Friday, 15 January 2016

The short, unhappy life of Rick Grossman

There I was, innocently searching the interwebs for more music by Vinny Roma, when I stumbled across this: Hot Romance, the debut (and only) album from the delightfully coiffured Rick Grossman.

Not to be confused with the Rick Grossman who played bass for Australian New wave band the Divinyls, our Rick grew up in the Chicago area. A keen amateur musician, in 1978 he opened up his wallet, gathered together a few some session musicians and set out to make an album of his songs. The result was Hot Romance. Issued by Thunderbolt Records in 1978, Hot Romance – as described by Liam Carroll of Rebeat magazine - is a collection of songs ‘about how good Rick Grossman is at sex. How he has so many babes following him around all the time that he practically has to shake ’em off with a stick. It’s a bizarre, yet beguiling, juxtaposition: this sunny, laid-back music partnered with Grossman’s vaguely rockabilly Lothario persona. At one point, he equates casual sex with eating Kellogg’s cereal, as if that’s a thing.’

It’s an odd record: neither the light pop-rock settings from the band, his jazzy piano flourishes nor Rick’s flat, nasal croon could possibly charm a lady enough for her to slip between his black nylon sheets. His lyrics – when decipherable - are atrocious, the drummer is dreadful and the whole thing smacks of being recorded in one session for as little money as possible. The guitar solo on New York, Now You're Alive is indescribably awful.

Unsurprisingly, Rick didn’t sell many copies of Hot Romance, so he gave up any ideas of pop superstardom, married his girlfriend Susan (who clearly hadn’t paid much attention to his lyrics either) and went in to business, creating a credit card system for the shipping and loaning industry. Before long Rick was climbing the corporate ladder, becoming chairman of medical equipment rental firm Trans Leasing International.

Rick, Susan, and their three children moved to Highland Park, one of the better of Chicago’s many suburbs. But although life should have been sweet for the successful businessman and his family it was far from that. In July 1992, Rick and Susan were arrested: Rick on a charge of battery and Susan on a charge of disorderly conduct, according to Highland Park police. Later that year the couple divorced.

The problems between Rick and Susan were nothing compared to those between him and his son Michael. As the Chicago Tribune reported, on the outside, Rick and Michael presented ‘a portrait of father-and-son calm, a pair the neighbours glimpsed in brief but serene snapshots: bicycling near their Highland Park home, walking the golden retriever, playing by their pool.

‘But behind the facade was a not-so-pretty picture’.

Michael was quiet, his friends said, and he told them that he and his father did not always get along. He told some that their arguments turned violent, though it seemed this violence did not spill over on to his two sisters, Kimberly and Joanna. Officers were called because of disputes over custody, and for fights between father and son. In July 1993 the police were called because the two were fighting over Michael’s desire to keep a cat.

One Thursday night in October 1996, Rick decided he wanted to play his piano. Apparently, banging out his songs on the keys proved too loud and distracting for Michael, his 17 year-old High School football star of a son, who was trying to do his homework. Michael became so enraged by Rick's loud, unrelenting playing that the teen grabbed a carving knife and stabbed his father repeatedly. Rick Grossman was just 44 years old.

"Who knows what happened?" said Richard Grossman's brother Larry. "It seemed like they got along fine. Everybody got along fine, I thought." In a sadly ironic twist, Rick had also been a benefactor of the Juvenile Protection Association, a private organisation in Chicago that treated abused children and their families.

Although there was evidence that father and son had an explosive relationship, police said they believed that Rick’s piano playing was the flash point for the rage in his son.

"That seems like the catalyst for this whole thing," Highland Park Police Chief Daniel J. Dahlberg told the Chicago Tribune. "That's what got it started." The two allegedly exchanged words, and then Michael went into the kitchen, picked out a knife and stabbed his father repeatedly in the neck. When officers arrived shortly before 8 p.m., Rick was outside the house, bleeding heavily. Michael was taken into custody a short time later. With his father still alive, Michael Grossman was charged with attempted murder. His mother arranged for the bond that got Michael out of jail. Authorities increased the charge to first-degree murder when Rick Grossman died while on life support, at the Highland Park Hospital.

"His mind must have snapped," said Larry Grossman, trying to explain what had happened between his brother and nephew. "Like I said, who knows what happened?"

Michael wound up pleading guilty but mentally ill. He claimed that he was schizophrenic, that he had heard voices telling him to kill his father. Defence attorney Jed Stone portrayed Michael Grossman as the product of a severely dysfunctional home. Divorce, drugs, domestic abuse and violence were all part of the Grossman household, Stone said, despite the outward facade of affluence and respectability. "Everything was not hunky-dory on Keats Street, and it never was."

In July 1998 Judge Stephen Walter sentenced Michael to 24 years in prison, with the understanding that the young man would likely only serve eight to nine years. Judge Walter also recommended that he receive continuing psychiatric care.

Let us remember Rick not as the victim of a heinous crime, nor as one of the catalysts for his son’s troubled mind, but for his recorded legacy, and take pleasure in the soft rock stylings of three tracks from Hot Romance.



  1. When I saw the title of this entry, I thought that you were talking about the ex-Divinyls and current Hoodoo Gurus bass player!

    These three tracks are something else! I thought that former Australian Crawl singer James Reyne was hard to understand, but he is crystal clear compared to Rick!

    And then there are the arrangements - the bongo player must have been cheap to hire or desperate for a gig. That guitar playing on "New York, Now You're Alive" is all over the place.

    Rick did have some competition in 1978 - Gary!

  2. Gee, Darryl, what a sad story.
    And how ironic is it that Rick's torrid piano playing caused his son to grab a knife and stab repeatedly?
    Rick must have been one hell of a piano-player!

  3. Holy crap, a friend of mine had this album! Showed me the cover yeeeeaars ago. Couldn't remember the title or anything, so Thank you, internet! boy I never forgot that cover. We sure used to snicker at it. Now I feel kinda bad, reading what a terrible fate awaited him.

  4. Rick's life wasn't unhappy. He was a very loving father. he was a beloved uncle, brother, son, and a father. My cousin Mike has severe mental troubles. 20 years have passed since my uncle Rick was murdered, and he's still missed dearly. I find it mildly offensive how rude some of the comments about him are online. He was an incredible person. RIP Uncle Rick.


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