San Diego has many top-notch musicians in its geographic boundaries, but few could match the schedule of drummer Larry Grano. A multiple threat, Grano is a mainstay of the San Diego music scene, a larger-than-life musician known for his percussive skills, soulful voice, and razor-sharp wit. Currently drumming for the Eve Selis Band, Grano is one of the town’s musical unsung hero’s, rarely in the spotlight but responsible for laying down the rhythm at countless great nights of music in San Diego over the decades.
He was born at Mercy Hospital in October 1961, growing up in Allied Gardens area and attending Patrick Henry High, class of 1979. As it is with most children, music wasn’t Grano’s first choice for an afternoon’s activity. “In our neighborhood we had about 20-30 kids,’ he recalled. “Baseball, football, basketball, hockey—we played everything.” Grano did own a snare drum, but sports took precedence over music. “After realizing I wouldn’t be pitching in the World Series, I went back to the drums,” he joked. Tom Boyd of the legendary local band Listen was giving lessons at a local music store and Grano’s father signed him up.
He considers the “melting pot” of his family’s listening habits to have been an influence. His personal musical influences, however, are harder to pin down. He includes the Beatles, Elvis Costello and Charlie Parker as favorites, but add, “that’s a big question. Do you mention Mozart and leave out Beethoven? Buddy Rich but not Max Roach? If there’s a performance on a track that gets me, that’s an influence. Local or international, I don’t care who it is. It could be the Beach Boys’ backgrounds on [Elton John’s] ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,’ or one note by Thelonius Monk while his foot is scraping the floor…or someone at Lestat’s (the premier showcase for San Diego’s top singer/songwriter talent).” He does consider his instructors/teachers key to his success, citing Boyd, Malcom Rosenbeger, Enola Williamson, Mike Holguin, Manny Cepeda and Cliff Almond.
He first began performing in Jr. High, alongside guitarist Craig Goldy and bassist Greg McKinney. “Both much more advanced players. A failed attempt at the talent show broke that up,” he said. “I think the band that won played Chicago’s ‘Color My World.’ They had a ringer on the flute,” Grano laughed. Since then he has been a perennial on local stages. In the 70’s it was with Wizard. During the ‘80’s her performed with Artisan, 3-D and Pranx. From 1990 to 1995 he had a stint with Private Domain. Meanwhile 1996-2005, he was a member of Rockola. Currently he can be found drumming with Selis, as well as Mark DeCerbo and Four Eyes.
More recently, he has become one of the area’s top session drummers. “I’ve been in groups all my career, playing both covers and original,” he pointed out. “When I left Rockola, I made a decision not to join a band for a while and test the waters of independence. For me, it’s made a great difference.” Initially the session world was not easy to break into. “Early on, as I grew in confidence with my playing, I went to some studios to look for work,” he recalled. Grano found that it was a very small pool of talent that did the lion’s share of the work. “Every place I went, I got the same answer, ‘To get work in town, you’ll have to get rid of two guys—Jim Plank and Duncan Moore.’” Grano did eventually pick up the odd production work, but it was a Selis session with acclaimed producer Alan Sanderson (Rolling Stones, Burt Bacharach, Elton John) that got the ball rolling.
“Unlike most drummers that just lay down a groove, Larry’s performance usually comes from what the vocalist is doing. He has a great understanding of playing to the artist’s feel, lyrics and vocal melody, probably due to the fact that he is an accomplished singer himself,” said Sanderson. “I don’t think there are any styles he can’t play. I would compare him with the great studio drummer Jim Keltner—this community is very lucky to have him.”