Richard
"Groove"
Holmes


RICHARD "GROOVE" HOLMES was born in Camden NJ on May 2, 1931. He was primarily a bass player who switched to the Hammond organ without formal training on the piano. His self-taught style was infectious with its strong bass line under each tune. Revered in soul-jazz circles, Richard "Groove" Holmes was an unapologetically swinging Jimmy Smith admirer who could effortlessly move from the grittiest of blues to the most sentimental of ballads. Holmes, a very accessible, straight-forward and warm player who was especially popular in the Black community, had been well respected on the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey circuit by the time he signed with Pacific Jazz in the early 1960s and started receiving national attention by recording with such greats as Ben Webster and Gene Ammons. Holmes, best known for his hit 1965 version of "Misty," engaged in some inspired organ battles with Jimmy McGriff in the early 70s before turning to electric keyboards and fusion-ish material a few years later. The organ was Holmes' priority in the mid-to-late 80s, when he recorded for Muse. Holmes was still delivering high-quality soul-jazz for that label (often featuring tenor titan Houston Person) when a heart attack claimed his life at the age of 60 on June 29, 1991 in St. Louis MO.


Richard "Groove" Holmes

It's been almost three years since the passing of Richard "Groove" Holmes. I thought it would be fitting to write a short remembrance of one of America's musical treasures. Richard Arnold Holmes came to be known as "Groove." As Les McCann reminds us, "If you wanted to groove, that name that he had, Groove Holmes, was perfect, perfect."

Les played a key role in Groove's career when in 1960 he met up with him in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, restaurant. "I remember going to look for him, and I was told to look in this little restaurant--and it's one of the soul kinda places with greens and beans--and I walked in and I saw this huge person sitting at the table and the whole table was covered. I thought l could eat! But when I saw this! And then the capper was that he asked for a Diet Coke. I started laughing, and we hit it off right away somehow."

Les came back the next night to hear Groove, who was playing with Cat Anderson's band at that time. "And so when I went to hear him play again, I thought I was in the midst of something very special. And I asked him would he like to make a record, and that was the beginning." At that time, Les McCann had influence with Richard Bock and Pacific Jazz Records. Groove went on to record several albums with Les and later with Gerald Wilson's big band. In fact, this was probably the first time a big band featured a Hammond organ soloist.

Gerald sounds modest when reminded of his role in Jazz organ history. "Well, just being able to work with Groove was really a great thrill in my career, I'll tell you that."

Gerald, too, developed a friendship with this most personable man known as Groove. "We kinda kept in touch all the time when he would come to town. We were very good friends, and it's one association that I really enjoyed every moment of." Gerald also brought Groove into other recording sessions using smaller ensembles.
The impact made by Groove on the West Coast was tremendous, and this was made possible in large part by the ear and heart of Les McCann. "When I think of Groove, I can only think of the word joy. It was always laughing--it was always 'let me show you this.' He was totally into the music. Once he hit that thing that turned it on and that love came through, there was no way you could avoid it; it captured you."

Groove was born in Camden, New Jersey, across the river from the Jazz organ capital of the world (Philadelphia), on May 2, 1931. He was primarily a bass player who switched to the Hammond organ without formal training on the piano. His self-taught style was infectious with its strong bass line under each tune.

The great Houston Person, who has played and recorded with just about every Jazz organist, mentions this: "He had the best bass line and kept good time with the bass line. That was one of his real identifying qualities, and he liked to experiment with different sounds on the organ." Houston produced and played on Groove's last recording session for Muse Records.

Another good friend and musical associate was Grover Washington Jr. In a recent phone conversation with Groove's wife, Renee, I learned that Grover was planning on writing new music for Groove and several audio and video projects were in the hopper. Renee said that all this motivated Groove. "He had so many things he wanted to do, and thank God, in his last year and a half especially, he realized how much he was loved and appreciated." 

Richard Groove Holmes in St. Louis, MO

Groove was the love of Renee's life, and together they had a beautiful daughter, Tatiana, who is now studying both flute and piano. Renee fondly recalls how Groove was "just a big kid-- loved his video games--loved playing pinochle--just a beautiful person and a fantastic father." She continues to promote the music and support all the wonderful friends and musical associates who received and returned Groove's love.
Players like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Trudy Pitts, and Shirley Scott all have warm memories to share about their friend Groove. Shirley, for example, recalls the last time she saw and had occasion to play with Groove. "I hadn't seen him for a while and I knew that he had been ill, but I didn't know the extent of his illness, and when I found out and I saw him, I was devastated because he looked so well and he was strong. I never heard him play better. He never complained. I mean he was just terrific, and l remember that, and I marvel at his strength and how he was able to play as well as he always did."

Another fellow organist who knew him well was Johnny "Hammond" Smith. He recalls this wonderful gesture: "I found out where Groove Holmes was, and I talked to him for the last nine or ten months of his life. I used to call him once or twice every a month or so, and I always reminded him how great an organ player he was because I feel Groove got cheated; he was really a tremendous organist. He had foot under control, had tempos under control, had keys under control, and agility on the keyboard. He was just fantastic and some people really didn't hear where he was coming from and didn't give him the just respect that he deserved, so in the last days of his life, I made sure he got it every time I talked to him."

