Grayson Hugh & Polly Messer
Gig Seeker Pro

Grayson Hugh & Polly Messer


Band Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Grayson Hugh : Road To Freedom (MCA)"

As impressive as Grayson Hugh's 1989 debut album "Blind To Reason" was, "Road To Freedom" represents a quantum leap beyond it. While Hugh's blue-eyed soul vocals and affinity for gospel-style Hammond organ remain, his music adds a welcome infusion of rock 'n roll punch. "Hideaway", "Forever Yours, Forever Mine" and "When She Comes Walking" bristle with energy and radio-friendly hooks, while Hugh's Rod Stewart-meets Sam Cooke vocals on "I Can't Untie You From Me" and the ballad "Walking Through The Fire" are sublime.
-Dan Kening
November 19, 1992 - Chicago Tribune

"New On The Charts"

The beginning of newcomer Grayson Hugh's recording career took place in an apartment elevator on Manhattan, New York's Upper East Side. That is where he met Micahel Baker, co-producer of "Blind To Reason", his debut album on RCA Records.
Hugh grew up listening to and admiring great black singers like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. He spent a year playing piano in a black gospel church and later performed in two Connecticut jazz bands.
The chance encounter with Baker, one-time producer of Wet, Wet, Wet and The Blow Monkeys, eventually led to a recording contract with RCA. Baker noticed Hugh carrying a synthesizer in an elevator and found himself listening to his demo tape 15 minutes later. Of that meeting, he says "I was immediately struck by the dichotomy - here's this quiet, sort of shy white guy with a leather jacket and long hair, who sounds like all the greatest black singers in the world rolled together."
"Talk It Over", the first single from "Blind To Reason", has entered the Hot 100 Singles Chart and is already a top 10 hit on the Hot Adult Contemporary Chart.
- Jim Richliano
July 8, 1989
- Billboard Magazine

"Grayson Hugh's Hit"

One of the summer's most engaging hits is Grayson Hugh's recording of an easygoing pop-soul ballad, "Talk It Over". Without sounding too much like an imitation, the 30-year-old singer's performance echoes the style and timbre of Sam Cooke with its winning warmth and sweetness.
"To be honest, Sam Cooke was before my time; I didn't know about him until a few years ago", said Mr. Hugh, who was reared in West Hartford, Conn., and who now lives in New York. Growing up, he said, the singer he was most aware of was Marvin Gaye.
Unlike the vast majority of pop singers and songwriters, Mr. Hugh has had extensive musical training. At the age of 11, he said, he wanted to be Gustav Mahler. Later he studied with the avant-garde composer Ran Blake and was part of a trio called The Wild Goose, which tried to incorporate ideas from Stravinsky, Stockhausen and Lukas Foss. But rock and roll, which he had discovered at 5, also attracted him.
The most crucial experience leading up to his recording career, however, was a yearlong stint playing the piano in a black gospel church in Hartford 11 years ago.
"My dad, who was a friend of the minister, heard that their pianist had quit", he said. "I auditioned for the job and got it. In that year I learned more than in all my years of formal training".
-Stephen Holden
August 30, 1989 - The New York Times

"Hooker, Hugh differ in style, but not soul"

Music fans had their choice Sunday night between down-home, gritty Delta blues or contemporary blue-eyed soul as venerable John Lee Hooker and rising pop star Grayson Hugh performed at the Omni/New Daisy Theatre and Peabody Alley respectively.
While there were some pronounced differences in approach, technique and sound between Hooker and Hugh, a firm foundation in the black music tradition was the underlying theme linking both performers.
Hooker, now 72, has passed his vocal and instrumental peak, while the 30-year-old Hugh has the charisma, tireless energy and personality befitting someone on the threshold of major success.
Hooker's extensive set included stomping renditions of old favorites like "Boom, Boom" and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer". He remains the master of the striding, surging 'boogie' beat, punctuated by an aggressive five-piece backing band.
Although he can't shout at full intensity or sing with the authority that marked his 1940s and 1950s hits, Hooker's voice retains its stark, deep quality, and his flickering chords, presence and stature are still impressive.
The music's booming beat enticed several among the estimated crowd of 400 onto the dance floor.
While the Hooker set attracted casually dressed blues lovers, the more sophisticated, classy bunch filled The Peabody Hotel's Peabody Alley for Grayson Hugh.
His 75-minute concert reaffirmed the axiom that albums are the worst medium for judging any performer. Hugh's debut LP "Blind To Reason" (RCA) is a superb but very polished production that doesn't accurately depict the true strength or soulful power of his voice.
Hugh displayed the complete range of his influences. He played a string of rolling chords and flashy phrases on his electronic keyboard that reflected his gospel and jazz background, while his delivery and singing method were straight out of the R&B/Soul school. Hugh's a natural soul man, right down to the stage mannerisms, which included playing on his knees and behind his back. He did two stinging cover songs, one a sizzling "Bring It On Home To Me".
While the packed house of over 450 people at first seemed more interested in hearing Hugh than reacting to him, by the middle of his set the dance floor was packed.
-Ron Wynn
October 12, 1989

