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Groove Matter | It's More About Leaving The Listener Better Off Than When We Have Found Them

My name is Leman King. The youngest of twelve children and son of Neil and Marlene King. I come from the humble beginnings of an old mill hill house, and continue to dwell there, fairly happily. I spent four of my teenage years living on the streets going between South Carolina and Virginia. I have been a musician all of my life.

Whether sitting on a milk crate playing on coffee cans at four years old while my father drank beer and played songs like Sweet Georgia Brown or Amazing Grace on an old upright piano. Usually that happened when he came in off the road. Or playing in hole in the wall pubs where your shoes stick to the carpeted floor, or playing on a 40 foot stage at an upscale listening room or outdoor music festival.

I feel at home with an instrument in my hands. Like all musicians I suspect, my love of music started at a really young age.

While the bug bit me at a very tender age, my life was not suited for it. Coming up in the 70s and 80s as a kid from the mill hill didn't bode well for extra money to be spent on instruments, and what instruments were around, "little kids can't touch." Not to mention a three bedroom mill house with anywhere from 6 to 14 people living in it, doesn't leave much room for a drum set or large instruments. The one thing that you didn't have to be middle class for? Dancing. I could go to things like Fall For Greenville, or Bele Chere Festival in Asheville and just dance on the street and I got pretty good at it. I loved the way it made me feel. Free.

It wasn't until later in life that I would be in a position to be able to afford instruments. My ability to have instruments came and went like the tides. It wasn't until the birth of my son that I was serious enough about life to have a steady home where I could keep them, and even then, my life was tumultuous to say the least. I was great at starting things, but less than stellar at keeping them going, so long relationships weren't my forte, but I got REALLY good at starting them.

In 1995 I was diagnosed with Burgers Disease. I battled it for many years. A vascular disease, it was basically an allergic reaction to nicotine. I blame my own self for how things went with that. I ended up with both my legs lost below the knees. Smoking is a terrible addiction, it was the hardest thing I ever had to overcome. Being a child from where I came from, addiction was a part of my DNA, and it started very early.

I used to walk into the music stores around Greenville and just stare wide eyed at the beauty. Pianos, guitars, drum sets, they all had my name on them. I wanted so badly to just sit down and make music, but whats a mill hill punk kid got to offer? Sometimes, I'd rummage through Ty's old place on Rutherford Rd and just get lost in there, dreaming about being on stage. Other times I'd get run off because I picked up something, the people in the stores would take one look at me and know that I didn't have money. The first person who ever

treated me like it didn't matter was Aaron. He worked at Parker Music. He was the coolest guy I ever met, and he made me feel truly like I belonged.

Leman King

Occasionally, I'd trek over there, risking getting my ass whipped because I wasn't supposed to go that far, and we'd spend an hour just talking. He was the greatest drummer in the world, or so I thought at the time, and always took the time to speak to me. He always took a general interest in me, and even though I didn't know anything, he made me feel like an equal when he spoke to me. A local legend Freddie Wooten was the next major impact on me. When I met him he owned and operated a custom drum shop. I spoke to him about how to play drums with half of a foot, as at that time, I had gotten all my toes cut off. He seemed eager to offer ideas of pedal design to aid me, but I didn't end up doing them, I just started playing with a regular pedal.

It was around 2001 I found myself buying a cheap acoustic guitar and beginning to explore writing. The first things that came out? Bitterness. I wrote things, I wouldn't really call them songs, they were attempts at songs, but I wrote them as a way to clean out my mind. I wrote these things to purge. I needed to get all the anger, sadness, and grief out. At this time, I had a two year old son, and the dreams of Madison Square Garden were distant memories. I just needed to get these cancerous thoughts out. I began writing about lost love, family matters, and all the darkness I had endured. It was freeing, and while those things will never see the light of day, they were things I felt I had to get out of the way so that I could continue living, so I opened like a flood gate and they poured out. After 5 surgeries on my legs, I ended up in 2005 having my left leg taken off below the knee, after already having my right done.

This was the hardest one to deal with. I was very bitter and filled with self loathing, because I knew there was no one to blame but myself. I just was not strong enough to overcome my addiction to cigarettes. So many times I would quit, only to be sucked right back in, so it plagued my mind.

