Combining blues and hip-hop into what he termed “ragmop,” G. Love rose from the streets of Philadelphia into the American music scene in 1994. At the beginning of his career, he fused his vocal and guitar talents with his band Special Sauce—acoustic bass player Jimmy “Jazz” Prescott and drummer Jeffrey Clemens. As G. Love and Special Sauce, they released such popular singles as “Cold Beverage” and “Baby’s Got Sauce.” Love went on to work with other bands, as well as playing and recording with Special Sauce. His good looks, smooth vocal delivery, and unfailing dedication to touring provided a steady climb to notoriety. Kevin Klein described Love’s persona in Weekly Alibi as “the Elvis Presley of hip hop: part [blues singer] John Lee Hooker and part [actor] Christian Slater.”
Born Garrett Dutton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his father, L. Garrett Dutton, Jr., was a banking lawyer, while his mother, Mike Dutton, worked as a professional cook. The Duttons exposed their son to music early, and took him to see the Blues Brothers when he was just eight years old. That same year, he began learning to play the guitar. Garrett Dutton went to school at Germantown Friends, a private school in Philadelphia—uncommon roots for a blues/hip-hop singer. His parents supported his interest in music and prepared him for its challenges throughout his life. “He’s a very strong individual,” his father told Tom Moon in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’ve seen him deal with the Sony [Music] people, the business people, and he’s not intimidated by any of it. He was always a strong, independent, self-willed kid. We encouraged that.”
When he was a teenager, Dutton met Waco Smith, who played the blues on the streets of Philadelphia. Smith introduced Dutton to the music of blues artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Slim Harpo, John Hammond, and Muddy Waters. In the meantime, his friends at school were listening to groups rap like Run-DMC. Inspired by the music, Garrett Dutton taught himself how to play the blues on guitar and exhibited his growing aptitude in his school’s talent shows. At the age of 16, Dutton split his time between his two main interests, basketball and music. He practiced and performed his music on the streets. When people began to throw money into his guitar case, he was inspired to focus on music even more, but he wasn’t quite ready to name it as his future. After he graduated from high school, Dutton went to Skidmore College in upstate New York with a plan to study either English or anthropology. After one semester, he came to the conclusion that he did indeed want to pursue a career in music.
Dutton moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and became known as G. Love in 1992. He played for passersby on the street and at open-mike nights in clubs. In January of 1993, Love met drummer Jeffrey Clemens when he was performing at a bar called The Tarn. The two began working together and set out to find a bass player to join them. After several auditions, they settled on Jimmy Prescott. The trio became Love and Special Sauce, and began performing and recording together. “When I left Philadelphia… to go to Boston and figure out the ways of the world and try to make the best music I knew how…. That’s all I wanted to do,” Love told Jason Birke in the Daily Pennsylvanian. “Just keep on learning and growing through the music.”
In 1994, Love had the opportunity to get his next lesson in the music business. He signed a long-term recording contract with Epic/OKeh Records. Michael Caplan, the record company executive who signed him, told him that the best way to expand his audience was to perform constantly. His advice not only improved Love’s exposure, but his music as well. “I wasn’t really all together when we started,” Love told Moon. “I just loved it so much. It took playing every night, and trying things out in a bunch of situations for me to get decent.”
Not long after the ink was dry on the record contract, G. Love and Special Sauce released their self-titled debut.
For the Record…
Born Garrett Dutton on October 3, 1972, in Philadelphia, PA; son of L. Garrett Dutton, Jr. and Mike (mother). Education: attended Skidmore College in New York.
Formed G. Love and Special Sauce in 1993; members include: Jeffrey Clemens, drums, and Jimmy “Jazz” Prescott, bass. Signed recording contract with Epic/OKeh Records and released self-titled debut, 1994; released Coast to Coast, Epic/Okeh, 1995;Yeah, It’s That Easy, Epic/Okeh, 1997, recorded and performed; with various other bands, including the Philly Cartel, the New Orleans’ Kings Court, and the All Fellas Band, 1996-97.
Addresses: Record company —Epic Records, P.O. Box 4450, New York, NY 10101-4450.
