When I came across Grit and Roses, I couldn't stop drifting from one story to the next, and then before I knew it, I was finished, and I realized that Eugene’s book deserved a wider audience.
Here were stories that transcended the basic framework of a journeyman musician, & explored larger human issues: desire, aimlessness, regret, hope, determination, and more. And it wasn’t just the stories themselves; it was how they were told. Eugene has a certain cadence, a swagger in his prose that suits a musician’s experiences.
When I finally sat down with Eugene to discuss publishing his book, I learned the remarkable origin of this collection:
“Grit and Roses would never have been written if I hadn't had a chance conversation with a neighbor. I was down in the garage of the building I manage, scrubbing oil stains out of parking stalls on a frigid spring morning. My neighbor approached and asked me how I was doing. I told her my life was one bad day after another. She asked me if I had ever considered writing, that sometimes it could be therapeutic. She said that she was a retired English teacher and would help me if I wanted to learn. I'd never thought about writing, wasn't interested in it, but I was desperate for mental stimulation, so I decided to give it a try.
Both of us were surprised that I had a hidden talent.
With her sharp mind guiding me, four years later, at the age of sixty, I had written three dozen fictional pieces using my life experiences as a template.”
Almost all the stories discuss music-- a memory of a song, or a tune played on tour. During further talks with Eugene, I learned about his deep and broad musical inspirations and knowledge, and wanted to see if we could create a playlist that would give readers a sense of the scope of Grit and Roses.
So, here it is: GRIT AND ROSES: A PLAYLIST
- Ravel's "Bolero"
- Miles Davis, "Nefertiti"
- Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine"
- Sam Rivers, "Suite For Molde, Part One"
- Ruggero Leoncavallo "Vesti la guibba" from the opera Pagliacci
- Waylon Jennings, "Good Hearted Woman"
- Ella Fitzgerald "Someone To Watch Over Me"
- Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York"
- Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, "Salt Peanuts"
- Antonio Sanchez, "Strut, Part I" and "Doors and Distance" from the Birdman soundtrack
- Keith Jarrett, "Meaning of the Blues - I"
- Bob Seger, "Old Time Rock and Roll"
- Willie Nelson, "Whiskey River"
- Bill Evans Trio "Gloria's Step (Take 2)"
- Tony Bennett, "San Francisco"
Eugene M. Babb Reads at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, on JULY 29th at 7p.m.