Steve Grossman plays a banjo signed by former co-workers at UPS.
Steve Grossman plays a banjo signed by former co-workers at UPS.

The rabbi played lead guitar.

His backup band featured a lawyer on keyboards, a radio disc jockey on bass and Steve Grossman’s 21-year-old son, a college senior, on drums. The band, called As Of Yet, had come together for the return to the stage of Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Buckhead. Rosenthal, a former session guitarist who grew up in California, said from the stage that he hadn’t played with a band in eight years.

While the group performed songs by Stevie Wonder, Freddy King and Al Green, Grossman greeted friends in the crowd and delivered food and drinks to the customers filling his tables. His wife, Heleen, worked the door. It was a busy night at Steve’s Live Music, the new music venue Grossman opened recently in downtown Sandy Springs, at 234 Hilderbrand Drive.

Rosenthal had told his congregation he would break out his electric guitar for a show on blues night at the new club. A crowd of almost 60 curious customers turned out to hear him. “Everyone so far is from the congregation,” Grossman said, looking around as the tables filled. “When the rabbi announced he was playing, people came.”

That was fine with Grossman. Anything that brought together music and people to hear it suited him. That was what he says Steve’s Live Music is about. He’d spent months converting a former barbecue restaurant into a place where people could hear music.

At age 56, he’d changed careers once again, this time retiring from a corporate finance job to open a 120-seat club where he planned to present styles of music that usually can’t be counted on to fill nightclubs. He modeled his place on Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, a “listening room” where the performers are supposed to be the center of attention. That’s the kind of perfromance space Grossman wanted, too. “It’s still my dream,” he said.

His friend Andy Zangwill, a Georgia Tech professor, was among the first to claim a table to hear As Of Yet. Zangwill said he got to know Grossman because the two taught classes at the synagogue. “He’s interested in making people happy and I think the music is a part of that,” Zangwill said.

Zangwill said he’d already been to Steve’s twice before to hear music and liked the place so much he planned to hold a book-signing party there in the fall when his new physics textbook is published. “Steve’s been talking about this for a long time,” Zangwill said. “He’s a fascinating guy.”

Grossman started out studying theology. He worked in Jewish education in several cities before a job at Ahavath Achim brought him to Atlanta in 1989, he said. About a dozen years ago, he went to work at UPS, starting as a temp and working his way into a desk job.

After a while, he started hosting “house concerts,” presenting performers for shows in his home. His music room could seat about 80, he said.

The day he retired from UPS, he took his banjo to work and played for his co-workers. They autographed the banjo head. It now hangs on the wall of his club, along with a dulcimer, enough drums for his own private drum line and other instruments ready to be taken down and played should the need arise. He also decorated the place with antique radios from his father’s collection.

Grossman has great ambitions for his club. He plans to offer a wide variety of styles – bluegrass and blues, string bands and swing bands, folksingers and singer songwriters, international folk music. “I think people have an interest in hearing different kinds of music, if they know it’s going to be quality,” he said.

He believes Sandy Springs could become known widely as a place to hear folk music. “People laugh at me, but it’s like, ‘Go big or go home,’” he said. “In my mind, Sandy Springs now has a venue that could be a center for folk music in the Southeast, for international folk music. You would have the ability to learn about folk music from around the world. … I dream big. …You’ve always got to have something to aspire to.

“Most people just think I’m crazy to do this as a retirement job,” he said. “I’ve got too much energy in me.”

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Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.