Singer-songwriter Tom Grant has written songs for Tammy Wynette, Eddy Arnold, Ray Price, and Mickey Gilley. He sang with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, on “Hee Haw,” “Pop! Goes the Country,” and for years was a regular performer on the “The Ralph Emery Show,” and The Nashville Network’s “Nashville Now.” In this interview, learn about Grant’s career, health challenges — including living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease — and how growing up in a “Happy Days” type environment gave him a solid foundation for life.
Q. How did you end up as a regular performer on The Nashville Network’s (TNN’s) “Nashville Now?”
Joe Hostettler was the producer and it was going to be a news show… At that time, I was a regular on a local TV show (that had the largest following nationwide leading into the Today Show). Now, this was before cable. So, there were just the three networks, maybe four, and this was an NBC affiliate. And I just started going down there because they had a live TV show with a live band. A friend of mine, Darlene Austin, invited me down. I sang a few times as a guest, and Ralph [Emery] said to me, “Why don’t you come on down more often?” So that started the ball rolling and maybe about 12 or 13 years into my internship there, he said, “We’re doing a national TV show and it’s going to be called ‘Nashville Now,’ and we’d like you, and Lorrie Morgan and Darlene Austin to be regulars.”
The very first show was actually at Opryland at the Stage Door Lounge, and the first guests were T.G. Sheppard, somebody else, maybe The Judds, and myself. And so, we aired live, and at that time it was via satellite. Eventually, the show really caught on with the country audience and there were millions of people watching it. It had a good long run.
He goes on to talk about his friendship with then dee jay Ralph Emery as well as Emery’s historic career in radio and tv, including the role he played in helping launch the careers of many country music artists.
What brought you to Nashville?
I started out doing music as a kid with my two brothers. We’d sing a lot of the old Kingston Trio songs and things … I had my own band in a club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the age of 17.
I hit the road, did a single for a while, but I had a house band there. And eventually, as a lot of people with dreams of becoming successful in the music business, I wanted to come to Nashville. Nashville was a recording industry, the Music City USA of the world. I moved here in 1978 … and just started pitching songs and hitting the streets. Eventually, I got a recording contract on an independent label that Gene Autry owned called Republic Records and had some success. I had a top 10 record, and the business changed. When that deal left me, you all of a sudden joined the tens of thousands of people who are trying to get a recording contract. So, it was a little tough. I did a little stint on Electra Records and on Curb Records with a group that I had called Trinity Lane.
We had some success but not a great deal. So, most of my career was spent on local TV doing either The Ralph Emery Show or TNN, or I was a pitchman for a couple of businesses here locally. I’ve had a lot of fun doing that. It’s been great. I’m pretty much retired now.
Tell about your philosophy of music as a connector and what you do today to keep music alive in your life.
Well, I still sing in church. My philosophy is music is probably the great really connector of all types of people. I don’t care what your background is. Music can move your soul. And good music is very powerful. And so when I sing in church — and maybe it’s the meditation part or a time where we have a general communion where people come up and receive the sacraments … if this is done with some music in the background, if it helps deepen their faith and whatever they believe in … if you’re helping somebody to better themselves as a person through music, I mean, what better vehicle than that? I can’t think of one. You may be gifted as a speaker. You may be gifted as this or that, but if you’re able to connect with somebody through music, that’s a great, great vehicle.
Tom Grant has long been a friend of FiftyForward and the community. In fact, his wife Beverly came up with the name FiftyForward when the agency was working to rebrand from Senior Citizens, Inc. The name change took place in 2008 and the agency has continued to expand its programs, services, and centers to serve the growing needs of the 50+ population in Middle Tennessee.
From sharing tidbits about the music business, including royalties and dividends, to relationship-building skills — some of which he credits to his father — Grant offers advice to aspiring songwriters. His real-world experiences underscore his successes in life — as a songwriter and a performer — and challenge all of us to lift one another up without judgment. Don’t miss his interesting stories about meeting Naomi and Wynonna Judd as well as Reba McEntire early in their country music careers. This veteran and music insider is eager to share his wisdom and pass the baton to others so they can learn from his examples.
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