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Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.
Featured in TIR Episode 80 (Part 1 of 2): Bassist-singer Gary Grainger, a founding member of the 1970s R&B-funk band Pockets, and his younger brother drummer-percussionist Gregory Grainger, who joined the group after its first album. The Baltimore-based band was Earth, Wind and Fire bassist Verdine White’s protege act and cut three albums in which he served in a producing and songwriting capacity. Others from the Earth, Wind and Fire camp also contributed, including Maurice White, Don Myrick, Al McKay and Louis Scatterfield. And Pockets’ first tour was as Earth, Wind and Fire’s opening act for the All N All Tour.
With a lead singer in Larry Jacobs who channeled Tower of Power’s Lenny Williams, Pockets came out of the gate fast in 1977 with what would be its biggest hit, the infectiously catchy and upbeat, “Come Go With Me,” and the debut album, Come Go With Us. Both the song and LP peaked at No. 17 on the R&B charts. Other highlights from that record included “One Day at a Time,” which harkened to Earth, Wind and Fire’s classic “Reasons,” the bouncy and funky “In the Pocket” and the classy ballad, “Elusive Lady.”
The band’s second album, Take It on Up, was even better with more fully realized songs and more assured delivery. The hooky title song flaunted the influences of Pockets’ mentor band, with verses reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire’s funky “Saturday Nite.” The track reached No. 24 on the R&B chart and the album hit No. 22. With slick and powerful horns part popping throughout, other highlights of the 1978 album included the fast, bass-driven “Funk It Over” and the terrific earworm, “Happy for Love.” While the latter song was released as a single — given its Earth, Wind and Fire pedigree that brought to mind that group’s fabulous cut “On Your Face” — it should have been a much bigger hit than its No. 51 chart placing. And the ballad, “Lay Your Head (On My Shoulder),” had some of the flavor of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “All About Love,”
At that point, Pockets struck out on its own tour wise, sharing the stage with many of the prominent funk and soul acts of circa 1978. Unfortunately, the third time turned out not to be the charm for Pockets as its 1979 album, So Delicious, was to be its last hurrah. It was no coincidence that the collection was least successful, both artistically and commercially. The title track, an unusual mellow number marked by some tasty flute flourishes, peaked at No. 34 and the album climbed no higher than 43. In bringing in more outside contributors and pushing more toward a disco direction, the album pulled away from some of the key elements that had helped Pockets stand out from the pack. A notable exception was the thumping gospel-soul and funk of “Your Heart’s in Trouble,” which was egregiously overlooked and not released as a single. While Pockets did some limited touring in support of So Delicious, members were getting distracted by other projects and by 1980 the group had called it quits.
In 1981, Gary and Greg Grainger teamed up as The Graingers on the funky single, “Shine Your Light.” The brothers then went on to play and perform with numerous other artists in the jazz and R&B genres, ranging from John Scofield to Whitney Houston. In the mid-1990s, they teamed up as Grainger and have released two contemporary jazz albums under that name. Since 2003, Greg Grainger has also served as a band member of the smooth jazz act Acoustic Alchemy, with his brother Gary joining in 2006. The Graingers continue to be very active through a multitude of musical outlets.
In this in-depth interview, TRUTH IN RHYTHM speaks to the Graingers about their Pockets legacy, including the albums, songs, stage shows and relationship with Verdine White and Earth, Wind and Fire; their subsequent musical adventures; and current and upcoming projects, including the return of Pockets. You’ll find this to be a journey well worth taking — so then, if you would, come go with them!
RECORDED JANUARY 2019