Grayson Hugh & The Moon Hawks
(Left to right: Anthony Candullo, Bobby Paltauf, Grayson Hugh, Tyger MacNeal, Polly Messer. Photo by Danielle Zoey Brown.)
Starting in the Fall of 2015, Grayson began searching for musicians for his new band. He already had his harmony singer in his wife, the versatile and talented Polly Messer, so that spot was covered. Beginning with his friend drummer Tyger MacNeal, he checked out various contenders, looking for just the right guitarist and bassist that could play those southern soul grooves powerfully together and deliver all those details so important to his music.
Grayson has always said "If the musicians don't have that feel, forget it".
Tyger recommended a bass player he had worked with by the name of Anthony Candullo. The three of them got together and Grayson was thrilled with the results.
As the search continued for the right guitar player, a friend of Grayson and Polly's suggested a look at a very gifted young man (actually quite young) who attended high school with her daughters. His name was Bobby Paltauf and was supposed to be something of a prodigy. Doubtful at first, when Grayson heard Bobby jamming with blues legend Buddy Guy at the age of 12 on a couple YouTube videos, he was intrigued. After speaking with Bobby and his dad, a get together was set up. The proof lay in the playing, and the music began to breathe with a new and dynamic life. And so Grayson Hugh & The Moon Hawks was born!
Polly Messer began her career as a singer with the well-known Connecticut swing band Eight To The Bar in 1977, while she was a sophomore art student at Southern Connecticut State University. In 1980, while performing up and down the east coast with them she met Grayson. Polly’s ex husband (the late Ron Scalise) had just recorded and produced Hugh’s self-titled, independently released album and was beginning work on Eight to the Bar’s live album “The Joint Is Jumpin”. After leaving Eight to the Bar in 1982, Polly began singing backup vocals with Grayson Hugh and The Wildtones. She performed with him throughout the mid eighties, until his move to New York in 1986. During the nineties, Polly also sang with the rockabilly band Eugene Chrysler. A single mom since 1994, she also returned to her art studies, earning a triple major at Western Connecticut State University.
Polly and Grayson struck up their friendship again in 2006, as Grayson was just beginning work on “An American Record”. As the recording proceeded in 2007, Grayson asked Polly to co-produce the record with him. (He also asked her to marry him, which she did, in 2008!) Following the release of "An American Record", the two began performing stripped down acoustic versions of Hugh's songs. Grayson and Polly have taken their dynamic duo show to concert venues such as Infinity Music Hall in both Norfolk and Hartford, The Kate in Old Saybrook, The Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River, Mass, and The Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida. In 2012 they embarked on a highly successful two week Acoustic Tour of concert halls in Poland.
17 year old Bobby Paltauf is a guitar prodigy. When Grayson first heard him in the Fall of 2015, Hugh quickly recruited him to be the guitarist for his new band. “You close your eyes and you think you’re listening to a veteran star like Albert King or Steve Cropper with decades of playing under their belt; you open them to see a 16 year old young man playing!” says Grayson.
Bobby also fronts his own rock ’n roll funk trio The Bobby Paltauf Band, which he founded in 2013. With their blend of rock, funk, fusion and reggae, they have performed at many major music festivals, opening for national acts such as The Revivalists, Twiddle and Dumpstaphunk. Blues master Buddy Guy was so impressed with Bobby’s playing he featured him at a concert at The Ridgefield Playhouse in 2011. With his current role as guitarist for blue-eyed soul legend Grayson Hugh, Bobby Paltauf is on his way becoming a nationally known name.
Drummer Tyger MacNeal’s list of the artists he’s performed with reads like a Who’s Who of music. He has toured, performed or recorded with The Four Tops, Little Anthony, The Mills Brothers, The 5th Dimension, Freddy Fender, Rosemary Clooney, Boots Randolph, Johnny Winter, The Average White band and Jose Feliciano, among others.
Grayson first heard Tyger at a concert with German jazz Hammond B3 organist Barbara Dennerlein. The concert featured just the two of them: Barbara on organ/pedal bass and Tyger on drums. Grayson was bowled over by Tyger’s playing. It turned out they were neighbors in Connecticut and even had a tie through their extended families. Tyger’s solid backbeat and his mastery of soul, rock, funk and jazz make him the perfect drummer for Grayson Hugh.
Anthony Candullo (electric bass) graduated from Berklee School of Music with a degree in guitar performance, but found his true passion in the bass guitar. He has spent the last 15 years performing and recording with many of New York's beloved acts, including Natalie Forteza (with Michael League and members of Snarky Puppy), Duke Robillard, Live Society, Gil Paris, Bernie Williams, Chris Vitarello, Petey "Hop" Hopkinson, and Myles Mancuso.
Anthony has also performed with international acts like drummer Yonricco Scott of The Derek Trucks Band, blues and soul singer Tad Robinson, and blues/jazz organist Bruce Katz.