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Steve Grills is well known in this town as a guy who carries the blues legacy in his guitar case. There are times, like this weekend, when he brings his interpretation of that history and the real thing, too "The thing I really feel appreciative of is being able to connect with somebody such as Ernest, whose history goes way back," Grills says of Ernest Lane, the 76-year-old Los Angeles blues pianist. "Connect with somebody who played with musicians I admire, like John Lee Hooker."

steve grillsLane joins Steve Grills & the Roadmasters Thursday at Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, Friday at the Syracuse Dinosaur, Saturday at Penfield's Tastin' the Blues and Sunday at Geneva Country Club. Lane's long history includes playing alongside greats such as Jimmy Nolan, Earl Hooker, Canned Heat and, oddly, the Monkees. "The Monkees' drummer," Grills says of Micky Dolenz, "used to go to a club where Earl's band was playing, and the Monkees hired them to be their backing band on tour, for like a year."

Grills met Lang when he was playing a 2002 show at Montage with Lane's old childhood friend from Mississippi, Ike Turner. They hooked up a few times, when Grills and Rochester's own blues icon, Joe Beard, went out to San Francisco to play some club dates together. They flew Lane up from L.A. to sit in with them, leading to Grills helping Lane land a gig in June at a Nighthawk tribute at the Chicago Blues Festival.

Grills has done this before. He's played alongside Beard for many years, and befriended Robert Lockwood Jr.
"Robert Lockwood was a good friend, but I didn't get a chance to play with Robert too much," Grills says. (Lockwood died in 2006.)
"I did one recording with him, but mostly I just loved that guy's music and his playing." As long as he's been on the scene, Grills has yet to release a CD.

"I've always kind of resisted it. I never really thought of the blues as being something commercial. And even when so many blues artists do record, it gets changed, they kind of rock it up. I've come up with something I feel really good about."

That album, with Lane on piano, will be released in a month or two.
MUSIC PROFILE: Steve Grills and the Roadmasters by Frank DeBlase on May 20, 2009