When you meet Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer’s Randy Strauss the first thing you think of is a passionate, diligent, talented plaintiffs’ attorney who has great respect for the law and his clients. Like many professionals working on analytical and logic-based tasks throughout their days, there is a creative side of life away from the rigors of their professional life. Like his passion for the law, Randy Strauss has a life-long love affair with music that he indulges as a member of his East Bay band Idiot Grins.
Idiot Grins Release New Album: Big Man
The Idiot Grins newest album is entitled Big Man, and represents a bit of a departure from the band’s first album, 2011’s Quarry. “I’ve always loved r&b and soul, especially the music of the great Stax Records from Memphis – artists like Sam and Dave, Booker T and the MG’s, and of course Otis Redding”, Randy explains. For this album, Idiot Grins explored their love of classic soul in depth. Of course, you can’t recreate the Memphis sound of the ’60’s without horns. The band was fortunate to enlist the services of Johnny Bamont, sax player for 80’s super group Huey Lewis and the News (amongst countless others) and Mic Gillette, trumpet playing powerhouse with the legendary East Bay R & B band Tower of Power (amongst countless others). Their horns add just the right touch of authenticity to the bands’ original compositions.
Recorded in Randy’s state of the art home recording studio, the band got to live a dream by flying to Memphis’s Ardent Studios to master the album. “What an honor and what a memory. This CD was mastered using the same equipment that was used to master so many Stax records that we love,” says Randy.
Randy and the band have also spent a lifetime admiring the work of the legendary Gram Parsons, considered the father of country rock. Big Man also explores this genre, employing the incomparable pedal steel playing of Bay Area legend Joe Goldmark on several tracks. “I’m fortunate to own the guitar Gram Parsons played on his last album and tour before his tragic death”, says Randy, “and it was my own tribute to him to play it on songs like Paso Robles.”
It may sound strange to combine classic soul and country rock on one album, but for Idiot Grins, it’s not an issue. “Soul and country come from the same place”, explains Randy, “the heart.”
By the way, that’s five year old Randy Strauss on the cover. Check out Big Man if you are curious what a lawyer does in his down time!
Idiot Grins Lineup and Longevity
The Idiot Grins are an Oakland, California based group with a long history in the Bay Area music scene. The lineup includes:
- Lead singer John Hansen
- Bass Evan Eustis
- Keyboards Mike Connor
- Drums Mike “Aztec” Melgoza
- Guitar Randy Strauss
Playing in local bands stretching back to the mid- 1980’s as a student at University California, Berkeley, Randy Strauss began to collect memories and bandmates that would become the Idiot Grins. The members of Idiot Grins have been members of many popular East Bay Bands, including Naked Barbies, Grenvilles, Fatty Lovebuckle and Carbon Yard.
Although he admits that vocals are not part of his repertoire, Randy produced the album and co-wrote nine of the eleven songs. CDs are available through the firm, or the album can be downloaded here: