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John "Papa" Gros

Musicians / Band

MUSIC GENRE:
Music Note
  • Blues
  • Funk
  • R&B
  • Rock
INSTRUMENTS:
Trumpet
  • Piano
  • Vocal

John “Papa” Gros (pronounced Grow) is a pianist, organist, vocalist, and composer who combines the best of New Orleans’ piano professor traditions with contemporary funk, rock, and blues to create his own distinctive and dynamic sound. He is an established solo artist and in-demand sideman, and was the well-known leader of the popular group, Papa Grows Funk, which disbanded in 2013.

Born in New Orleans in 1966, his family moved to Baton Rouge when he was four, but returned often to New Orleans to visit his grandparents and soak up the culture. Gros began playing both piano and French horn at the age of eleven. In 1984 he enrolled in Loyola University of New Orleans, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French horn performance. His extra-curricular education included a deep dive into his hometown’s funk, rhythm and blues, jazz, and Mardi Gras piano styles. 

Gros’s career as a sideman launched when he joined former Meter and future Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner George Porter, Jr. and his Runnin’ Pardners, a slot he held until 2002. Through his relationship with Porter, Gros was able to perform with Snooks Eaglin, Earl King, Johnny Adams, Irma Thomas, Eddie Bo, and Art Neville.

In 2000, Gros stepped into the bandleader role with his own group, Papa Grows Funk, along with monster guitarist June Yamagishi, saxman Jason Mingledorff, drummer Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, and bassist Marc Pero. The band, which featured slinky, funky Crescent City grooves, toured worldwide while holding down an epic Monday night slot at the Maple Leaf bar in Uptown New Orleans for twelve years. Papa Grows Funk released six albums, including the 2012 “Needle in the Groove,” produced by his mentor, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint.

In 2013, Papa Grows Funk ended their 13-year run, and Gros returned to his role as a sideman, solo artist, and leader of a smaller band. He’s been the go-to keyboardist for Little Feat, Better Than Ezra, The Neville Brothers, The funky Meters, Bonerama, and Anders Osborne, among others. He’s also been part of several collaborative projects, including the post-Radiators all-star group, Raw Oyster Cult. He has performed on the television series Treme, NCIS New Orleans, and C.L.A.W.S.

Currently, John dedicates his musical life as a songwriting, recording and touring solo artist. He tours throughout the year, and can be heard in clubs and festivals from Frenchmen Street to Japan. His most recent album, “Crescent City,” released at the beginning of the pandemic, includes the stellar tribute to mentor Huey “Piano” Smith, “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” His award-winning 2004 debut album, “Day’s End” and his 2016 follow-up, “River’s On Fire” were both critical successes, and were recorded with a first string of New Orleans talent: Tommy Malone, Russ Broussard, Brian Stoltz, Mike Dillon, Eric Vogel, Susan Cowsill, Erica Falls, Jelly Joseph (Tank and the Bangas), Reggie Scanlan, and Kenneth Blevins, among others. His 2020 single, “Mardi Gras,” celebrates his native city’s most exuberant season.

Gros has racked up a list of awards and honors, including the Best of the Beat’s Best Keyboardist award. He is a regular performer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and at WWOZ’s Piano Night.

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