Signing with RCA on March 15, 1973 was much like most first sexual experiences- highly sought after by participants searching for their identity in something else and making what feels right at the time only to be seen later as hasty decisions- for Cleveland, Ohio psychedelic hard rock band, Granicus. And as holds true with most firsts, it was a rite of passage that left individuals with expectations unmet, a sense of loss and a lifetime memory that only those involved share. It is only music created with the giving of oneself in their entirety in a world complicated by politics and exploration that can allow for such an intimate band experience that allowed it’s three year tenure to have a disproportionate amount of impact on the lives of its members, Woody Leffel (vocals/lyricist), Joe Battaglia (drummer), Dale Bedford (bassist), Al Pinell (rhythm guitarist) and Wayne Anderson (lead guitarist).
Brought together by Battaglia, Granicus began under a general need by each member to develop an original melodic commentary of coming into adulthood in a Vietnam back-dropped America. They began practicing in the drummer’s home, and quickly moved to a jail-like warehouse adapted to create an environment conducive to composing songs with enough mood and “ass to it” that listeners would effuse with an energy that the members had long tried to channel through other means. According to Pinell, the scenario- music and warehouse- had all the makings of a “Turkish opium den” less the half-naked harem girls.
Determined to sign a record deal, the band moved to the Cedar House, a private residence in Grafton, New York, where they had the seclusion they sought, on a lot positioned next to a 200 year old cemetery. “When you walked out the rear door on a moonlit night, you had to stroll through a mist covered cemetery covering all but the tops of the tomb stones to take a walk around the lake,” remembers Leffel. The environment was the perfect illustration of the band’s sound- unique, raw yet comforting.
Both environments were, like everything, a deliberate choice by a band that treated their passion as a business. The men set their goal on getting a record deal within 17 months, and 14 months later led by manager at that time, George Freije, went to New York’s Mercer Arts Theater for a showcase in front of major label executives, including representatives from RCA and Columbia. In a room filled with individuals without faces (thanks to overly bright lighting that shielded those with the power to hire from the musicians seeking their approval) Granicus was provided an allotment of twenty minutes to showcase their talents. Running over their set time by ten minutes Granicus was met with a standing ovation. They would find out later that two labels were interested in signing the band, and with only Freije as guidance would choose RCA over Columbia for a one album contract. However, their interactions with Columbia did not end there.
Granicus would record their self-titled album, engineered by Gus Mosler and produced by Martin Last, in 10 days at RCA Record Studios. Working fast in recording was the band norm. Their demo had been recorded in only four days at the Record Plant.
Sent out on tour with a lack of funding from the label and not enough albums to meet demand Granicus relied on the assistance of loyal roadies, Gregg Ream and Billy Krall. It was during this time that Ream and Kral flipped a truck on the Pennsylvania turnpike destroying the vehicle, but left the men and equipment unharmed and punctual for the performance. On this tour while opening for Bob Seger at Detroit’s Michigan Palace, the band was greeted by thousands of fans singing the opening lines to their song,” Bad Talk”. “To hear thousands of people singing words you wrote, together, is by far the highest point in being a musician,” Leffel reminisces.
Like much of their experience, the band’s rush to this highest moment would be quickly followed by disappointment. RCA’s commitment to the band waned the same day the band signed. Sandy Pearlman and Murry Krugman, two major producers from Columbia records, surprised the band in a NYC hotel room offering them a multi-album contract with the label, but jaded management would deter all but Leffel from pursuing the opportunity. As Pearlman and Krugman developed Columbia’s new group, Blue Oyster Cult, Granicus found themselves without Leffel, who’s amazing voice has been compared to Robert Plant and (along with the band) hallmarked in books, Stairway to Hell and The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal.
The band returned to Cleveland; Bedford laid down his instrument in disgust. Pinell furthered his education while Battaglia would be joined up with Jesse Rae from Scotland, and John Waite, whom would later have notoriety when joining The Babies. After working with Rae and Waite Battaglia became disenchanted, hit rock bottom, and headed home from a stint in Boston. Leffel would be the only one to continue performing. The others would shelf music for at least 30 years.
In 2009, the band reunited with the discovery of a rerelease of their original album, and in possession of recordings that were never released and without vocals. Motivated by Ream, four of the five original members met and did what they had always done best, focus on business. Leffel, who still keeps journals of new lyrics, set to work to provide a commentary as relevant in the twenty-first century as it had been thirty-seven years ago, and went to the studio to record vocals. Thieves, Liars, & Traitors is a result of the past meeting the future, and was released in the fall of 2010 on an independent label. Next up was Granicus III version of the band which recorded 2016's Better Days...Currently rehearsing with a line-up consisting of original drummer Joe Battaglia, vocalist Gerry Schultz, guitarists Artie Cashin & hPr, and last but not least bassist Bobby Stephens.
Here we are in 2017, featuring original drummer and band leader Joe Battaglia on drums, Gerry Schultz on vocals, Artie Cashin and hPr on guitars, and last but not least, youngster Bobby Stephens on bass! Though the line-up may be new, the Granicus family still includes original bassist Dale Bedford original guitarist Al Pinell who still contribute material, and original singer Woody Leffel who will "guest" with the current line-up on occasion.