- The Memphis Daily News

"Soul In The Suburbs"

Irony fans, please note: The soul man is a dinosaur in decline, right? Al Green went and got religion, Dennis Edwards is in exile from The Temptations again and, let's face it, Luther Vandross is way too cool to sweat.
So who's left to save the genre? Some down-and-dirty black powerhouse who grew up in a suburb of Hell, singing in the local church? Not quite. He's a white guy from a suburb of Hartford, Connecticut. And the first time he was ever in a black church and saw somebody whip out a tambourine, he jumped a mile. Meet Grayson Hugh and the music he likes to call "poetry with an attitude."
"That's sort of a phrase that I've come up with that seems to be applicable to some of my music," he says. "It's loud and it's a little audacious and it's moody and it's in the setting of a band playing live. It's not just a beat with empty words."
Nothing empty about Hugh's brilliant debut album, "Blind To Reason". The single "Talk It Over" is a smooth, deftly-executed Sam Cooke reprise; the album's title track is brutal, raw-dog blues. Nothing empty about his resume either. The gravel-voiced 31-year-old grew up with the prerequisite love for black music. Unlike so many other "blue-eyed" soul men, though, he followed that music to its spawning ground, walking in "audaciously" to apply for a job as a pianist in a little black church.
"Y'know", he says, "the first time I played - people were a little amazed to see me, being the only white and really young. But after two or three Sundays I remember this woman, the mother of one the singers, got up and just said, in the middle of the service, 'I know this boy is doing something different, but he sounds okay to me.'"
He survived. And roughly a decade later Hugh is back with a debut album that serves notice: Of the currently active soul men, he is, arguably, the best in class. It's hard to improve on what the woman said:
Yeah, he's doing something a little different, but he sounds okay to me.
-Leonard Pitts, Jr.
November 1989 - Musician Magazine

"The Critic's Choice"

Billboard's Editors and Writers Pick their Top Ten Records, Videos and Concerts of 1992.

1. 10,000 Maniacs, "Our Time In Eden" (Elektra). Added musicians (even the JB Horns!) only accented the great Natalie Merchant's conscientiously haunting/captivating confessionals.
2. Graham Parker, "Burning Questions" (Capitol). Still the most incisive and consistently rewarding singer/songwriter to emerge from the punk/new wave.
3. Lindsey Buckingham, "Out Of The Cradle" (Reprise). As if "Clinton's Song" wasn't enough, this endlessly intriguing set begged repeated listenings and easily explained the long time it took comin'.
4. k.d. lang, "Ingenue" (Sire/WB). Maybe I'm only now getting it, but this seems the most focused, perfectly produced and genuinely felt record she's made, always having had the vocal goods.
5. Tony Bennett, "Perfectly Frank" (Columbia). Bennett singing Sinatra seems inevitable, but Frankly, it's perfectly Tony.
6. Sonny Landreth, "Outward Bound" (Praxis/Zoo). They should put a sign up: "Entering Breux Bridge: Home of Sonny Landreth."
7. Grayson Hugh, "Road To Freedom" (MCA). Gutsy, melodic heartlands-style soul-rock that really fills a hole.
8. Alan Jackson, "A Lot About Livin' (And A Little 'Bout Love)" (Arista). Jackson's songwriting remains as clever as his third album title, while its production-and his singing- rank him at the top of today's pure country artists.
9. "Body Count" (Sire/WE). Ferocious, foul, and funny -and even beat out Madonna for Controversy of the Year.
III Jonathan Richman at the Lone Star; Loudon Wainwright III at the Bottom Line. Both did keen Dylan impressions, and between the
two of them, covered all aspects of life in the '90s, good, bad, and hilarious.
-Jim Bessman
December 26, 1992 - Billboard Magazine


