THE $1 MILLION SAGA OF MICHAEL GRIMM
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIND SUCCESS ON NATIONAL TV, WIN $1 MILLION AND HATE THE FAME THAT COMES WITH IT?
Michael Grimm is going back to Louisiana, in a lyrical sense, and the singer is baying out the words: “Well it’s three o’clock in the mornin’, ya’ll! Oh, and I’m bidin’ my time! Give me two more, Mr. Waiter! You know I got a whole lot on my mind!” The song is an old Delbert McClinton tune. The audience, which paid a five-spot apiece to see this 90-minute R&B revival, is drinking it up. Heads nod in approval, and most in the seated crowd bounce slightly in their seats. A dozen or so get up to groove near the stage, as if dancing to a vintage Wurlitzer whose volume is jacked up as high as she’ll go.
The venue is Ovation at Green Valley Ranch, which takes on the vibe of a big ol’ tavern, with Grimm and his crew serving as the house band. He fits the role ideally, wearing a familiar fedora, jeans and charcoal-colored vest over an untucked white dress shirt. Grimm’s hands dance easily across the strings of his Gibson electric, an instrument he learned to play at age 12. He closes his eyes when he sings, and ducks his head so the brim of his hat halfway shades his face. There is a warmth and a vague sense of familiarity about Grimm as he belts out, “I’m goin’ back to Louisiana! To that girl I left behind!”
He’s good, damn good. And you almost want to say, “This guy should be playing somewhere bigger than this.” But Michael Grimm has been somewhere bigger than this. Way bigger. He’s done the whole gig, and he’ll tell you that the size of the venue, the measure of fame and even the $1 million prize don’t mean squat if you were happier playing in the tavern.
So tonight Grimm is goin’ back, maybe not actually to Louisiana, but to the scene he left behind.
Set it to music.
This is how it turns out: A man who wowed millions while winning America’s Got Talentin 2010 is back playing for a couple hundred fans in the same venues he frequented before even auditioning for the far-reaching TV show. He allows that he’s not built for the type of intense fame—much of it totally unrelated to his music—that winning AGTpresented. In a way, this outcome was always Grimm’s destiny.
“I was just tired, worn out,” Grimm says of winning AGT. “I was doing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Today show, and I didn’t feel good rubbing elbows with a bunch of people I don’t know. The whole time, I had a horrible time. The only time I had a good time was when I was singing.”