(Jan. 1, 1918-June 12, 1991). Erroll Grandy was a Jazz pianist affectionately nicknamed the “godfather of Indianapolis jazz” in deference to his influence on the city’s jazz scene from the 1940s to the 1960s. Born Lucas Erroll Grandy near Norfolk, Virginia, he began playing hymns on the piano at age three and later starred in his own local radio show. He moved to Indianapolis in 1936 when his father, Thomas Leroy Grandy, became pastor at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1940.

Jazz pianist Erroll Grandy, saxophonist Jimmy Coe, bassist Kent Brinkley, and drummer Larry Clark play at the Alpha Home, 1984 Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Though afflicted by chronic eye disease, Grandy earned a B.A. in music from Jordan Conservatory (Jordan College of the Arts) in 1944, working his way through college by playing for $15 a night (about $75 in 2020) at the Boulevard Kitchen at 21st Street and Boulevard Place.

After a brief tour with the Jimmy Coe Band, he settled into the Indianapolis club circuit backing visiting musicians such as Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, and Count Basie, and serving as a mentor to aspiring local players Wes Montgomery, Pookie Johnson, Flo Garvin, Leroy Vinegar, J. J. Johnson, and Freddie Hubbard.

Grandy’s musical contributions were recognized by a mayoral proclamation of Erroll Grandy Day on May 6, 1984, highlighted by a marathon benefit concert featuring 14 leading Indianapolis jazz groups. He continued to perform regularly until moving to the Alpha Home in 1986, where he died.

Revised February 2021

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