The Kennedy Center

John Gros


Born in New Orleans, John "Papa" Gros (pronounced “grow") has spent more than a quarter-century championing the music of the Big Easy. He's played it all — New Orleans funk, rock & roll, jazz, blues, Americana, pop/rock — and he swirls those styles into a genre-bending gumbo that pays tribute to his influences while still pushing ahead into new territory. Like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, Gros is a proud local who carries on the tradition of New Orleans music, both honoring its past and helping to shape its future.

After kicking off his career as an organist and pianist, for George Porter Jr.’s Runnin’ Pardners, during the 1990s, Gros formed the funk group Papa Grows Funk in 2000. For 13 years, the band performed every Monday night at the Maple Leaf Bar, delivering greasy, groove-heavy Big Easy funk, while with releasing six criticallyacclaimed albums and touring the world, carrying their brand of New Orleans' music to far-flung places.

Papa Grows Funk called it quits in 2013. Gros resumed is role as a top sideman for many Nola artists — including Better Than Ezra, Little Feat, Anders Osborne, The Metermen, The funky Meters, and The Neville Brothers. Finally, Gros began focusing once again on songwriting and his solo career — which he'd kicked off in 2004 with the album Day's End — by prepping a second solo record that focuses on the full range of his musical influences and abilities. Thus River’s on Fire was born in 2016. 

River’s on Fire finds John shifting his songwriting focus back to the instrument that started his lifelong musical journey - the piano. The album reaches far beyond Papa Grows Funk’s groove-based sound and offers listeners a bit of everything — party songs, funk grooves, upbeat rockers and Americana singer/songwriter ballads. Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, New Orleans legendary music creator and Gros’ mentor, Allen Toussaint, describes John as “an instrument of New Orleans music at it’s best.” “I was paying homage to Allen in every song, be it subtle hints or blatant highway robbery,”
admits Gros. It’s all coming together in the right place, at the right time.

“As a sideman, I’ve worn a lot of different musical hats," he says. With River’s on Fire and the new solo band, I am all about rediscovering who I am, embracing my different sides and blending it together into one package.” Throughout it all, the goal remains the same: to honor the music he's been living his whole life, and to add his own page to New Orleans' history book.

Watch Past Performances

Video 1/7/2019: John “Papa” Gros: Welcome to New Orleans!

A bedrock New Orleans artist, John “Papa” Gros is a keyboardist, singer, and songwriter who draws on funk, rhythm & blues, and Americana songcraft, as well as knowing his way around the Mardi Gras music repertoire.

John Gros