at each band's local home venue. Widespread Panic had a large audience in Athens at the Uptown Lounge; the Grapes had a large audience in Atlanta at The Metroplex. The Grapes brought Widespread Panic to Atlanta as their opening band and gave them a packed house to play for every time. Likewise, Widespread Panic would bring The Grapes to Athens and give them a packed house at The Uptown Lounge. The Grapes and Widespread Panic shared the same audience for many years. It was a great scene: "country hippie kids with city hippie kids, and we all gave each other what we needed. We stayed up all night too. Those were some really fantastic times!" says Osti, Lighting Designer many years for the Grapes following the hiring of Ted Norton and Ramin Dawson in 1987. Later, the two bands played other venues together as well.The band began branching out in the late '80's playing dates around the Southeast with help in management from both Bob Fortin and Kevin Meaders the band would soon be touring well beyond the Atalanta area and toured extensively across the United States.
At the end of 1990, the band added Steven Fink on keyboards and vocals, and immediately went into the studio with John Keane (Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic, R.E.M.) to begin work on their debut album Water To Wine, on their own Earwise label. At this point, percussionist Rick Welsh took over the second drummer duties.
With the success of their second album in 1992, High Or Low, as well as their inclusion on the Aware compilation album, the band toured constantly, averaging 250 dates a year, sharing the stage with acts such as Phish, who opened for the Grapes in Atlanta during this period.
The Grapes were the only band to play all seven of the Great Atlanta Pot Festivals, including the 1992 show at Piedmont Park with The Black Crowes. With 60,000 attending, that show stands as the largest hemp rally to date. In 1993 the band signed with Intersound Records, releasing their third album, Private Stock. Tensions and personal matters saw the exit of Dawson and Holcomb around this time. Throughout 1995, the band toured as a four-piece, before adding Brooks Smith on guitar and additional keyboards.
They released their final album, Juice, in 1997, and officially left the road in May of that year. In addition to personal matters, the breakup was attributed by Lonsdorf to "the band running out of steam."
The Grapes have since played many reunion shows in Atlanta, averaging one every two years, with eight former members on stage at once.
- Water To Wine (1991) Earwise Records
- High or Low (1992) Earwise Records
- Private Stock (1994) Intersound
- Juice (1997) Deep South Records
- Aware Vol. 1 (1992) Madaket Records
- Homegrown (1995) Orange Records
- INTO THE NIGHT, Charlotte Observer - April 25, 1997 - 9E EXTRA
- Grapeful head, Fort Worth Star-Telegram - March 17, 1995 - 8 STAR TIME
- ALTERNATIVE ACTION/AUGUST, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 July 1994, p.8.
- "The Wild Bunch", Gainesville Sun, 28 October 1994, p.27.
- "The Grapes Are Ready For Their Time In The Sun", Macon Telegraph, 19 August 1994, p.6D.
- "Free-form rhythms, crowd recall Dead", The Atlanta Constitution, 10 November 1995, p.C7.
- "Ex-Grapes Give It Their Best Shot", Macon Telegraph, 27 February 1998, p.18.
- "Critics' Choice", Denver Post, 13 March 1994, p.E-1.