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Elwood H. Smith
Michigan George
posted:
George with Buckley and Zevon, David Letterman Show
© 2006 George Gruel

Hi! Green Monkey, here.

I want to talk about this guy I know, lives further up the Hudson River. Like Elwood, he's a Michigan boy. Ah, Michigan My Michigan, land of pine trees and wolverines. Home of the Michigan Militia, the gun-toting paramilitary organization. Google "Michigan Militia & check out Maggie Pickard's favorite song by the group Moxy Früvous. Michael Moore chats it up with the Militia in "Bowling For Columbine". But I'm getting off topic. I don't want to discuss gunslingers, Moxy or Elwood. I want to let you know about another Michigan boy, this one with REAL talent.

Does the name George Gruel ring a bell? Probably not, unless you spotted his name on Elwood's website or followed Warren Zevon's band between 1978 to '84. George was the road manager for Zevon. What does a road manager really do, I asked. George's answer:

"I made sure the whole 'circus' got to the correct city, on time and did the show. Then I'd collect the money load 'em all up and head to the next town. 2 buses and a 45' tractor-trailer rig with full lights and sound support. The drivers of those vehicles were some interesting characters. I was, in equal parts, friend, humorist, shrink, travel agent, booking agent, accountant and lover of rock-n-roll."
 
I'd work 2 to 3 days ahead, via the phone, checking with promoters and hotels making sure everything was in order. And all of this without cell phones. Looking back on it, it was a lot of work, but it was immensely rewarding and fun. I've experienced so much music right from the stage. Gee, why do my ears still ring?"

If George told me he'd carved Zevon's guitar picks from grizzly bear teeth, I'd believe him. Sadly, Warren Zevon died way too prematurely.

Here's a verse from Zevon's song, "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" (Stand in the Fire Version)
© Warren Zevon

I met a girl from the Vieux Carre`
Down in Yokahama
She picked me up and she'd throw me down
I said, "Where's George Gruel, my road manger and best friend"
"Come on out here George..."
Get up and dance
Get up and dance or I'll kill you and I got the means

Zevon Biography

But now, back to the George I know; George the photographer. The guy also makes technical drawings and draws wonderfully funny ones. He is a graphic designer and designs websites. He's a computer whiz and one hell of a storyteller. And (finally, we are getting to it) he is maybe one of my favorite photographers. Right up there at the top. He has the gift of capturing exactly the right moment, the perfect light, the conversion of elements to create perfect images. He mucks about with his pictures in Photoshop, but his touch is never gimmicky. George somehow adds or subtracts only that which hones a great shot into an outstanding one.

George recently returned from a Michigan sojourn with a passel of pics. They are, to my monkey mind, breathtaking. Each frame is perfect. Old, toothless barns, aflame with reds and oranges anchored to a field of billiard-green grass. Some, like his "WELCOME to RIGA" storefront, awash with chalky-blue cinderblocks and sea-foam green windows punctuated with a worn, orange door framing an old, yellow 7-up sign. I'm trying to describe these amazing pictures but it's hopeless. You've got to visit his site, OddStick and see 'em for yourself.

oddstick

I could spend days meditating on that pic with the two horses. If that is not a perfect composition and a perfect story, I'm a monkey's uncle. Want more? Okay, wander over here:

boxoflight

Two tasty websites George has designed:
Marshall Arisman
John Platania

And this site he designed for his wife, Jan, an internationally known lighting designer--with some more of George's fabulous photos:
Janet Lennox Moyer

Hey, time to hit the banana bread. Thanks for listening.

-Green Monkey
Box of Light doesn't seem to be available any longer. Here's another link to see George's great imagery:


George Gruel





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