The Pontoon Pickers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Bluegrass band Grassinine is on a roll. Recent gigs have included Comfest and WaterFire, plus such watering holes as Byrne's Pub, Grandview Café and the legendary Mickey's Bar--where, frontman Tom Krouse notes, enthusiastic fans drained the bar of all its beer.

Still, most Grassininers won't likely be quitting their day jobs any time soon. Krouse, CEO of Donatos, shares vocals and guitar duties with the pizza chain's business development director, Jamie Davis. Mandolin player Lee Bass is of counsel at Chester Willcox & Saxbe. Banjo player Ron Ross is executive director of the Ohio Board of Psychology.

Terry Davis (Jamie's father), former chief pediatric heart surgeon at Nationwide Children's Hospital, plays "gut bucket," aka washtub bass. Backup vocalists and percussionists are Christina Grote, wife of Donatos founder Jim Grote, and Kirk Horn, Ohio general manager of tech company Netarx. Only fiddler Matt Opachick, the band's newest member, and, at 24, its youngest, makes music his full-time job.

Grassinine was born of neighborhood cookouts and a memorable trip down the Scioto River in the elder Davis's pontoon boat. "We thought it would be fun to play some bluegrass on the boat," says Krouse. When they reached the Grotes' home, "He and his wife, Christina, came down to the dock, and here comes ‘ner, ner, ner,' " Krouse says, imitating a banjo's twang. With the Grotes on board, the next stop was the home of Donatos attorney Chuck Kegler, director at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter: "We ended up having a little party on his deck."

"We don't take ourselves too seriously," says Krouse. "We just call ourselves ‘Central Ohio's Premier Mountain Rock Show,' which neither says anything about bluegrass or music. ... We like to say, ‘We set the bar low, but the bar tab high.' "

Grassinine plays a mix of originals, traditional bluegrass instrumentals and bluegrass-inflected covers of songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, REO Speedwagon, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. Next gig: Nov. 25 at Byrne's Pub, 1248 W. Third Ave.

Reprinted from the December 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.