Greene Publishing, Inc.
There’s a story behind every song Danny Graves sings, true to the singer-songwriter-storyteller tradition of old. Graves, who has lived in Madison for the past five years with his wife Marianne, grew up on the edge of Jacksonville, right where the urban landscape begins to fade out and give way to the wild marshes and wetlands of coastal Northeast Florida. As a child, he attended Pleasant Park Baptist Church near Fernandina Beach. It was there, he recalls, that he accepted Christ.
Around that same time, maybe about 1970-ish, his father gave him a guitar for Christmas. Soon he was playing in a little garage band with a group of four, and he has been making music ever since, whether on guitar, mandolin, drums or keyboard. Currently, he plays lead guitar for the Madison Church of God.
At the 55 Plus Club, he performed several original compositions on the guitar and mandolin, beginning with the first song he ever wrote, at age 16.
The song came about when he made a road trip to the North Carolina mountains with a friend to visit an older brother stationed at an Army base. He tells the amusing story of how his brother loaned them some Army camping gear, smuggling it out the back gate, because the two boys hadn’t thought to bring any. They were terrified of getting caught but they made it through the trip without incident.
It was while camping out on that North Carolina mountainside, that Graves awoke one morning to a glorious sunrise that touched a musical chord in his soul. “Such a Beautiful Life” resulted, telling the story of walking in the beauty of the light of the Son.
That was at age 16. Recently, he became a grandfather, and two weeks ago, he wrote “Grandfather,” a ballad dedicated to his little granddaughter, Katie, and to his own daughter, who is now a mother. How fast time flies, the lyrics sing, when kids grow up. Not so long ago, he held his own daughter in his arms, and now she holds a child of her own. Perhaps now, this second time around, time will go a little slower as he watches little Katie grow up, recalling memories of his own daughter.
Yes, time races past when kids grow up, a theme that resonates with many, as shown by the nods of understanding in the audience. The 16 year-old boy, who once stood on a mountainside, filled with joy at the sight of a sunrise, now sings of the joy that a little granddaughter brings.
“Answer To My Prayers” is dedicated to his wife, Marianne, a song of thanksgiving to God for bringing her into his life. He wrote it for their wedding, some 20 years ago.
“Sounds Like Love” is a song that came to him when he realized that music was as much about sound as it was about painting pictures with words. Thinking of the sound of lapping waves on the shore of Galilee, the sounds of a carpenter’s hammer, the sound of another hammer pounding nails into a cross, he wrote about all the sounds that had come to sound like God’s love.
Switching instruments, he brought out the mandolin, something that he had only recently learned to play. He had been thinking about learning to play the mandolin for several weeks, but he didn’t have one. Then, out of the blue, one of his brothers whom he rarely hears from, called and asked if he had ever considered learning to play the mandolin, asked for his address, and hung up. A few days later, a package arrived in the mail – inside was a beautiful brand-new mandolin.
He played his next selection on the mandolin, a song he dedicated to his father, Arthur Graves, who was part Cherokee from Troy, Ala. Having realized that many of his relatives on his father’s side of the family had the dark hair and the high cheekbones like his father, he asked about it. His father told him the story of his Native American heritage and the song, “You Are Cherokee” came from that conversation, a song dedicated to his father, a song about pride in one’s heritage and the love of one’s family. “We are Cherokee…we are few, like the buffalo….”
Closing his program, he tells the story of being employed as a sign painter in Gainesville, painting all those “Gator Country” signs for the University of Florida. One beautiful sunny morning, he was re-lettering all the signs in the football stadium in preparation for the Gator football season, when suddenly, the police showed up and made everybody leave. Not knowing what was going on, he picked up his paintbrushes and left.
It was Sept. 11, 2001.
Out of that, came “American Soil.”
“American soil…American land…the place where I was born, thank God, I’m American.”
All around the room, it was obvious that he had several fans among the crowd, people who had heard him sing before and knew the lyrics, silently mouthing the words along with him.
“American soil…American land…thank God, I’m American.”