Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin

On this day in 1968, Kevin Michael Griffin, singer/guitarist for Better Than Ezra, was born

in Atlanta. His New Orleans-based band came together in the late '80s but first received

national attention in 1995, when its major-label debut album, Deluxe, spawned

the hit "Good."

The reedy-voiced Griffin moved with his parents to Monroe, La., when he was 12. He

said he began playing guitar because he loved Kiss, especially the way Ace Frehley

leaned back while playing the instrument. When Griffin was 13, he was a guitarist in the

band Aces Up, who won a local battle-of-the-bands contest that gave them the chance to

record a single, "Seek, Find, Destroy," backed with a cover of Kiss' "Cold Gin."

Griffin also told Guitar World magazine about his early love for the band Rush:

"One day when [Rush] were playing in Monroe, Joe Rundell [Better Than Ezra's late

rhythm-guitarist] and I tracked them down at their hotel ... Their limo didn't show up, so

we took them riding all day in my green Honda Civic."

After college, Griffin wanted to attend film school but couldn't afford it, so he became a

trainee at the Creative Artists Agency. While in college at Louisiana State University,

Griffin formed a band, which bassist Tom Drummond joined in 1988. That year, the band

-- now named Better Than Ezra -- moved to Boston, where it played clubs and later

recorded its independent debut, Surprise (1990).

After Rundell died in 1990, Better Than Ezra went on hiatus, but fans eventually

convinced them to reconvene. The band recorded Deluxe in 1993 on its own

Swell label. After playing the South By Southwest and CMJ festivals, Better Than Ezra

signed with Elektra, which issued Deluxe in 1995. After the success of "Good" and

its video, the group added to its following through heavy touring. Friction, Baby

(1996), with drummer Travis Aaron McNabb, contained the hit "Desperately Wanting."

This year's How Does Your Garden Grow? flirts with electronica, in addition to

containing Better Than Ezra's usual distorted-guitar pop.

"We've really been playing catch-up with the past records; some of the songs were

written years before they were recorded," Drummond said. "We finally got to a point

where we could do a little experimenting. We got our own recording studio and that

allowed us to follow a tangent if we wanted to."

"We still love very simple, straightforward rock songs," Drummond continued. " [How

Does Your Garden Grow?'s] 'Alison Foley,' 'Happy Day MaMa,' 'Under You' and

even 'Everything in 2's' are very traditional Better Than Ezra songs. That's what we do

best."

Other birthdays: Jerry Martini (Sly and the Family Stone), 55; Barbara Parritt (Toys), 54;

Cub Koda (Brownsville Station), 50; and Donny Hathaway, 1945-1979.