Cold Grits

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Very little is known for certain about this group -- which may actually have been two groups, or possibly two incarnations of the same group. What is certain is that a Baton Rouge-spawned outfit called…
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Very little is known for certain about this group -- which may actually have been two groups, or possibly two incarnations of the same group. What is certain is that a Baton Rouge-spawned outfit called Cold Grits had several brushes with greatness across a history of about three (or perhaps four) years. The Cold Grits go back at least to 1968 as a backing back for John Fred (of "Judy in Disguise" fame), on-stage and on his sides for the Uni Records label. Their lineup, according to a posting on a blog owned by Lafayette, LA-based researcher Dan Phillips, was Hog Cowart on bass, Jimmy O'Rourke on guitar, Billy Carter on keyboards, and Tubby Ziegler on drums. They ended up folded into the Uni Records-signed soul outfit the Sister and Brothers, fronted by singer Geraldine "Sister Gerry" Richard, who issued three singles (produced and co-written by Ron Shaab) that gave co-production credit to "Cold Gritz" (sic). That same year, Atco Records released an instrumental cover of the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" backed with "Bring It on Home to Me," credited to Cold Grits.

At some point, in 1969, this band parted company with John Fred and ended up in Birmingham, AL, where the bandmembers logged a huge amount of studio time in addition to playing a massive number of gigs, the former at least initially in association with recording entrepreneur Bob Grove (Prestige Recording Studio, etc.) at his Unity Records. Apparently, the band crossed paths with Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler, who was impressed enough with their work to move them down to his label's Criteria Studios in Miami, where they cut backing tracks for Wilson Pickett and Jackie Moore, among others, as well as their lone 45-rpm release.

From here, the history gets very confusing, as another, similarly named band -- also from Baton Rouge -- called Cold Gritz & the Blackeyed Peas, enters the picture. "the Blackeyed Peas" -- according to one unnamed source on Phillips' blog -- included Candy Staton and her sisters and some friends; as to who these Cold Gritz were...that's anybody's guess, at least at that point in their history. They could have been an outfit put together by Grove to capitalize on the name of the group he'd lost -- the first Cold Grits were in Miami for a time, backing Brook Benton on "Rainy Night in Georgia" and a lot of other top artists and top records. And in 1970 or thereabouts, matters get even more confusing, as the Cold Gritz (or possibly members of the Vold Grits) headed to Los Angeles, where they were signed to Lou Adler's Ode Records label and released the single "Bayou Country." They also added New Orleans-based soul singer Luther Kent to their lineup, but there were what Kent's posted bio refers to as "personnel problems," which resulted in the band dissolving before that record could get very far, or the LP's worth of material that they'd cut with it could be released.

To make matters more confusing still, at some point in its early-'70s history, that L.A. group's guitarist was Duke Bardwell, Kent's cousin and an ex-bassist with the Baton Rouge-based garage band the Basement Wall, who also played with Tom Rush, Bonnie Raitt, and Elvis Presley. There may -- or may not -- have been some direct connection between the two groups. What is clear, however, is that both groups -- assuming they were two different groups -- disappeared around 1971 or thereabouts. And while this end of their history may be a little confusing and mysterious, Ziegler and Cowart enjoyed major careers in the 1970s, Ziegler working with Stephen Stills, and he and Cowart both working with the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, and Dolly Parton, among other notables, on some of their biggest records.