Garnet Grimm of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Garnett Grimm Of Savoy Brown Interview

Feature Photo of Garnet Grimm courtesy of Mark Pucci Media.

The final incarnation of Savoy Brown – Kim Simmonds, Pat DeSalvo, and Garnet Grimm – was marked by consistency and a true brotherhood forged through a love of blues and blues rock.

While never to be compared to its classic era, the modern-day trio, which rounded out Savoy Brown for the last leg of its career, may well be the best since its initial “classic lineup.” Indeed, the mighty Savoy Brown’s latest records were strong and loaded with the sort of unladen blues fury that only the mind of Kim Simmonds and company could untether.

Of course, at the heart of it all was Simmonds, a mastermind on guitar and an ace songwriter, the likes of which have seldom been seen. But flanking him for all these years was an able rhythm section comprised of drummer Garnet Grimm and Pat DeSalvo, both of whom provided a deep, grooving bedrock for Simmonds to do his work upon.

As he plots his next move, Savoy Brown drummer Garnet Grimm dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount his early years as a young drummer, his first meeting Kim Simmonds, joining Savoy Brown, the internet chemistry of the modern-day lineup, and a whole lot more.

What first inspired you to pick up the drums?

What inspired me to pick up drums is, without a doubt, my father. My father was an active musician in the Central NY area where I grew up in the 1960s, and the 1970’s provided me with fertile ground and a great number of bands for me to experience a well-suited education. I began soaking it up very early. My father would often have bandmates over; there always seemed to be music being played either by the musicians themselves or on the record player. I was heavily influenced by the recordings of blues, rock, and some azz we had in our house.

Once my father realized I was very interested in playing. He began to take time to show me the basic beats of swing, rock, etc.; the one beat that has proven to be very useful for me is the shuffle. So much a drummer can do with the shuffle. It is the cornerstone groove of a lot of blues and rock music.

Can you recall your first drum kit, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?

Yeah, again, it’s my father who is responsible. He has always been very supportive of my musical endeavors. I think my first drum set was an old Slingerland azz kit that he purchased for me. I do remember it had an old Rogers foot pedal with a leather strap that I thought was the coolest thing. Unfortunately, I do not have it. My Dad became a diehard Ludwig guy back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. We always had one kit set up in the house. I spent a lot of time after school working out parts on those drums. I inherited one of those kits that I do still have today. Ludwig drums, Zildjian cymbals, Speed King foot pedals. The attitude was, “This is the equipment that could take the punishment.”

What was the first song you learned? Describe the process. 

That’s a tough one. I do remember trying to copy what Ringo was playing on early Beatles songs. I would always try to pound out the basic part on a pillow and repeatedly move the record player needle back to copy a fill or a groove. Then I would move to the drum kit and try to apply what I learned. It’s kind of the same process I use today when I’m learning something new. Playing on a pillow or a practice pad is almost, for me, like a guided imagery exercise.

I imagine how the sticking pattern should happen, mimic drum fills, and where cymbal crashes should go. Then move over to the drum kit and try it out. Breaking it down into bite-size pieces. I remember really beating myself up as a young lad learning The Beatles’ song “Ticket to Ride.” I thought that was a really creative drum part. Spent much time trying to get the exact syncopation that Ringo Star was playing. Without counting it out, more of just feeling where the notes should be placed.

Feature Photo of Garnet Grimm courtesy of Mark Pucci Media.

Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your style?

Who most influenced me? Wow, another tough one. I have had so many influences it’s hard to answer definitively any one influence. I can say when I hear something I really like, I try to incorporate it into my playing. For example, I remember the first time I heard Stewart Copland from The Police; his snare drum tuning was great. It was an explosive “crack.” I thought, “Wow, I love that; how do you get that kind of sound?”

I started to experiment with tuning techniques to figure out how he could get that result. Or, I’d listen to John Bonham – his bass drum grooves are phenomenal, of course. I’d think, “How does he get such an explosive bottom-end sound? It’s like a cannon going off!” For me, it was incredible. So, I would consciously think about being heavy on beat with certain drum grooves. You also have to take into account how each individual touches the instrument. That is, of course, what makes music special – nobody creates exactly the same sound the same way. All of this stuff gets thrown into the mix, and what comes out is your unique sound.

I love some of the old jazz drummers from the ’40s and ’50s. Louis Bellson is one that I really enjoy – he spent many years with Duke Ellington. Also, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and others from that time period. He has great swing grooves, and his soloing is off the charts. Just tons of dexterity. Super all-around drummer and one of the pioneers of double bass drumming.

How did you first meet Kim Simmonds, and how did you end up joining Savoy Brown?