Grayson Hugh: Road To Freedom (MCA)

Here's a CD I'm having a hard time keeping out of my player. The long-delayed follow-up to "Blind To Reason", Hugh's killer 1988 blue-eyed soul release, "Road To Freedom" is well worth the wait. Led by Hugh on a Hammond B3 organ, "Hideaway" sets a swirling tone for the project. His soulful vocals, from the reflective "Soul Cat Girl" to an anti-war masterpiece titled "For The Innocent", are heartfelt, to say the least. The grand finale is a gospel assault on Bob Dylan's "I'll Remember You" that could raise the dead. Any year with a Grayson Hugh release in it can't be all bad.
City Reports, Cleveland, Ohio - City Reports

"Goodness Grayson!"

Singer/Keyboardist Grayson Hugh returns to rouse The Lyric Theatre

Singer/keyboardist Grayson Hugh defies niches.
He's comfortable in any musical milieu - soul, gospel, country, funk and rock - much to the exasperation of record executives who must find a demographic to market his many talents.
Eight years ago, Hugh nearly tore the roof off The Lyric Theatre in Stuart with his raucous set. He returns to The Lyric to inflict more damage with a performance 8 p.m. Thursday.
With his long flowing locks, leather jacket, low-slung cowboy hat and dark overcoat, he resembles a modern highwayman, but his sweet, soulful voice belies the ominous image.
Asked to label his sound, he declares it "Country Gothic".
How accurate, as it spills imagery of mournful slide guitars, sweet honey-voiced croons, rapturous gospel shouts and sticky, sweaty bayou funk.
His musical weapon of choice is the Hammond B3 organ - think Greg Allman's simmer-to-boil style - as he conjures up sweeping chords and Pentecostal fervor from the instrument with ease. His piano playing revisits the honky-tonk rock of early Elton John ("Tumbleweed Connection") or current Ben Folds with a gusto that's contagious.
In the nineties, Hugh took a sabbatical from his recording career and moved to North Carolina, where he refueled his muse and sought other distractions, including long walks and mountain hiking. His backwoods pilgrimages have ignited a new organic, rootsy sound in his music.
New songs include the sultry "Jingle Pie"; the hear-wrenchingly emotional "North Ohio", inspired by a visit to his grandmother's grave; "A Song Away From Memphis", which humorously recollects his Aunt Mary's scheme to deliver fried chicken past the roadies: and "Universal Seminole Blues" which Hugh describes as "a Bo Diddley beat poetry hush that whispers through our veins."
Lyrically, Hugh continues to combine his poetic world-view with a greasy, Southern-fried musical slant. "My lyrics carry the songs. If they make you cry or give you goose bumps, that's it. Life changes you, and you've got to get that into the song" he says.
All of the new songs will be previewed Thursday along with his hits and a few surprising covers.
For those of you familiar with Grayson Hugh and those new to his talents, Thursday night promises to be a heartfelt evening.
-Gary Shipes
January 7, 2003

- The News (Stuart, Florida)

"Versatile Musician mixes sound styles"

