I was born in Temple, Texas on April 1, 1942. My parents were Claude and Viola Grisham and we lived in Troy, Texas, a town about 7 miles north of Temple.
I was always very interested in music, even at an early age. When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I persuaded my parents to let me take guitar lessons. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a great experience that I am still using the knowledge from even today. At the time all I wanted to do was to learn a few chords on the guitar so that I could be a star like Carl Smith or Webb Pierce!!! However, what I did learn was how to read music and studied chord theory, which has really been an advantage over the years in making music my career.
After I completed the guitar lessons, at around age 11 or 12, I started playing with some of the local musicians, playing mostly at church dances, charity functions, etc. and getting some valuable experience in playing before the public. Around the age of 15, I started playing with the more professional musicians in the area and we worked the bigger dance halls and night clubs. I continued doing this all through high school and while I attended Temple Junior College for a year or so after High School. In college, I was studying to be a school teacher and it was here that I discovered that I could make more money, with less effort and more enjoyment, playing music than I would be able to do teaching school, so that ended my college days!!!
After leaving college I began playing some show dates with Billy Western and some of the Stars of the Big “D” Jamboree out of Dallas, Texas. We toured the Southwest and occasionally went up into Colorado and Wyoming.
All during this time period mentioned above, I was playing electric guitar only. I didn’t start playing steel guitar, professionally, until I was about 21 years old. In fact, during one of our tours with the Big “D” Jamboree Stars, I bought a steel guitar and started messing around with it in the motel rooms, because that is the only place the other musicians would allow me to play it!!! After a few weeks or so, they finally let me set it up on stage to play on a song or two.
In a month or so, I had improved on my steel playing to the point to where George Kent, one of the Big “D” Jamboree artists, asked me to play in his band and we toured up through Colorado and went to Cheyenne, Wyoming to work a club for about 3 months, finishing up after the week of the celebrated “Cheyenne Days” rodeo.
After the Cheyenne, Wyoming gig, I moved to Dallas, Texas and went to work with Eddie McDuff and the Big “D” Jamboree band, playing steel. We worked a club during the week nights, did recording sessions, car lot openings, had a TV show and was the staff band for the Big “D” Jamboree show on Saturday nights. This was great experience and I met a lot of great local musicians as well as touring bands from Nashville that worked the Big “D” Jamboree.
I continued doing this for about a year and a half and then went to work for almost a year with Dewey Groom at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. This was a giant dance hall, for the times, and playing in this band was good experience, as we played all types of music.
After this, I went to working some dances with Billy Thompson, who used to work with Hank Thompson. One night, in Wichita, Kansas, we worked a big ballroom and the guest artist was Roy Drusky and his band. It just so happened that Roy’s steel player was quitting the same night and they offered me a job. I had always wanted to move to Nashville, but was afraid to do so without a job waiting for me, and here was my opportunity. I accepted his job offer and left the same night with Roy and his band to play a show in Houston, Texas. We hit the stage in Houston with no rehearsal and several thousand people waiting to be entertained. However, I was young and eager and it didn’t seem to bother me too much.