Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Charlie Grace Interviewed on Radio Times

Charlie Grace in England.

April 15, 2012 – WHYY Marti Masculane Radio Times Interview w/ Charlie Grace

Charlie Grace: …I was always a performer. In my particular case I wasn’t just a rocker’ like some of the guys were, I was a performer. I grew up in the nightclub industry. I saw people like Louie Prima, you know what I mean? Great movie stars, some of the best, Jack Teagarden, great musicians at the Old Latin Casino – Nat King Cole – just to mention a couple of them, and there were hundreds. You sit and you watch and emulate and you learn. It’s unfortunate for these young kids today because there’s nobody left to learn from. That form of entertainment is gone.

But I think I’m one of the last guys. I’ll tell you what happened….I did Nick & …, 5,000 people, you want to perform, that’s what you want. I was there in the afternoon, guy says, “Charlie can you do me a favor?” I said sure, anything you want. “I got fifteen hundred people in the park sitting in folding chairs, can you do a couple numbers?” Give me a mike and an amp. So I did an hour an half for the guy – music, comedy.

Most entertainers are one dimensional. I don’t care if the audience is a hundred years old or nineteen years old, I’ll entertain them.

MM: It sounds like you live for the stage.

Grace: Absolutly, when I’m off for a week my wife says “Go get a gig, you’re driving me crazy.”

MM: Do you practice a lot?

Grace: I never practice at home at all. I can’t play the guitar in a room by myself, it bores me to death. I need an audience. And I learned on stage. You never stop learning on the guitar, it’s infinite. There’s a guy named Pacini, a great violinsts, but he mastered the guitar first, and nobody knows that. And he said there’s no end to the guitar. I thought I knew every cord ever written and I got a book with 1400 more. I was way behind. But you learn as you play. I studied. A lot of guys learn four or five cords and make a living doing it, which is fine, but I wanted to be perfect, and I’m not perfect and I’m not the greatest. There’s guys who can play me under the table. But give me a microphone, give me an audience, and most of the time I think they go home audience.

MM: We’ll be right back. We’re with Charlie Grace, today on Radio Times. He’s had a long career as a guitarist, performer, entertainer, as he days, he’ll be turning 76 in May, and he has a new album called “For the Love of Charlie,” and a hit song, “Baby Doll.”

MM: Charlie, we’ll play “Guitar Boogie,” which is recorded live at the Stockholm Globe, going back to 1975, and will show off you’re guitar playing.

Grace: Let me say this before you play it, that particular night, I didn’t know this man was recording it – old reel to reel, and after the show he gave it to me as a memento to take home with me. But I had a broken string, and that happens sometimes, you know? So I couldn’t get into the high strings, so I’m playing mostly rhythm and I want people to understand that. Usually goes down the tubes when that happens, you know you have a few thousand people out there and you’re alone on stage, what do you do?

MM: Well, we’re all ears, let’s hear “Guitar Boogie” by Charlie Grace.

[“Guitar Boogie”]

MM: Charlie Grace playing “Guitar Boogie” with just five strings. Not bad.

CG: The show must go on. We didn’t have two or three guitars to change back then. They didn’t even have an amplifier, I had to bring my own amplifier. They didn’t have amplifiers.

MM: Do you ever get nervous before a show?

CG: I was never nervous in my life before a show until I did a TV show. I was fine until the guy said, “Five minutes, Mister Grace,” and I said I’m ready. He said, “Tonight sixty-five million people are going to see you sing and play kid.” When he said that all the saliva dried up in my mouth, and I said how am I going to sing with my tongue clinging to the roof of my mouth? And it was live. If you make a mistake…. And I went out and I was perfect.

MM: Now what year was that?

CG: I was 21 years old, March or April of ’57, I was on TV with Wilt Chamberlain, the great Philadelphia basketball player, a wonderful guy, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Ben Blue and Senior West (/?). “It’s alright, It’s alright.”

I went home and the next day my grandmother, she was still alive, God bless her, she saw the show and you know what she says to me? “Don’t get a big head.” How do you like that for wisdom from a women who never went to school and worked all her life. “Don’t get a big head,” I’ll never forget it till the day they bury me.”

MM: Now we go to the phones, Gary from New York.

CG: I work with Charlie Grace and this is the only way I can contact him because he wasn’t returning my phone calls yesterday, and I wanted to tell him that his song “Baby Doll” is the number four CD single in New York this week….

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