Who ever said truthful soul and rock 'n roll was dying has yet to hear singer/songwriter/keyboardist Grayson Hugh's "Road To Freedom."
Hugh is a unique but diverting cross between Otis redding and Hank Williams. His creation of a tight, four-piece band has a fascinating way of producing a distinct sound very seldom heard.
"Road To Freedom" features the songs "I'll Remember You", which plays over the closing credits to 1992's hit film "Fried Green Tomatoes." Another Hugh song, "I Cant Untie You From Me" was featured in the runaway hit "Thelma and Louise."
His album also features the title song, "Soul Cat Girl," "Forever Yours, "Forever Mine," "Lost Avenue," "There's A Time," "Walking Through The Fire" and four other hits - all prime examples of Hugh's powerful singing, soulful songwriting and unequaled keyboarding.
Hugh, raised in a small New England town, says in a press release, "I remember being fascinated by old-time blues singers - I've been writing
poetry ever since grade school, and I was always playing piano and organ."
Throughout the album Hugh displays his talents and distinguished organic sound, which is a mix of rock ' roll, a little country and a lot of soul. And Hugh adds, "I love that fine line."
He admits his true obsession is his Hammond B3 organ.
"It's an integral part of my sound," he explains. "I had it custom-made with a wah-wah pedal and various other modifications. I want to extend the sound of that instrument, to use it almost like a guitar."
Along with his sound, Hugh's lyrics are also distinguished and meaningful. His songs are filled with life, loss, good times and bad times. The words will touch you.
He came up with a style all his own - eloquent, entertaining and extremely enjoyable.
-Jennifer Derrick
October 21, 1992
Penn Contributing Writer
- Penn (Indiana University)

"Newcomer's sound is sheer poetry"

Grayson Hugh's music, lyrics are stirring

I don't want to get your hopes up about Grayson Hugh. Don't want to oversell him so you put 1988's "Blind To Reason" or the new "Road To Freedom" in the CD player and expect light to flow forth, healing cancer and removing cataracts. But ask me straight up, and I'd have to answer you this way:
Have I heard any newcomer in the last decade who excites me more than this guy?
Have I heard any newcomer in the last decade who excites me AS MUCH as this guy?
Your next question is as obvious as the chin on Jay Leno's face: Well, what's the guy sound like? And therein lies a problem, because while there are a lot of obvious comparisons, none gives a complete picture.
He's the thoughtful singer-songwriter type, like James Taylor or Paul Simon, but there's more pure soul in him than that comparison would imply.
Well, then, how about Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart or Sam Cooke? Yeah, he's got the requisite gravel and rasp and anguish in his voice. But there's more poetry and grace in his lyrics than in theirs.
So what does he sound like? Like some things you've hear before, but like nothing you've heard before. A haunting sound, a rock 'n soul groove, greasy with Hammond organ, spangled with guitars, mandolins and dobros, its melodies framed by understated piano accents, its choruses and bridges braced with harmonies as plaintive as a train whistle at midnight.
And his lyrics! If you love words, if you're one of those people for whom heaven is a rainy day and a good book, then know this: Hugh doesn't write words - he writes pictures.
Like "Forever Yours, Forever Mine," which speaks of "steep September daylight when the shadows fall at four" and "eyes just staring down the college street strewn with the paper of sycamore leaves."
Like "Road To Freedom", which offers a breathtaking view - "over the tops of mountains, over the western snow, watching the river wander, just a vein of silver far below" - and adds a hard observation certain to strike a chord with any Native American of African American - "They take away your money, they take away your name, and they take the ground that you're standing on but never, ever take the blame."
And then there's the stark, painful ballad "For The Innocent." Hugh wrote it for his grandfather, Dr. Frank Rawlinson, a missionary in Shanghai who was killed during the Second World War. Hugh sings: "In trees and fields the snowflakes fell, gently on the gravestone of one I knew well. Cut down way before his time, on some rocky road, caught in someone else's war, for some cause of old. He was a writer and a peaceful man, never held a rifle in his hand. But upon that fateful day, a bullet from a gun sought him out as if to say, I'll find the meekest one."
Hugh, a thirtysomething native of West Hartford, Connecticut, who quit school at 15, says, "I remember my English teacher said, 'You should really consider being a poet.' I wrote and I read every poet I could get my hands on. James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, James Dickey, Archibald MacLeish. I quit high school and just kind of educated myself.
"I was lucky enough to have parents who said, 'That's O.K. if you want to do that. You've just got to get a job.' One year, I had something like 55 jobs - a lot of odd jobs. Then I discovered I could make money playing in bands."
During those years, Hugh's family was moving around, alighting in South Carolina, Louisiana and Maine. Musically, he was moving around a lot, too.
"I played piano for a black church in Hartford.. that was really my introduction to gospel, a form of music I love to this day. I sort of got into that and combined that with my rock roots.
"Then there's a lot of other music that I grew up with. My dad is a well-known classical music DJ in Connecticut and he always had an extensive record collection; all different kinds of music - classical, jazz, folk, world music. I grew up with a lot of different influences."
Hugh's debut album "Blind To Reason" was the result of a chance meeting with producer Michael Baker in the elevator of a New York apartment building.
"I was carrying a keyboard, we started talking..I was going to my manager's apartment; we asked him in, played him some of my music, and he introduced me to the people at RCA."
RCA sent Hugh into the studio with Baker, and the result was the brilliant "Blind To Reason."
Hugh says now it was a little too smooth, a little over-produced for his taste: "I felt like I was being pigeonholed.. I needed to branch out."
Four years later, he's branched out to MCA records, where veteran Rock/R&B producer Bernard Edwards took the helm on "Road To Freedom."
"Basically, it's much more raw," Hugh says of the new album. "And it's really the way I always was. I was always a real rocker. All my bands were pretty hard-edged.
"Edwards let what I do naturally just flow. We laughed alot. It was real easy working with him. He kept it fresh. it's kind of the way I approach my writing."
It's always risky business to play fortune-teller in this game. And your humble music writer here has a great track record of proclaiming superstardom for acts that never even got out of the starting gate.
So, tempting as it is, no predictions here.
Except one. You'll love Grayson Hugh.
-Leonard Pitts, Jr.
November 18, 1992 - The Miami Herald


