Guitarist, singer, harmonica player and songwriter Grady Champion has been compared to Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Lionel Ritchie and Smokie Robinson. He has released two very impressive recordings, in 1999 and 2001 for Shanachie Records.
Both his debut, "Payin' For My Sins" and "2 Days Short of a Week" put Champion on the national touring blues map and helped launch his career beyond the boundaries of his native Jackson, Mississippi.
Grady Champion’s biography reads like a TV movie. Starting his musical career in the early 1990s as a rapper named MC Gold, he changed his style when he discovered the blues. Immersing himself in the music of the major blues artists of the past, most notably Sonny Boy Williamson (the Rice Miller one), whom he acknowledges as his greatest influence, Champion eventually became a more than capable blues artist. You’d never guess he hasn’t spent his whole life playing this music.
Champion was the youngest of his father's 28 children, and he grew up in rural Canton, outside of Jackson. Raised on a farm, hard work became a way of life for Champion. Like so many other blues performers, he joined his church choir as an eight-year old and began singing gospel. Then at 15, his mother moved the family to Miami, Florida, where he attended high school for a year before heading back home to Mississippi for his senior year.
After he was graduated, he returned to Florida where he tried boxing, being a radio DJ and several other occupations before he settled into his career as a performer. He recorded and released his own album, "Goin' Back Home," in 1998 and began drawing ever-larger crowds to Florida blues clubs before catching the attention of Shanachie Records executives, who signed him.
Champion has not been afraid to speak his mind on his two releases for Shanachie, and he writes from personal experience with social commentary songs like "Policeman Blues" and "Children of the Corn," a song about the rising tide of youth violence.
His debut album "Payin' For My Sins" includes a version of "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" that really shows Grady's high-energy singing and harmonica playing and an update of the traditional blues lament "Goin' Down Slow" with an AIDS parable – a hard-bitten vignette of modern life. His revved-up, soulful vocalizing and the charm and insight he brings to his songwriting in numbers like the campy "My Rooster Is King" and the classic-sounding tale of infidelity "You Got Some Explaining to Do" (co-written by his producer Dennis Walker, who helped Robert Cray reach national fame) mark Grady as an important new talent.
Innovative Blues man Grady Champion is the winner of the 2011 International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Grady’s hometown.
From the inception of his relatively recent career as a blues performer, Champion has sought to tackle new lyrical themes with his original compositions. As a triple threat harmonica player, guitarist and songwriter, he accomplishes that in grand style on both "Payin' For My Sins" and "2 Days Short of a Week." Champion, along with young innovators like Shemekia Copeland and Shawn Pittman, is one of the brighter beacons when we talk about the future of blues music. ~ Richard Skelly, All Music Guide
On Saturday's midnight cruise, I was immediately drawn to the upper deck, where I found Hawkeye Herman and T.J. Wheeler, two great pickers, engaged with a younger harpist from Mississippi named Grady Champion, exchanging songs and doing requests.Grady's voice not only made me think of Robert Johnson, but the way he worked the crowd seemed as though Johnson's, or Luther Allison's, fire and raw sense of what the audience needs was being born inside him."
Dave McIntyre, BLUES ACCESS magazine, Summer 1996 issue, p. 109
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