Saturday, May 15, 2021

#500 : Howard Grimes with Preston Lauterbach - Timekeeper My Life in Rhythm


2021 – Devault Graves Books

Release Date : July 1, 2021

By Phillip Smith; May 15, 2021


I’ve been a huge Stax Records fan for a very long time, and I absolutely love the southern soul music which poured out of Memphis in the Sixties and Seventies.  The grooves were buttery and always inviting.  Howard Grimes, the man who created the beats upon which the Memphis sound was built, tells his story of navigating the Memphis music scene from behind the drums of the prestigious Hi Records Rhythm Section.  Written with Preston Lauterbach, who also co-wrote the recent book from Annye C. Anderson Brother Robert – Growing Up With Robert Johnson, Timekeeper makes for a most intriguing read.    

A key connection was made when Grimes, never knowing his real father, found guidance and a mentorship from Emerson Able, the Manassas High School band director who referred to the youth as a human metronome.  The world Grimes paints of his growing up in Memphis in the Forties and Fifties, is a dicey, exciting, and sometimes terrifying one filled with neighborhood juke joints, barber shops, cafes, and pool halls.  That being said, Grimes was almost always able to steer his way out of trouble, and focus on his love of playing drums. 

Grimes’ stories of starting out are so captivating, and his brushes with fame are countless.  While still in high school, he was already going on road gigs with Rufus Thomas and his crew.  The whole band, plus Ma Rainey would all be packed in a ’59 four-door Chevy with all the instruments in the trunk, and the stand-up bass fiddle running through the middle of the car from the front windshield to the rear window.  Willie Mitchell and the Hodges brothers who made up the rest of the Hi Rhythm Section are all continually mentioned throughout the book, showing just how intertwined their lives were, through the good times and the bad.  It was while traveling through Texas with Mitchell when Al Green was discovered and signed to Hi RecordsMitchell produced Green’s record, with Grimes and the Hodge boys providing the backing.  That record became a hit, and Al Green became household name after that.     

Besides recording with top artists such as Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Ann Peebles, Willie Mitchell, Otis Clay, O.V. Wright, and Steve Cropper, he’s backed legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson as well.  His encounters with each are  discussed.  It’s these stories which really draw me in.

Grimes also goes into deep details regarding his home-life, documenting the rocky relationship he had with his wife, and the fight that left him in the hospital with a knife wound.  Several of his friends were going through that same kind of turmoil, and he talks about how that affected things in the studio as well.  He does not sugar-coat his feelings or mince his words when it comes to telling it like it is or how it was.  His faith in God though kept him going when the going was tough.

In the end, I found it endearing that Grimes has continued to maintain contact with Able, the bandleader from high school throughout the years.  Timekeeper is a book that is hard to put down.  I already want to read it again.





Click on the link below to pre-order or purchase this terrific book from the PhillyCheeze Amazon Store.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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