That was about the year 1999. I was asked by a mutual friend if I was interested in participating in a recording project that Kim was putting together. It would be part of a possible solo project for Kim. Not nothing to do with Savoy Brown. Interestingly enough, when I arrived, Pat DeSalvo was playing bass using an upright for that day’s recording. I knew Pat from other bands he was involved with around the Central NY area.

We had a great day recording, and two things came from that day in the studio. A solo record for Kim called Blue Like Midnight and a budding friendship. I was very aware of Kim and his history. It was just an honor for me to be asked to be present that day. Some years later, the three of us began to play a bit together in some acoustic/ electronic situations. Again, spending some time playing in Kim’s home studio. We did a gig or two regionally as this semi-electric trio. Kim would play mostly acoustic, Pat had an old upright bass, and I would play a stripped-down kit. We would play Kim’s acoustic tunes, some Savoy classics that we reworked to fit the band’s instrumentation.

Around 2008 the bass player for Savoy Brown at the time had some health challenges. Pat was approached initially to cover some gigs. I remember as Pat was learning the songs, I also learned them, and we went out to Kim’s studio so Pat could practice and get up to speed for the upcoming gigs. Not long after that, Kim decided to make some permanent changes. Pat was really instrumental in having me sit in as the drummer.

We were all friends, and Pat and I worked well together as a rhythm section. Kim agreed, and we began rehearsing for the first time as Savoy Brown. The three of us had a history together at this point, and learning and working together was quite easy. There really was an undeniable chemistry between us. The fit felt very natural, and this became the nucleus for the permanent formation of the band. That took us all the way to 2023.

Garnett Grimm Of Savoy Brown Interview

Feature Photo of Garnet Grimm courtesy of Mark Pucci Media.

Tell me about the latest Savoy Brown record, Blues All Around. How did this one come together?

It was quite interesting and different from how we had ever recorded. The way we approached this was Kim sent us demos of songs he wanted to record. These demos were also sent to the recording studio. Pat and I played our parts over the demos, getting the basic tracks down. Then we built the record from that point. It was kind of a bottom-up process.

I had some ideas for additional percussion parts we later added. Kim has always been quite generous with us to let us lay down our own musical thoughts. If he wants to hear something different, he will let you know, but most times, he trusted our judgment on the individual parts. Kim also added some keyboard parts, harmonica, slide guitar on, and vocals, of course.

Which songs are your favorite and why?

The one song that sticks out for me on this recording is “California Days Gone By.” Just because of how the final version came about. Kim’s basic idea around the lyrics seemed to be almost autobiographical. About hanging out with the band in California, “days gone by.” But musically, the original demo had an almost country flavor to it. The music almost did not match the lyrics. So, after some thought and discussion, Pat and I, with the sound engineer’s finger on the record button, just kept playing different grooves. We eventually landed on something we thought might match the lyric. It was fun and crazy just trying to figure it all out.

How do you view this recording in terms of it being Kim’s final slate of New Music? 

I would urge everyone out there not to view this in any way as a “final slate of new material.” Kim was always working – he was a super creative songwriter. Believe me; he has a lot of music that he left us. I’m willing to bet that the world will see something new somewhere out there in the future. On the last tour to the U.K. we did with Kim, we played the 100 Club in London. Everyone who is anyone has seemed to have played there at one time or another.

I believe it’s one of the only places left that was open for live music back in the 1960s when Kim first started the band. Savoy Brown would have played there even in its earliest days. When we entered the club, you saw pictures and memorabilia all over the place, of course. But it hit me: “Man, Kim and the Savoy Brown band have been making history right along with all these guys pictured here!” It was also great to be introduced to some of the people Kim knew from England and friends from his old days who showed up that evening. The place was packed. It was such a pleasure to be there.

What recordings that you’ve done so far mean the most to you, and why?

The songs that mean the most to me are the ones we hatched out on the road. Often Kim might bring up a suggestion of a song he’d been working on as we were driving to a gig somewhere. To my surprise, he would want to play it at sound check. It was both fun and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes there would be different versions of the same song. Different grooves, keys, lyric changes, etc.

It was a great way to work out the songs. I think a great deal of what was to become Witchy Feeling was done in this manner. By the time we went into the studio to record, those songs were strong and polished. I remember having a sense of confidence going into the recording of that record. I think we recorded most of the record in two days. Doing only one or two passes through each song to get them down.

What has been your approach to playing the classic tracks while still injecting your own style? Did Kim give you liberties?

With me, there was a sense of respect I needed to apply to those songs. Kim did give us some liberties. But I remember a couple of songs; he definitely wanted to hear the drum pattern that was recorded. On “Street Corner Talking,” for example, the basic form of the song he wanted to hear as it was recorded. But we had developed this long solo guitar section. Kim would bring the band down and slowly develop the solo into this ruckus, loud crescendo to end the song. It could go on for some time. During this period of the song, we could play off of what each other was doing and really get creative.

