By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – Country-rock singer-songwriter Josh Briggs immediately jumped into the Grafton area music scene at the young age of 14. His family moved from upstate New York to Massachusetts the summer before his freshman year at Grafton High School (GHS), where he graduated in 1992.
“The first day we moved to Grafton, I met some guys who played in a band and they needed a bass player,” he explained. “Even before my parents unpacked, we had a band in the basement.”
He and his fellow musicians – all in their mid-20s – played together in a classic rock band in and around Grafton for about two years.
“They were into the biker scene, so we did a lot of backyard pig roasts and barbecues,” Briggs recalled.
His introduction to musicianship came as quickly while a seventh-grader in upstate New York.
“A really good friend of mine played guitar and asked me to play bass with his band,” he relayed. “I had no idea how to play bass, so he showed me how and we’ve remained friends for years and years.”
That friend, Gary Benacquista, has since relocated nearby in Shrewsbury.
“My older brother, Shawn, also played guitar,” Briggs noted. “Between the two of them, I got the bug and have always played music with them in bands.”
While a sophomore at GHS, the brothers formed a rock alternative band called Flat Stanley with friends Ron Belanger and Todd Charbonneau. They performed at popular clubs in Boston and Worcester.
“We were very lucky and got to play a bunch of great shows,” Briggs said. “My family was very supportive, especially since my older brother was in the band. There were a lot of late Thursday nights playing in Boston, and then back to school Friday mornings. It was a pretty exciting experience for young guys.”
After graduating from GHS, Briggs also performed at Worcester clubs in the rock alternative band Popgun Picnic along with his brother Shawn, Charbonneau, and his early music mentor Benacquista.
Briggs took a hiatus from music for several years and pursued a career in the restaurant business. Meanwhile, he took the time to further develop his guitar skills. After a while, he sought bookings as a solo act playing acoustic guitar.
His act gradually added other musicians: Marcus Jablonski, “Bongo” Mike Sheehan and Scott Sheehan (no relation). Collectively, they’re now known as Josh Briggs and Friends.
“Josh Briggs and Friends is a bunch of guys playing music and having fun doing it,” he said with a laugh.
Among major annual events where they entertain are the Shrewsbury Street Walk & Rock in Worcester and the Walk to Defeat ALS at Patriots Place in Foxborough. The band enjoys these settings, Briggs noted.
“We’re usually in bars, in the back corner on a little riser,” he said. “So when we can occasionally get up on a stage with a real sound system and lights, it’s a thrill for us.”
Other venues where they perform are the Medusa Brewery Company in Hudson, the Westender in Marlborough, Post Office Pub in North Grafton, 2ovens in Shrewsbury and Westborough House of Pizza. They’re scheduled at Funky Murphy’s in Worcester every Sunday from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Briggs also continues to perform solo. He released a CD as a solo artist titled “Back to Bliss.” The band is currently recording a CD.
“I enjoy everything about performing,” Briggs said. “I love connecting with the other musicians and with the people in the audience. When they start dancing, then I know I’ve done something right.”