If you have been out and about on the Grand Strand any time in the past 15 years, chances are good that you have seen an NTRANZE show.
NTRANZE, founded and fronted by Grady Avery, has been wowing locals and visitors alike with its high-energy performances since the band first worked as house band at House of Blues Myrtle Beach, combining a danceable variety of music – from Motown, beach music and R&B, to funk, classic rock, reggae and hip-hop.
The band has undergone personnel changes over the years, but Avery and NTRANZE have stood the test of time, consistently gigging not only at venues in the Myrtle Beach area, but also carving out a profitable niche in corporate events and weddings.
Originally from Rock Hill, Avery has been a Myrtle Beach resident for 20 years, having come down for a poolside gig booked by a former band mate in Rock Hill.
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“We came down for the summer, and when the season came to an end, I told him I wanted to stay down here,” he said.
When Avery was a boy, he used to watch Gilligan’s Island reruns and was fascinated with the ocean. He told himself that he was going to move to the ocean.
“I didn’t know how or when, but that was my destiny,” he said.
He started singing at six, thanks in large part to his mother, who sang in the church choir and brought Avery along to rehearsals. At one point in the 1970s, Avery was given the opportunity to perform onstage with an R&B band in Charlotte, N.C., which cemented his desire to foster a musical career. He knew he wanted to sing and play music.
He attended Benedict College in Columbia, studying music theory and political science. For a time, he traveled back and forth from Columbia to Rock Hill by bus to work on weekends with a band, traveling up and down the East Coast. He also traveled with an R&B and reggae band for several years.
Avery later toured with the backup band for recording artist Crystal Waters, who enjoyed a hit with 1991’s dance music single “Gypsy Woman.”
“We traveled out to L.A., Japan and Australia. It was a 30-day tour, and that was a good experience for me,” he said, adding that rehearsals in Baltimore prior to the tour were grueling - seven days a week, eight or nine hours per day.
Back home again in Myrtle Beach, Avery performed with a band called the Tony Blunt Project, which can be considered the forerunner to NTRANZE.
“The Tony Blunt project was the house band outside on The Deck at House of Blues,” he said, adding that the band got an offer to do a Blues Train show – highlighting the blues and the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Avery played the roles of Little Richard, Stevie Wonder and more.
“We took that show to House of Blues in Orlando, and it was a very successful dinner show,” he said.
Eventually, Blunt decided to leave the band.
“Of course, we couldn’t use his name, so we sat down and pow-wowed a little bit and came up with NTRANZE.”
Under the NTRANZE name, the band celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
The band has filled the opening slot for many large acts at House of Blues Myrtle Beach, including Hall and Oates, The Little River Band, Chairmen of the Board, Delbert McClinton and many more. NTRANZE continues to do private parties in the music hall, and is booked on the deck at House of Blues for select dates this summer.
The lion’s share of NTRANZE’s work is based in the Myrtle Beach area at spots like House of Blues Myrtle Beach, Dead Dog Saloon, Hard Rock Café, Wahoo’s Fish House and Senor Frog’s. They also play in Charleston, according to Avery, with some corporate gigs and private parties as far afield as Wilmington, N.C.
Avery also books the shows.
He is working on solo projects, including a single due out late summer, and recently completed a video to shop around to cruise lines and perhaps Legends in Concert – with Avery performing as Little Richard.
Avery enjoys time with his five-year-old son.
“He’s musically inclined, and we go out and listen to bands in the summertime – or we hang out at the beach.”
Songwriting is a big part of his life.
“If I am by myself, I work on original music. If I can’t perform these songs myself and be successful as a solo artist, I can write a song for somebody. If I can pin a song to an artist, that’s money for me and I hadn’t even left the house,” he said.
Keyboard player Mark Ackles met Avery years ago at an open mic at a bar in downtown Myrtle Beach.
“When he needed a keyboard player, he called me and I jumped at the chance. I guess that was 2006, so I am the longest surviving member of the band now,” he said.
He says his relationship with Avery has been great.
“He’s super easy to work with and is the hardest-working guy in the band. It’s not like he gives all the work to everybody else. He is the first one there and the last one to leave. That’s Grady -you are not going to outwork him, that’s for sure.”
Other NTRANZE members are Emily Ryan (vocals), Al “Purple” Hayes (guitar) and Tory “Booka” Grice (drums).
Dawn Temples Knopff, marketing and promotions manager at House of Blues Myrtle Beach, looked back on the venue’s long relationship with Avery and NTRANZE.
“NTRANZE was our house band at House of Blues Myrtle Beach for many years, and our guests loved them,” she said. “They have played on all of our stages over the years but they were a staple outside on The Deck – formerly the Sugar Shack Deck when they played regularly. They are still part of our band lineup this year on The Deck because we love to work with these guys.”
Knopff added that NTRANZE is one of the most popular area party bands and that locals and tourists really enjoy.
“They play all the songs that our guests know and the music makes them want to get up and dance. They are great at getting a crowd into their music and really setting a vibe for a good time wherever they play.”
As a nod to the band’s longevity, Knopff said NTRANZE has done a great job of consistently playing gigs in this area, so they have become one of the best-known bands on the Grand Strand.
“They have kept the classics in their sets but they are also always evolving to include new hits and make sure that they are playing a mix of music that the crowd will enjoy.”
As for Avery himself, Knopff called him a true music man.
“Music is his life and his passion. Grady has a great smile that makes the crowds he plays to just warm up as soon as he takes the stage. You can tell that he loves what he does and I don’t think that Grady is ever happier than when he is on a stage connecting to his fans through song,” she said.