It was around this time that I had my first attempt at starting my own band. I had played in a few bands before this, but they weren't really headed where I wanted to go musically.This time it was me and one other guy. He listened to some things I wrote and told me he liked it and off we went. We never played this material anywhere nor recorded any of it, but it was a lot of fun. At this point my biggest influence was Alice In Chains. The harmonies and darker tones just spoke to me. Mind you, while other guys my age were listening to things ranging from Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers, to Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, and Poison, I was listening to Zapp, Sugar Hill Gang, Rob Base, LL Cool J, RUN DMC and the like because I was a dancer. So my first "rock" experience came out of the 90s, with the exception of the mashup of RUN DMC and Aerosmith on Walk This Way, which everyone I knew hated because, "Come on! it's a rap group!! They don't belong with Aerosmith!!" Personally, I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever heard! It paved the way for bands like Rage Against The Machine, which in my opinion is one of the best bands ever.

Due to my experience with dancing, I always dug into things that generated movement. I liked things that had really good groove that you could dance to. So when I pick up a guitar, I tend to tinker with riffs that are based in that mindset. My playing tends to be percussive because of my love of playing the drum set, so it naturally comes out with a certain groove.

Around 2005 a couple guys, Steve Tucker who was in Phydeaux in the 80s and 90s I believe, and Kenny Lawrence started a band with me called Ten Grand Leg. It was a mesh of raucous Rock and Roll, Funk, and Blues. We played anywhere and everywhere and I loved every single minute of it. It's where I cut my teeth. Steve was the person who actually taught me how to tune a guitar. I had an general idea, but not the correct knowledge. I would tune each string to the next so technically it was in tune, but not in the standard E key. We had a really fun time in that band. Kenny and I also ended up playing in a couple of bands later, Fall Of An Empire and Dang chAng Experience. F.O.A.E. was a heavier project while D.C.E. was a house cover band for The NuWay in Spartanburg.

Today I play with a couple fantastic guys in a group called Groove Matter. Cory Jobes a local guitarist, and Zach Gray on bass who graduated from Furman for upright double bass. Zach plays occasionally for the Furman Orchestra as well as the Hendersonville Orchestra. Cory and I met during my tenure at Dang chAng Experience and we jammed a lot at the open mic that DCE hosted at The Nuway. Zach and I met through a chance blues gig backing one of the best musicians I have ever played with, Stefan Freeman. Stefan was in Boston at Berklee for classical flute but had came home to Spartanburg for a short stay and decided to pull some blues gigs.

He and Zach had worked together at Music & Arts in Spartanburg so he pulled Zach aboard, and somehow when looking for a drummer, my name ended up in the hat.

We played one gig under the name Freeman Blues Band and the chemistry was beautiful. Eventually Stefan went back to Boston and I had a talk with Zach and told him that I really enjoyed playing music with him and would he be interested in an original thing, to which he said absolutely and we began what would become Groove Matter.

Originally, it began as a two piece. Drums and bass. We discussed adding a guitar player, and when we did, Cory came right to mind. So I called him and asked if he'd like to come join us and he did. Groove Matter became a three piece band. All three of us have the ability to sing so three part harmonies are a common occurrence.

So the band has become a sort of second incarnation of TGL, though I think my song writing abilities have matured a little. Generally I bring an idea to the table and Cory breathes life into it and Zach arranges it. Once that's done, we have a new song. We released our first studio project in February of 2018. It's called Groove Matter Vol. 1 and we're really proud of it.

I look forward to a lot of good music from this band. I find myself trying to write more positive things, which shines through particularly in one of our songs called Good Day, because I feel really good playing with these guys.

The drive has now become less about purging the things I want to rid myself of, and more about leaving the listener better off than we have found them. When we step off the stage the goal is to have someone step, smile, and tell us that we had a positive impact on their mood. If you can change someones mood by something you create, you can change their life.

If you can change someones life by something you create, then to me, that's the very definition of a success.

Isn't that what we all hope for?


YOUTUBE: Groove Matter

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