Former inmate in Missouri now focuses on music | Charlotte Observer – Charlotte Observer

Steve Griggs spent 22 years in federal prisons.

His Steve Griggs Band is one of the introductory acts tonight for Jefferson City’s second “Inside the Walls” concert, featuring Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise as the headline entertainment.

The concert was part of the kickoff to this year’s Salute to America event that culminated with the “Red, White and Boom” fireworks display.

Griggs, 63, told the News Tribune (http://bit.ly/2sGmiJw ) that Texas has been his home since 1979, but “I lived in Missouri for quite a few years” and also “did a little stint in prison.”

He said his federal sentence on drug conspiracy charges was for “bringing drugs out of Mexico. I went to prison for making money with drugs.”

He still is on parole and can’t drink alcohol or use drugs, Griggs said, while acknowledging both can be present in the music business.

He’s open about that period of his life — and said music helped him focus on the future while he was in prison.

“I always loved music,” Griggs said. “I always wrote songs and sang them. I think of my music as being very close to Merle Haggard’s music — because we have some good two-step songs and some hard-driving songs.”

And some are biographical.

“One song that I wrote — ‘You’ll Never See Me Crying’ — was about when I talked to my daughter on the telephone when she was 11 years old,” Griggs said. “I couldn’t be there, but I talked to her on the phone.

“It’s a real slow song. It’s a real sad song.”

While his father was serving in World War II, “he bought an old Martin guitar and brought it home,” Griggs said.

In the mid-1960s, when Griggs was 11, he “picked it up and started playing it.”

Most Sunday afternoons were spent with family and friends, visiting, enjoying dinner, and “sitting around and playing.”

That led to his being “in the music business in my younger years, and then I got married,” Griggs recalled during a telephone interview, “and I went into the furniture business (and) just tried to be more settled down, you know.”

Working first with his father, Griggs said, he eventually owned and operated five furniture stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

However, the businesses and his family “went (away) along with the prison sentence.”

During his prison years, he was able to play guitar in some places — but in others, instruments were forbidden.

“A lot of guys make the mistake of just sitting in there,” Griggs recalled. “I started studying law, and took a correspondence course from Arizona to get my law degree. And I kept playing and singing songs and writing songs, and kept myself busy.”

His adult son is an attorney in Dallas. His daughter is a publicist in Austin, Texas.

“They have completely separate careers,” Griggs said. “Of course, they both help me and give me advice.”

He’s not a grandfather yet, but looks forward to a time when he can share his love of music with the next generation.

“My daughter plays violin and piano,” he said. “My son never played any music — except turning on the radio.”

Griggs began working as a paralegal after he left the federal prison system in March 2014.

However, music kept calling.

“There are some down sides to it,” he said of his renewed career, “just the traveling itself. And you’re away from home. But, for me, it probably has an allure — because I sat inside those walls for 22 years.”

When he did travel, it was inside a prison bus, and he was shackled.

“So now, to be able to travel this great country of ours and meet some great folks out here is, really great for me,” Griggs said. “To be able to drive down the road with the window open and feel the wind in my face is really something.”

Coming out of prison after two decades meant a lot of adjustments, he said — including learning how to use computers and smartphones that barely existed when he went into prison.

His concerts include some talking — and lots of music — about his experiences.

“One of the biggest differences is between the people who are inside (prison) and the people who are outside,” he told the News Tribune. “It’s a completely different society.”

He wants people today to know he’s “a man of my word,” and “not really that crazy person the media made me out to be” during his federal trial before he went to prison.

Today, Griggs said, “I’m a good person (and) a good father — and I do what I’m supposed to do.”

Including playing a lot of music.

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com

An AP Member Exchange shared by the News Tribune.

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