THE DEVIL IN MR. GRISHAM

Ask anyone to describe legendary West Coast punk outfit T.S.O.L., and along with tales of larceny and a fast, "dark punk" sound with chorused-out guitars, they'll tell you those guys were huge: Drummer Todd Barnes was the shortest at 6 feet even; guitarist Ron Emory is 6-foot-2, and bassist Mike Roche towers at 6-foot-4. Singer Jack Grisham stands 6-foot-3.

Back then, T.S.O.L. caught a lot of flak for being too good-looking for a punk band. As the front man says now, he much preferred being a fit surfer/skater and "pulling prom queens."

Probably the best demonstration of what Grisham can do onstage happened on Jan. 8, 1983. At SIR Studios on LA's Sunset Boulevard, T.S.O.L. were headlining a show; fellow OC punks Social Distortion and Hawthorne's Redd Kross were also on the bill.

The riot squad was outside, as per usual with punk shows back then, and they weren't happy.

But Grisham wanted to make them work for it. And so, during his band's set, instead of ordering the crowd to throw bottles and engage in general chaos (as he normally would have), he told everyone to simply sit down. That way, he thought, the police would have to take the time to drag kids out of the place one by one.

 

"And it was, like, on key, 2,500 punks dropped to the floor," Grisham says. "That's a lot of power. There are guys in politics that'd love that kind of power, but I didn't dig it. After that, people kept screaming, 'Jack, tell us what to do!' There was a backlash. 'Jack was God.' And 'Jack was my hero.' And I didn't want anything to do with it."

Of course, the peaceful sit-in idea didn't work for long: With Grisham's battle cry—"Let's get 'em!"—the crowd ended up surging into the street, and then the bottle throwing and bodily injury started.

Just a few days after he'd incited what came to be known as the "Sunset Riots," Jack Grisham quit T.S.O.L.

What followed was a twisted path of drugs, violence, plenty of gratuitous sex (once with an 80-year-old woman), alcohol and a spiritual awakening. At the end of it all? A damn good book.