“When I walk onstage, I’m standing on the shoulders of a lot of great men that I had the opportunity to share my life with. They live in me. That’s what you feel coming through my instrument—all those old guys. Cause I shared time with them, ate with them, sweated with them. That’s what comes through the horn.”
Gregg’s trumpet playing is steeped in tradition. Gregg was raised in a church, and though he’s always been a very spiritual person, he never had a desire to become a musician. It happened by fate. After switching high schools, Gregg tried enrolling in an industrial arts class only to be told it was full. Luckily, the band leader was in the office when Gregg got the news, and after examining Gregg’s mouth, he gave him a horn. Gregg wanted a tenor saxophone, but the band leader needed a trumpet player and handed him an old cornet. Nine months later, Gregg was promoted to the school band and started marching in parades. It felt good to wear a uniform and a band cap, and his mother always saw to it that his shoes were shined. Gregg was sixteen years old, and it was the late 1960’s– the days of rock and roll – when brass band music was for “old men.” But Gregg had grown up watching Trumpet players play in brass bands, and he loved practicing the tunes at home. Gregg began playing in the E. Gibson Brass Band with childhood friends Tuba Fats and Michael Meyers and subsequently in Danny Barker’s Fairview Baptist Church Band, along with a who’s who of today’s musical giants. Gregg also played in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, which he went on to lead, and the Olympia Brass Band. Decades before he began regularly playing at Preservation Hall, Gregg started coming by to hear the music, but he absorbed much more from the musicians he thought of as fathers – Louis Cottrell, Harold Dejan, Albert Walters, Jack Willis, Teddy Riley, and many more. These men taught Gregg about history, pride, and values, and you can hear these elements in his hot, sweet, powerful, and tender style. Gregg says music holds the people and the community together; every time he plays, he holds audiences in rapture.
Artist Biography by Eve Abrams. Excerpted from “Preservation Hall: Portraits By Shannon Brinkman and Interviews by Eve Abrams” (LSU Press)