Happy Birthday, Richard "Groove" Holmes!


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Organist Richard “Groove" Holmes (born May 2, 1931) must have been extremely fond of his nickname. Or the marketing people at the record labels he recorded for were just cashing in on his brand. For whatever reason, variations on the word groove appear in numerous album titles:
  • Groovin' with Jug (1961)
  • Blue Groove (1967)
  • The Groover! (1968)
  • Workin' on a Groovy Thing (1969)
  • New Groove (1974)
  • Groove's Groove (1991)

Songs recorded with the same theme included “Groove's Groove," “Groovin for Mr. G," and “Let's Groove." Holmes was firmly in the acid-jazz camp, with his playing characterized by articulate melodies and a pulsating bass - I hate to say it - groove laid down under other instrumentalists.

Holmes first started recording in 1961, and probably his best-known tune was a version of “Misty“ from the 1965 album Soul Message.  This is one of my favorite albums from Holmes - it also contains the doubly eponymous “Groove's Groove" as well as a terrific version of Horace Silver's “Song for My Father."

Holmes' playing became funkier through the Sixties and Seventies. Some of his recordings showed a trend toward commercialization, which may have tainted his reputation somewhat. However, Holmes is credited with being one of the precursors of acid jazz. In honor of that, the Beastie Boys included an organ track on their 1992 album Check Your Head called “Groove Holmes." He died in 1991 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

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This story appears courtesy of Riffs on Jazz by John Anderson.
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