Musician Gary Griffin’s Complicated Homecoming

“I really don’t know how much I like being back yet. We haven’t been able to fully experience the city during the pandemic.”

NAME: Gary Griffin
AGE: 69
WHO IS HE: Worked 41 years in California as keyboardist with Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys. He’s still in the Brian Wilson Band, which is planning a 2022 European tour.

Photograph courtesy Gary Griffin

At what age did you leave Cincinnati, and when did you return?

I left in 1977 just before turning 26, and we came back on June 1, 2019.

Why did you return?

First, the nature of the business now is you can work remotely with people, so I didn’t have to be in California anymore. Second, living in L.A. got really tedious with the traffic and all the people. Then there’s family here, and my wife has two kids in this half of country. Maybe I’m retired? I don’t know.

Were you excited to return, or hesitant? A little of both?

We’d come back here almost every year to visit family and always loved it. My wife is actually from South Carolina, but she loved coming here. But I’d lived in my L.A. house for 41 years and there was so much stuff to go through. It was overwhelming.

How is Cincinnati the same as before?

It seems to me like it’s a lot more the same as different. People are still friendly. It’s easier to live here. And, of course, it’s still about the chili, isn’t it?

What’s your favorite new discovery since returning?

One thing that stands out is a concert we went to in Memorial Hall. What a beautiful place, and the sound was wonderful.

What keeps you here now?

Now that I’ve been vaccinated, I plan to go to several Reds games and get back to playing tennis and softball. I really love being back, but there’s an asterisk there that says I really don’t know how much I like being back yet. We haven’t been able to fully experience the city during the pandemic.

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