Song of the Day: Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes “Broadway”
Right off the bat, this post more about Baltimore drumming legend Bobby Ward then it is about the great Jazz Organist Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes. “Broadway” is the title track from Holme‘s third release from 1980 on Muse Records, contains possibly the only commercially available recordings that provide an opportunity to get but a glimpse of Bobby Ward‘s drumming genius. It should be noted that this album also features the ferocious Tenor-Man Houston Person!
In 1991, at 18 years old, I wandered into a used book shop in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in DC and picked up an old copy of The Jazz and Blues Lovers Guide to the U.S. Looking first towards my immediate area, I thumbed through to the section on Baltimore and found a place called “The Sportsman’s Lounge“. The description spoke of a Hammond B-3 Organ weekly jam sessions and a history of star-studded musicians and celebrities gracing its bandstand. I called the number. They had live music every Friday and Saturday, Jam Sessions every Monday, and Bobby Ward (not to be confused with Boston drummer of the same name!) was the house drummer. After meeting Ward, he took me under his wing and I followed him everywhere he played, mostly all over Baltimore and mostly venues that don’t exist anymore. The whole block where the Sportsman’s once stood got demolished to make way for a grocery store.
Bobby is a magician of a musician. His musicianship and presence transcends his chosen instrument. He gives such life and lift to any musical situation that he is a part of. He is a kind and gracious human being who gives his absolute utmost to serve the majesty of the music itself. He does this despite whatever adversities he may be facing, whether they be health related, social, economic or whatever. He spent years on the road with the likes of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (featuring Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals) and ‘Groove’ Holmes. He has played with luminaries from Little Richard to James Brown. He can play any style and he is the most intuitive musician that I’ve ever seen to coax a group to its highest musical heights. He eventually gave up life on the road and settled in his hometown of Baltimore where he stokes the musical flames in the younger generation through his tutelage, while keeping the older folks tapping their toes to the culture and traditions of their city.
Still a close friend and mentor of mine to this day, I can’t thank Bobby enough for his friendship and for all that he has shown me and all that he continues to show me. From the day I first saw him, he has remained the most incredible performer that I’ve ever seen on any stage, in any city, in any country, on any instrument. I love you Bobby!