Griggs, Andy (Contemporary Musicians)
Country singer Andy Griggs never intended to be a singer; he wanted to play football. He didn't begin playing the guitar until he was 18 years old. However, after his father and brother died, Griggs turned to music for solace and found not only emotional healing, but a country music career as well. Although he has only released two albums, he has already reached both the number-one spot and the top-five listing on the country charts.
Griggs was born in northern Louisiana and grew up with music; his father, Darrell Griggs, led the choir at the family's church in West Monroe, Louisiana. Darrell Griggs also liked country music, and his favorite singer was Merle Haggard. When Griggs was ten years old, his father died suddenly. "When he died, me and my brother Mason went in his room," Griggs told John Carter of the Florida Times Union. "We never said a word, but we played that whole album." After their father's death, Mason became the "man of the house," Griggs recalled on his official website. "He was my hero I was four years younger than Mason, and I looked up to him in every way. When I was a teenager running wild, he was the one who always straightened me out."
Mason was enrolled at Northeast Louisiana University, and Griggs followed his brother there and began studying criminal justice. His longtime dream of playing football in college, however, was shattered when he learned wasn't big enough to play on the college team. Griggs left the university at the end of his freshman year, when, tragically, his brother died of a heart attack in a classroom, eight years after his father's death, at the age of 21. Griggs was devastated. "I went in his room and I played that same album," he told Carter. "That's what music is."
Griggs's brother had been a talented musician who played guitar, sang, and wrote his own songs for a country gospel band called God's Country. After his death, Griggs turned to music for healing. He told Carter, "It wasn't until he passed away that I wanted to learn how to pick and sing. That was my cry, to learn how to play his songs I started to become haunted with the music." He explained further on his website, "My mission was to learn a couple of his songs. It was just so his music wouldn't die."
Within eight months, he had learned all of Mason's songs, got Mason's band back together, and began doing shows with them. No longer in school, he worked at a gas station during the day and played music at night; he lost his job when the boss found him practicing his guitar during a late shift. He got another job at a wholesale store, but he hated it. Distracted by his urge to make music, he found it hard to focus.
Looking for answers, Griggs returned to his family's old church in West Monroe and became a youth minister there, while continuing to play with the band. On February 24, 1994, the band did a show with a bluegrass gospel group headed by Jerry Sullivan and his daughter Tammy. Through this event, Griggs met Jerry's other daughter Stephanie, who became his friend, fan, and on February 25, 1995, his wife.
Griggs had gone to Nashville, the center of the country music industry, looking for contacts. There he met manager and producer J. Gary Smith, who told him that without money, backing, and management, he had little chance of success. Griggs persisted, however, and after he played for Smith, Smith booked him into a hotel and introduced him to producer David Malloy. The next day, he signed a contract for them to manage his career.
Griggs and Stephanie moved to Nashville, where Stephanie worked at a day care center and Griggs found a job at a branch of the same store at which he'd been employed in Louisiana. He played in the Sullivans' band on weekends, made demo tapes for Smith and Malloy, and eventually landed an audition with RCA's Joe Galante in 1997.
In 1998, Stephanie was shocked when he brought home roses for her: she was afraid that they could not afford them. Griggs explained that he had just signed a contract with RCA Records in Nashville. That same day, he wrote a song telling his wife how much he loved her. "You Won't Ever Be Lonely," went on to become his first hit single and number one on Billboard's country music chart.
In April of 1999, Griggs's debut album, named for that song, was released; by September of 2000 it earned gold sales certification. In an interview with Cynthia Jardon in the Alexandria, Louisiana Daily Town Talk, Griggs said, "Man it feels great. You know the bottom line is you ask yourself are you making a dent? Everything is working." Two subsequent single releases, "I'll Go Crazy" and "She's More," both hit the top five.
In February of 2001, Griggs and bandmate Kevin Weaver took a Tallahassee, Florida, ambulance for a joyride. They were jailed briefly before posting bond of $1,000 each. Although they were charged with grand theft auto, the charges were dropped when Griggs performed a benefit concert for Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, which owned the ambulance.
Griggs's second album, Freedom, was released in 2002. In the Tennessean, Peter Cooper wrote that with this album, Griggs was "mov[ing] in [the] right direction" and that "there are moments on this sophomore album when he fulfills his promise."
Griggs thinks long and hard about which songs to include on an album. He told Eric L. Reiner in the Denver Post that he took a month or two to decide what songs to put on his second album. In addition, he said, he is a slow songwriter. "I may write half a song one month and then come back to it three months later." He also said he had learned that if he put a song on a CD, he had to love it because he would be singing it for years to come. "Is it something that, when I'm 60 years old, I'll still be proud of? That's how I've been judging every decision about this album."
Although he never got to play pro football, Griggs is still an avid fan, and he gets to participate in the sport by singing the American national anthem at football games. He told Reiner that with his musical success, he no longer regrets not making the college team. "If I would have succeeded in football in college, man, I would have never looked at a guitar."
You Won't Ever Be Lonely, RCA, 1999.
Freedom, RCA, 2002.
Alexandria Daily Town Talk (Alexandria, LA), August 4, 2000, p. D4.
Denver Post, January 20, 2001.
Florida Times Union, October 20, 1999.
Tennessean, July 22, 2002.
"Andy Griggs Finds His Freedom," Country Music Television, http://www.cmt.com (September 10, 2002).
Andy Griggs Official Website, http://www.andygriggs.com (September 10, 2002).