The great Jackie Davis shared a mutual admiration with Groove Holmes. His words say it all. "When you're speaking of Groove, you are speaking of a master--a beautiful dude, a fine gentleman, and a classic contributor to the world of music and especially the world of the Jazz organ. That's Groove Holmes, man!"

Groove Holmes recorded on the Pacific Jazz, Prestige, Groove Merchant, and Muse labels. Lots of this has been released on CD. Do yourself a real favor and add some of Groove's grooves to your collection!

Pete Fallico - June 1994


Doodlin' Lounge ® and Doodlin' with Pete Fallico are copyright © 1997-2003 Pete Fallico.

The International Archives for the Jazz Organ

    

The name says it all. This man knew how to groove with both hands and feet. He acknowledged himself that in the world of organ players, there was Jimmy Smith and then all the rest; but he (humbly!) considered himself to be at the top of the rest. IMO, there was Smith, Groove, Patton, Young, then all the rest. But when it comes to funking it up, Groove had no match. He's influenced by sax players, like a lot of organ players.

He recorded some very nice "straight" Jazz sessions with Ben Webster, Gene Ammons, Houston Person, and Paul Chambers (renowned bass player). But he also recorded some of the funkiest shit I have ever heard. He teamed up with Jimmy McGriff for some organ battles on the Groove Merchant label, and recorded for Muse from 1977 to 1989 with, among others, Person and Melvin Sparks.

I suggest picking up Blue Note's compilation Blue Break Beats Vol. 1 for, among other greats, the first track "Grooving With Mr. G." from his Comin' On Home LP (import CD only). Also, his Nightglider album was reissued this year by a French label (MusiDisc 500632). Tracks 1, 2, and 5 are the kind of tunes that will make a skeleton dig out of his/her grave and get down to the groove, and basically the reason why I'm writing this. Damn is that funky! The bass and percussion (conga) are cookin'. They didn't list the personnel, so if anyone has any info, PLEASE e-mail me, thanks! This 1975 album is produced by Horace Ott, who also recorded Joey DeFrancesco in the 90's.

Jürgen Wolf, 
email jw@iajo.org

Discography


                        Somethin Special                ?       Pacific Jazz
                        After Hours                     1961    Pacific Jazz
  (B.Webster/L.McCann)  Groove                          1961    Pacific Jazz
  (Gene Ammons)         Groovin' With Jug               1961    Pacific Jazz
                        Tell It Like It Is              1961    Pacific Jazz
                        Somethin' Special               1962    Pacific Jazz
                        Book of the Blues               1964    Warner Bros.
                        Soul Message                    1965    Prestige
                        Living Soul                     1966    Prestige
  (Boogaloo Joe Jones)  Spicy                           1966    Prestige
                        Super Soul                      1967    Prestige
  (T.Edwards/P.Chambers)Get Up And Get It!              1967    Prestige
  (Ben Dixon)           Soul Power                      1967    Prestige
                        Bowl of Soul                    1967    Loma/Warner
                        See See Rider                   1968    Prestige
                        The Groover                     1968    Prestige
  (Rusty Bryant)        That Healin' Feelin'            1968    Prestige
                        Onsaya joy                      ?       Flying Dutchman
                        Six Million Dollar Man          ?       Flying Dutchman
                        Swedish Lullaby                 ?       Sison
  (Weldon Irvine)       Comin' on Home                  1971    Blue Note
                        American Pie                    1972    Groove Merch.
                        Double Exposure                 1973    LRC
                        New Groove                      ?       Groove Merchant
                        X-77                            ?       World Pacific
  & Ernie Watts         Come Together                   ?       World Pacific
  (Eddie Daniels)       Groovin' with Groove            ?       LRC
                        Night Glider                    1973    Musidisc
                        Groovin' and Spoonin'           1974    Olympic
  (Houston Person)      Good Vibrations                 1977    Muse
  (Idris Muhammad)      Shippin' Out                    1977    Muse
  (Houston Person)      Broadway                        1980    Muse
  (Houston Person)      Blues All Day Long              1988    Muse
  (Houston Person)      Hot Tat                         1989    Muse

Bostic, Earl
  "Groove" Holmes       Jazz As I Feel It               1963    King

Jackson, Willis
  "Groove" Holmes       Ya Understand Me? (Live)        1980    Muse

McGriff, Jimmy
  "Groove" Holmes       Come Together                   1973    Groove Merch.
  "Groove" Holmes       Giants of the Organ in Concert  1973    Groove Merch.
  Dbl LP of previous 2! Supa Cookin'                    1975    Groove Merch.

Wilson, Gerald
  "Groove" Holmes       You Better Believe It           1961    Pacific Jazz

Witherspoon, Jimmy
  "Groove" Holmes       Sings The Blues                 1961    Crown/Muse
  Bert Kendrix          Evenin' Blues                   1963    Prestige
  Paul Griffin          Blues Around The Clock          1963    Prestige
  w/ "Groove" (Odetta)  As Blue As They Can Be          1991    RTV

 


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