Considering its many incarnations, what made Savoy Brown’s final lineup stand out?

I think this version of Savoy Brown had a special role to play for Kim and the band’s legacy. Pat and I were fortunate to be able to both play the classic stuff that the band is famous for, but yet because of Kim’s creativity as a songwriter, we also were fortunate to be involved with many new songs and recordings. I often think of our version of the band as “the fourth quarter of the band.” You had a sense that “Yeah, maybe we were in the fourth quarter of the game, but a lot of games are won in the fourth quarter.”

Savoy Brown has a tremendous history as a band. I believe the impact has yet to be fully revealed. Kim’s impact on history will come to fruition when the historians put the numbers up on the game board, so to speak. He remained creative for well over 50 years and relevant, I might add. As a guitar player, he never stopped growing, always trying to improve; he kept working and learning and writing. He was very genuine, open, and honest both on and off the stage.

With Pat and I, he would often ask us for our opinions on the songs he was working on. He had a way of bringing you into the creative process with him. I was very fortunate to be able to get close to this creative giant. I am filled with much gratitude to have been able to be a part of Savoy Brown’s history. Kim gave me an opportunity that was more than I could have ever hoped for in my musical life. I never took being in the band for granted. I understood that I was benefiting from all of the hard work that Kim had done getting Savoy Brown to the legendary brand name recognition the band enjoyed.

I felt my job was to uphold the high standard set before me. So many great musicians got their start with the band. Kim helped launch a lot of careers. It is hard to believe that this creative force has now been silenced. I understand that the circle of life must turn, but it doesn’t always feel good or fair! We have lost a true international treasure. Thankfully for us all, Kim has left us with much music and art.

What does the future of Savoy Brown hold with Kim gone? Will you carry on?

I would like to think there is more music to be released. As I said, Kim left a lot of music yet to be tapped into. Of course, anything that is to be done with his music, art, etc… should be thoughtful and prepared with the same rigor Kim himself would have put into his projects. Is Kim replaceable? No way! Not in this organization. Kim is the only person I know that the only band he’s ever been in is the band he started fifty-plus years ago. He was its architect, writer, and creator, acting and performing with and in every gig and recording.

There is no Savoy Brown without him. Some years ago, we played at the Niagara Falls Blues Festival. I remember being at the side of the stage setting up for the show. Kim came over to an amp they had for him and started to mess around with the settings. A member of the crew quickly ran over to us and stated, “Oh, excuse me, but that amp is reserved for Mr. Brown.” Kim looked at him bewildered and said, “Well, I am Mr. Brown!” We all had a good laugh. But Need I say More?

What’s next in all lanes?

Yes, I will carry on. As a musician, there are plenty of times along the way when you think to yourself, “Man, what am I doing here? Is it all worth it?” But every time I get to that place, I’m reminded of all the wonderful experiences and memories. How blessed I feel to have been able to be around so many creative people and travel. It gives you a wider perspective on life. You meet so many “characters” in the arts. They are the “spice of life” people. And I’m certain almost every musician will tell you that your instrument, no matter what it may be, really becomes part of who you are. I cannot imagine my life without playing drums or music.

I guess we can consider this kind of a “turn the page” moment. A few years back, we played in Newton, Iowa, a nice little festival there. There was a guy there who wanted to meet Kim. A guitar player from Florida, Sean Chambers. Sean’s band had played just prior to the Savoy Brown set. I was having backline issues that particular day, and the drummer playing with Sean offered to help me out. I borrowed some of his equipment for our show. Life saver that day, I tell you!

At any rate, the cast and crew all hit it off, the Savoy Brown band and Sean’s band. Everyone was warm and friendly. As it turns out, Pat would run into Sean often after his move to Florida. They began to talk. After realizing Kim would have to slow down with live performances, Sean offered Pat and my work if we wanted it with him. But he and we agreed it would have to be cleared through Kim. The four of us all talked. With Kim’s blessing, we took a Europe tour with Sean in October of 2022.

In fact, while we were in Europe, we would often call Kim, and the four of us would talk about how things were going and where we were playing, etc. We would call Kim and talk maybe once a week while we were touring and text almost daily between us all. Kim was upbeat and full of advice for us all. I am hoping we can continue to work on future projects for Savoy Brown, and I hope to continue to work with Sean as well. It gives Pat and me a chance to continue to work as a solid rhythm section as we have done over these many years with Kim.

Garnett Grimm Of Savoy Brown Interview

Photo of Savoy Brown courtesy of Mark Pucci Media.

The new Savoy Brown album will be released on February 17, 2023.

Garnet Grimm of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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