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Was Big Boy Groves another rap daddy?

Graveyard encounter unburies info on '50s-'60s songwriter

Ervin Groves Jr., aka Big Boy Groves
Ervin Groves Jr., aka Big Boy Groves

“Its rhyme and lyrical style has made collectors call it one of the first rap songs,” says archivist Andy Rasmussen of the song titled “Bucket O’ Blood.” Rasmussen will soon reissue the 1962 track recorded by onetime local Ervin Groves Jr.

Video:

"Bucket O' Blood," by Big Boy Groves

“Big Boy Groves” had a 1955 hit with “I Gotta New Car” on the Spark label, as well as singles such as “Big Boy’s Bounce,” “You Can’t Beat the Horses,” and others. In the ’60s, he had a hand in starting the Musette label and his own GME (Groves Music Enterprises) Records, with both firms based in his Logan Avenue home, where recording sessions took place.

Place

Mount Hope Cemetery

3751 Market Street, San Diego

With little information available, Rasmussen went to Mount Hope Cemetery in search of a gravestone for Groves, who died of leukemia in July 1982 at age 55. “So there I am, on my knees, pulling the grass and wiping away leaves and debris…next thing I know, a shadow peers over me and I hear a voice.

“‘So, do you know my family?’ I look up and see a lovely woman with a smile and soft-spoken voice, probably in her mid-50s. So I brush myself off and we begin to talk. I told her about my research and compilation, then she introduces herself to me as Ervin Groves Jr.’s daughter. ‘Oh, this is my grandfather, you’re probably interested in my father.’ So, she shows me where his site is across the lawn. Next thing I know, I’m looking down at his stone. ‘This is my daddy,’ she says. Then we begin to talk a bit more about her father and his musical career.”

The encounter with Groves's daughter (who preferred to not be named) resulted in landing “Bucket O’ Blood” for reissue. She also provided Rasmussen with other information on her father.

“When he had a hit with ‘Gotta New Car,’" said Rasmussen, "Spark Records actually bought him a new car. Ervin was also a painter by trade and did artwork, doing the logo for both GME and Musette, drawing the globe and the arrow.” Groves later sold the Musette label to three local doctors.

Groves’s songs were also recorded by Little Margie (“Another Ticket”) and fellow San Diegan Ervin Big Daddy Rucker, with whom Ervin Groves is sometimes mistaken, having also recorded on Groves’s local labels.

Another one of Groves’s daughters, Lani (sometimes billed as Lennie Groves), sang in Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove and can be heard singing the intro to 1972’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”

“Lani is now retired from singing," said Rasmussen. "She had a long career as a performer and session backup singer and returned to San Diego.”

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Ervin Groves Jr., aka Big Boy Groves
Ervin Groves Jr., aka Big Boy Groves

“Its rhyme and lyrical style has made collectors call it one of the first rap songs,” says archivist Andy Rasmussen of the song titled “Bucket O’ Blood.” Rasmussen will soon reissue the 1962 track recorded by onetime local Ervin Groves Jr.

Video:

"Bucket O' Blood," by Big Boy Groves

“Big Boy Groves” had a 1955 hit with “I Gotta New Car” on the Spark label, as well as singles such as “Big Boy’s Bounce,” “You Can’t Beat the Horses,” and others. In the ’60s, he had a hand in starting the Musette label and his own GME (Groves Music Enterprises) Records, with both firms based in his Logan Avenue home, where recording sessions took place.

Place

Mount Hope Cemetery

3751 Market Street, San Diego

With little information available, Rasmussen went to Mount Hope Cemetery in search of a gravestone for Groves, who died of leukemia in July 1982 at age 55. “So there I am, on my knees, pulling the grass and wiping away leaves and debris…next thing I know, a shadow peers over me and I hear a voice.

“‘So, do you know my family?’ I look up and see a lovely woman with a smile and soft-spoken voice, probably in her mid-50s. So I brush myself off and we begin to talk. I told her about my research and compilation, then she introduces herself to me as Ervin Groves Jr.’s daughter. ‘Oh, this is my grandfather, you’re probably interested in my father.’ So, she shows me where his site is across the lawn. Next thing I know, I’m looking down at his stone. ‘This is my daddy,’ she says. Then we begin to talk a bit more about her father and his musical career.”

The encounter with Groves's daughter (who preferred to not be named) resulted in landing “Bucket O’ Blood” for reissue. She also provided Rasmussen with other information on her father.

“When he had a hit with ‘Gotta New Car,’" said Rasmussen, "Spark Records actually bought him a new car. Ervin was also a painter by trade and did artwork, doing the logo for both GME and Musette, drawing the globe and the arrow.” Groves later sold the Musette label to three local doctors.

Groves’s songs were also recorded by Little Margie (“Another Ticket”) and fellow San Diegan Ervin Big Daddy Rucker, with whom Ervin Groves is sometimes mistaken, having also recorded on Groves’s local labels.

Another one of Groves’s daughters, Lani (sometimes billed as Lennie Groves), sang in Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove and can be heard singing the intro to 1972’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”

“Lani is now retired from singing," said Rasmussen. "She had a long career as a performer and session backup singer and returned to San Diego.”

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Info about Ervin "Big Boy" Groves on the web was scarce before Andy's graveyard encounter - thanks to materials from the Groves family archive that he photographed, the Reader's Local Music Database now has the most comprehensive and factual Groves bio ever compiled online, including multiple rare photos - https://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/big-boy-groves/

Aug. 16, 2017

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