I’ve written about Grover Washington Jr. numerous timesGrover Washington Jr. – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com), including on his born-day in 2020. In that article I pulled together various threads to document how Grover got his chance to record for and be produced by Creed Taylor. This article originally appeared in Black Stars magazine, November 1978, Volume 28, Issue 1 and confirms my assertions with less background detailhttps://archive.org/details/sim_black-stars_1978-11_28_1.
This year seems a little more special after I interviewed Leonard “Doc” Gibbs, a member of Locksmith, who died just short time after he gave up a Sunday afternoon for an interviewGrover Washington Jr. – Creed Taylor Produced (ctproduced.com).
This article, written by Grover is copyright © 1978, Johnson Publishing.
“If I have to single out the one album that has meant more to me than any other, that album has to be Live At The Bijou. Bijou marked the first time that I recorded with Locksmith, the excellent musicians, and of course, friends, who have been out there on the road with me.
“On the studio album Inner City Blues. Mr. Magic, Feels So Good Soul and A Secret Place, there were other musicians involved and a lot of overdubbing. We didn’t want anything superfluous with Bijou. We wanted the nitty-gritty. Over- dubs are fine, but when you want to hear the natural you, the added tracks of strings, vocals and what- ever else can take away from it.
“Locksmith, which features John Black on violin, Omnu-Moog and synthesizer; James Simmons on piano and clavinet ; Tyrone Brown on bass; Pete Vincent on drums; “Doctor” Gibbs on percussion and Richard Lee on guitar, could hold its own on any stage, with any musician. In fact, each guy in the group could be out there by him-self. So, you can imagine how fortunate I feel to record and be on the same stage with them.
“We’re projecting more of show atmosphere now. We’re expanding to make our audiences feel more of a part of what is happening. If we start feeling funky, we want to make Bijou audience feel a part of what we are doing, and I think we succeeded.
“Bijou was recorded in Philadelphia at the Bijou Cafe over on Lombard Street. Philly is a very special place for me. Though I was born in Buffalo, New York, Philly is home for my wife Christine, my children Grover III, who is ten, Shana, who is almost three and me. Philly is the city where it all started for me.
“When I was in the Army, I was stationed at Fort Dix, just outside Philly. After basic training. I was lucky enough to be assigned to Dix for the duration of my two-year stint as a member of the camp band. With Philly being so close, I was able to do a lot of moonlighting with my sax. playing gigs in and around the city. I had been playing since I was ten. My father, who played tenor, gave me my first sax and I started taking lessons at the Wurlitzer School of Music.
“Anyway, my music kept me near Philly and after I was discharged, I joined Don Gardner’s Sonotones for about a year. When things started to get slow, I became disillusioned with my career as a musician. I placed my sax in a closet and left it there for a while. Things didn’t look up until I received a call from a guitarist who had been working with Charles Earland. He said they needed a horn player and asked would I like to sit in, with the possibility of making a record session? Would I . . . ?
“Things began to happen. I knew I wasn’t ready to travel with Earland, as much as I would have enjoyed the job. But, other opportunities started coming up. I did an album with Joe Jones, the guitarist, then two dates with Leon Spencer and one for Johnny (Hammond) Smith.
“Soon after that, Johnny told me he had signed with Kudu and was about to do a date. He said he wanted me to do it. I got very nervous —stayed up all night, worrying about whether it was going to sound right. But, as it turned out, everything on the session was very relaxed, just the opposite of what I expected.
“Johnny’s album was produced by Creed Taylor. When we finished the work, he approached me about signing a recording contract. Later, I formed my own group— that being a dream come true, I had worked with different groups, mostly rock, and I had often thought about forming my own, but I had always killed the urge because all the leaders that I had worked for kept saying that it is a lot of dues. What I didn’t know is that when they picked their sidemen, they didn’t pick them from the attitude standpoint but the technical standpoint.
“I picked my sidemen first for their total attitude towards each other and towards the music and then for their technical abilities. My instincts have not let me down nor have my fans. That’s why I think it was such an honor to be asked by Black Stars to write this article. It gives me the opportunity to say ‘THANK YOU, for believing in my music.’”