Tried and Troubadour
The writer of a full-page rave of David Shepherd Grossman's 10-CD boxed set in the October issue of Songwriter's Monthly grumbles that New Times didn't return the writer's calls while he was writing the story. Since no one from this publication had any comment in that article, let this one stand as redress: Whether on CD or live, Dave Grossman, possibly the hardest-working man in the Valley music scene, kicks ass. He's likely the best acoustic artist in the Valley, and one of the best in the country.
It's not that New Times hasn't acknowledged him at all. He was given the Best of Phoenix award in 1998 for "Best Troubadour," and this is a fair characterization -- he sings for his supper six nights a week at various Valley venues; he's self-produced nearly a dozen albums; and he's poured his turbulent experiences into an (as yet unpublished) autobiographical novel, Six Months.
Born in San Francisco in 1966, Grossman was strumming the guitar and singing his own songs by his very early teens, and living on his own by the 10th grade. "I was always pretty weird," he recalls. "Fourteen-year-old guys just didn't play guitar at that time. I mean, they did, but they played AC/DC. I played Cat Stevens, or my own stuff. I wasn't getting laid, I can tell you that." Not at first, perhaps, but over time he became a Bay Area cult figure. He played at The Great American Music Hall; 4 Non Blondes once opened for him; and he's shared bills with Box Set, and Michelle Shocked. He's been playing regularly in the Valley -- as well as producing musical events such as the "Songwriter's Circus" at Balboa Café -- since the mid-'90s.
Although his style from the beginning has been folksy, cheery and often humorous, he's not comfortable with the term "folk singer," which is so often casually applied to him. "Those guys were like reporters, going from town to town, like town criers or something. That's not what I do. I prefer the term 'singer/songwriter.'" Though spiky commentary threads itself through many of his songs, Grossman cultivates a naive persona, claiming little social consciousness: "I'm sort of a savant, I guess. I don't know anything about current events. I didn't know who Skip Rimsza was. But I know all the words to 'American Pie.'"
He does indeed, and he knows the words to hundreds of other favorite tunes, by artists ranging from James Taylor -- whose voice he can mimic uncannily -- to Neil Young to his beloved Cat Stevens. Grossman earns his living and supports his wife and son endlessly playing these covers, which he has catalogued for request in an astounding "Music Menu," in standing gigs at such northeast Valley venues as Michael's at the Citadel, Ice Breakers, Long Wong's and the Cave Creek Coffee House.
His own music, however -- his ironic yet never cynical lyrics, his sweet voice and his fierce, lusty, often virtuosic playing -- puts him in league with his own idols. All of the cuts on all of the CDs in the ostentatiously titled The Complete Works of David Shepherd Grossman: The Boxed Set (which may be ordered from www.davidgrossman.com) were written and performed by Grossman himself, and he can also be heard performing his own songs at the excellent "Acoustic Open Mic" he hosts Monday nights at Joe's Grotto, 13825 North 32nd Street.
He's also gotten a bit of additional professional imprimatur -- he recently received a handsome royalty check when a song of his was used on the soap opera Another World, twice. Alas, before it could become lucratively attached to some amorous soap couple as their signature song, AW, on the air since 1964, went to that Big Network in the Sky.
"That's just about my luck," remarks Grossman. "A lot of the clubs I played in San Francisco used to burn down after I played in them."
For David Shepherd Grossman's performing schedule, or to order his CDs, go to www.davidgrossman.
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly guide to events in Phoenix, and never be bored again. With suggestions for every day of the week, our recommendations will keep you busy on any budget.