LP: GRAYSON HUGH (Nineteen Records 1980)
LP: BLIND TO REASON (RCA Records 1988)
LP: ROAD TO FREEDOM (MCA Records 1992)
LP: Guest Vocalist on SHE WAS ONLY A GROCER'S DAUGHTER (The Blow Monkeys, RCA RECORDS 1987)
LP: Guest Vocalist on CASHMERE DREAMS (Fernando Saunders, GRUDGE RECORDS 1989)
LP: Guest Vocalist/Pianist on HIDING OUT IN PLAIN SIGHT (Caroline Doctorow, ELBA RECORDS 1993)
LP: Guest Vocalist on NIGHTLIFE (Jeff Golub, RHINO RECORDS 1997)
SINGLES: TALK IT OVER (U.S. and International Hit 1989 still played on radio.)
BRING IT ALL BACK (U.S. and International Hit 1989 still played on radio.)
HOW BOUT US (U.S. and International Hit 1990 featured in the film TRUE LOVE in 1990 and still played on radio.)
YOU FINALLY FOUND A FRIEND (R&B Hit 1990, featured in Itunes)
SOUL CAT GIRL (Rock Hit 1992, 1rst single from ROAD TO FREEDOM, video featured on Itunes and still played on radio.)
I'LL REMEMBER YOU (R&B/Pop Hit 1993, 2nd single from ROAD TO FREEDOM, featured on Itunes)



Grayson Hugh moved to New York in 1987 and was signed in that year as a singer/songwriter to RCA Records. His first album BLIND TO REASON (RCA 1988) went gold in Australia and The U.S. and generated international critical acclaim. The album garnered several Top Forty hits, including TALK IT OVER, BRING IT ALL BACK and his remake of the soul classic HOW BOUT US, a duet with Betty Wright. His voice has been described as a modern day Sam Cooke-meets Otis Redding, with songs of moving and poetic lyrics. He toured the U.S. and overseas with his own band from the late eighties through the nineties. His second album ROAD TO FREEDOM (MCA '92) was called one of the year's top ten albums by Billboard Magazine. Three of his songs from this record were featured in major motion pictures. I CAN'T UNTIE YOU FROM ME and DON'T LOOK BACK were featured in the 1991 hit film THELMA & LOUISE. Grayson's gospel arrangement of Bob Dylan's I'LL REMEMBER YOU was the end title song for the film FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. On this song Hugh used members of Eric Clapton's band to back him up. Hugh toured in support of this record for several years before accepting a position as a teacher of songwriting at Berklee College Of Music in Boston. An eagerly-awaited record, his first record in fifteen years, is due to be released in 2009. Grayson married Polly Messer in August 2008. Polly was Hugh's former backup singer in the early eighties and also sang with the well-known swing band Eight To The Bar from 1977 to 1983. She was also voted Connecticut's Best Female Vocalist in 1981 by The Connecticut Music Awards. Currently, Grayson is performing his songs in an intimate, acoustic setting, backed up by his wife Polly on vocals.