Rather than spend the money and time immersed in the studio, they recorded the entire album live at Studio 4 in Philadelphia. As Moon wrote in Rolling Stone, “Reinventing the blues, G. Love arrives with a message that’s far more eloquent—and bone-chillingly funky—than anything the gangstas have said in ages.” Soon, the trio had two noteworthy singles, “Baby’s Got Sauce” and “Cold Beverage.” The latter song gained the group some popularity through a video on MTV. Overall, the album achieved most of its sales through G. Love and Special Sauce’s incessant touring. In 1995, they landed a spot on the first H.O.R.D.E. tour with artists such as Dave Matthews, Rusted Root, Joan Osbourne, and Blues Traveler.
Later that same year, G. Love and Special Sauce released their next album, Coast to Coast Motel. This time, the band traveled to New Orleans to record the album. The city’s blues and jazz influence was apparent throughout the record. “Being around good music like that makes you wanna play it,” Love told Birke. “If we hadn’t been in New Orleans, we probably would not have recorded half the songs on that album.”
With two records in the stores, Love received some criticism for his blues style without the experience of its heritage and culture. Love responded to the criticism in a interview with Elysa Gardner in Rolling Stone, “Blues is just a feel of what’s going on, whether you’re an old black man in Mississippi or a white kid in Philly. I can only write about what I see and feel.”
The next two years brought Love both challenges and musical growth. He began playing with other bands, including the Philly Cartel, the New Orleans’ Kings Court, and the All Fellas Band. The members of Special Sauce, Jimmy Prescott and Jeffrey Clemens, had issues with Love’s new associations along with the division of the band’s finances. The strife resulted in a split between G. Love and Special Sauce. Love looked at the struggle like all the challenges in his life and career-“just surf it.” He explained his philosophy to Moon in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “When the waves get rough, I try to think like a surfer. You just ride through the stuff. You fall off; you get back on your board quickly. There are bumps. The key is how you ride them.” Love’s theory worked out well for him in his relationship with Special Sauce. His next album, Yeah, It’s That Easy, included tunes with the other bands he worked with, as well as some with Special Sauce. The album also featured a guest appearance by blues pianist Dr. John. “He made the record he wanted to make,” Clemens said to Moon. “We were there for him, and that’s all we can do. We’re hoping to have more input when we go into the studio next time.”
Love’s outlook on the situation with Special Sauce remained positive. “It wasn’t so much turmoil over the past year,” Love told Klein. “It’s more that I was experimenting with different kinds of bands. I think that it’s real important to play with different people so you can keep your music and ideas fresh. This [Special Sauce] is the first band I ever played with.”
The results of the experiment worked out well for Love. The album’s first single, “Stepping Stones” reached the Top 50 on Billboards Modern Rock chart. The second single, “I-76,” soon followed. The song expressed Love’s perceptions of Philadelphia’s Interstate highway 76, its side streets, and its basketball team. In an unusual career move, Love filmed the entire video for the song during half-time at a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game. Yeah, It’s That Easy also contained another significant song to the city of Philadelphia-“Slipped Away (The Ballad of Luretha Vard).” This track was a tribute to the first female Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty. She was shot during an armed bank robbery in 1996 by rappers named Steady B and Cool C “It was so sad,” G. Love recalled in an interview to Birke. “We just wanted to put something down so that she would always be remembered.”
By the end of 1997, Love had set a strong foundation for his career. He had released three albums and formed a record label with his manager, Jonathan Block, Philadelphonic Records, to give exposure to local talent. In October of that year, G. Love and Special Sauce had sold over 250,000 records in the U.S., and continued to sell an average of 1, 000 more copies every week. And they accomplished all that with very little support from radio airplay or video exposure. Love assessed his career in his record company bio. “Technically, anybody can play the blues,” he said. “You just learn the three chords. But if you get way inside our music, it rings true like no other music… I can’t say I’ve lived the blues, and I’m not trying to be a homeboy by rapping—but I do love the music.”
G. Love & Special Sauce, Epic/OKeh Records, 1994.
Coast To Coast Motel, Epic/OKeh Records, 1995.
Yeah, It’s That Easy, Epic/OKeh Records, 1997.
Billboard, January 21, 1995; September 27, 1997.
Entertainment Weekly, September 22, 1995; November 7, 1997.
Guitar Player, August 1994.
Rolling Stone, June 16, 1994; October 19, 1995; November 27, 1997.
http://www.mtv.com, (September 18, 1998).
http://www.epiccenter.com, (September 18, 1998).
weeklywire.com (September 18, 1998).
http://users.ids.net/~kiselka/g-love, (September 18, 1998).
http://www.dailypennsylvanian.com, (September 18, 1998).
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Epic Records press materials, 1997.
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