ADDISON, IL -- August 19, 2016 -- Friends and artists across the keyboard industry and community of Hammond organ players and enthusiasts were shocked and saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of Gregg Gronowski, the iconic musical instrument company’s Director of Sales and Marketing. At this time, our understanding is that Mr. Gronowski suffered a severe stroke while relaxing at his home in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois on Wednesday afternoon of this past week. He was transported to the hospital but did not regain consciousness, and passed away early this morning.
Mr. Gronowski was an ardent friend and colleague of Keyboard Magazine, and is widely credited with the renaissance of the Hammond brand among contemporary keyboard players. It was chiefly through his efforts that the current iteration of Hammond’s artist relations program was developed. Its roster includes legendary jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, Gregg Allman, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, Billy Joel keyboardist David Rosenthal, and many more luminaries both legendary and up-and-coming. This community of accomplished artists often identifies with the hashtag #hamfam, for Hammond Family.
I personally had the privilege of working with Mr. Gronowski on two Hammond “Sound Soul Summit” concerts at the 2013 and 2014 Winter NAMM Shows, which featured Keith Emerson as the headliner one year and original Santana keyboardist Gregg Rolie the next. The events would not have been nearly as successful as they were without his candor, professionalism, warmth, and sense of humor. Keyboard will miss him on a personal as well as a professional level.
Mr. Gronowski is survived by his wife Lori, son Gregg Jr., and daughter Jamie. The family asks that their wishes for privacy be respected at this difficult time. Hammond USA has informed us that an official announcement from the company is forthcoming.
Following are some recollections of working with Mr. Gronowski from Hammond organ artists and industry colleagues. For more memories as we receive them, keep up to date on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
“Gregg was a great guy and an excellent bass player. It’s rare to have a music business person that so gets it. We had a great time in Chicago last year where we did a Hammond night. The highlight of the evening for me was when Gregg played bass with Scott May, another very talented Hammond rep and close friend of Gregg. Hammond USA is a very warm and supportive family. We even have a hashtag, #hamfam. Gregg was always so helpful with P.R. and gear and it’s so flattering for me as an artist to be endorsed by Hammond USA. You will be so missed, Gregg!” - Brian Charette, DownBeat Critics’ Poll award winner and regular Keyboard contributor
“One of the first things Gregg told me when I met him was that he was all about family. Over the years, his actions proved his words true. Every time I was in Chicago, Gregg and his family would take me somewhere good and interesting to eat. On the occasions that I brought my family with me to Chicago, he and his family went out of their way to make sure we got the most out of our visit. It meant a lot to me to become part of the Hammond family. It meant even more when Gregg made my son, Yates, a Hammond artist as well. I always felt like I got special treatment, but I gather from the rest of the Hammond family, that WE ALL got special treatment! Gregg was the patriarch of our extended Hammond Family and we are all deeply mourning his passing.” - Kevin McKendree, session and touring keyboardist
“I’ve been an Hammond-endorsing artist since 2007 but beginning with the tenure of Gregg Gronowski, Hammond became more than just a company; it became a family. Gregg cared deeply about Hammond and the artists who played their instruments. His dry humor always put an entertaining spin on any conversation. He was never cynical or dismissive. We had many conversations about ideas for new products, new features, and new implementations, and he always took every idea seriously. He wanted Hammond to be the best. I always looked forward to his phone calls, which would happen once or twice a month out of the blue. I knew the conversation would be engaging, thoughtful, and funny. I only knew him for a few short years but that friendship will stay with me until the last of my days. He was a very special, lovable, and beautiful human being.” - Jim Alfredson, Oraganissimo and Janiva Magness
“This morning I lost my big brother, Gregg Gronowski: executive, musician, family man, and most loyal friend. I’m bereft of clever words for once. Then again, I could just put quotation marks around his name and it would say it all, as he was and is sui generis. Oh, would he be pissed that I’m using fancy words in this demi-eulogy. I will have more to say about him at a later date, but for now: You made a difference in every life you touched. You taught us. You made us laugh. You made us give you our best, so we would meet the standard you set. You did so with an uncommon elegance, unyielding humility and magnificent wisdom. And you inspired our confidence, as we had supreme confidence in you. This may seem disrespectful, but it’s very hard to grieve, as every time the thought of your loss enters my mind, it is nudged out of the way by one of the limitless wonderful memories I have of your remarkable life. And on the day of a man’s death, his friends reflect. About that life, I shout at the top of my voice: BRAVO!” - Scott May, keyboardist, The Ides of March
“When Greg gave me my endorsement July 14, 2012, at Summer NAMM in Nashville, he also became my ‘Hammond Dad.’ He began telling people I was his son. I will never forget his kind heart. I will make sure his Legacy lives on forever! Thank you for giving me a chance and making me feel like family. We Are family. We are Hammond!” - Reverend Jimmie Smith, pastor and Gospel organist
More to come!
Our sincerest condolences go out to Mr. Gronowski’s family and the entire #hamfam community.
Picture below: Gregg Gronowski (right) with Keith Emerson at NAMM 2014.