"I had been hearing about Polly a lot from my buddy Ron Scalise, who was producing Eight to the Bar. Polly was singing with them then," Grayson said.
"I was madly in love with Ron, and he was producing Grayson," Polly said. "Ron would talk about this genius Grayson Hugh, and I'd wonder, `Who is he?'"
Finally Grayson made a point of satisfying his curiosity by going to an Eight to the Bar show. He liked what he heard.
"Ron owned a studio, and he put us together on some stuff." Polly said.
In the early '80s, Polly was singing backup vocals with Grayson Hugh and The Wildtones. While she was in love with Ron, and eventually married him, there was a musical connection with Grayson.
"I developed my musical crush on Grayson Hugh," she said. But life took them in different directions for a while.
"We were all good friends," Grayson said of himself, Ron, and Polly. But his career interests and frustration with the local scene had him moving to New York City, where he got a record deal. Soon he was filming his first video in Big Sur, Calif., and then touring for five years with a band he formed.
In 1994, Grayson moved back to Connecticut to be near family. "I was in a relationship that was not so healthy," he said. "The man who signed me to the label was fired, and all his acts were dropped, so I didn't have a record label."
Meanwhile, Polly's marriage fell apart. "Ron and I were getting divorced," she said. "In the beginning of '94, I got a call from a girlfriend who said `I bumped into a friend of yours' and gave me Grayson's number. I called, and we talked. I found out we were less than a mile away from each other, but Grayson couldn't meet me."
He was moving to North Carolina. Grayson looks back on that moment philosophically, saying "our paths came close to intersecting, but more had to be done."
Polly moved back to her hometown, Danbury, with her 3-year-old son, and got an art degree from Western Connecticut State University.
"I moved to Boston and was teaching at Berklee," Grayson said.
It was years before they'd see each other again. Sometime in the mid-2000s, Polly found a postcard in a local shop that reminded her of Grayson. She bought it, intending to find him and see how he was doing.
"It disappeared," she said. "I went back to the store, and they didn't have any more." She'd been determined to send him that particular card. But eight months went by without it turning up.
"I was up in the attic, which was floor to ceiling junk. On the only bit of floor you could see, there was the postcard!" she said, a note of amazement in her voice. She wrote a letter to Grayson and sent it to his brother, since she didn't have his address.
What she didn't know was that Grayson had been going through some difficult times. After 20 years of sobriety, he had started drinking and lost his job. He tried to stop taking an anti-anxiety medication cold turkey, and suffered a near-fatal seizure during a blackout.
"It was God's way of showing me what I could lose," Grayson said. "I had lost all my money, all my friends. I didn't have the tools I have now."
After these difficulties, he was no longer making a living as a musician.
"I was working in McDonald's, happy to be alive and working and sober," he said. But a counselor he was working with found some seed money for a new album. "He said, `Why don't you do what you do best -- music?'"
Then Grayson heard from Polly. "Polly had no way of knowing, but I was in a much better place. I got the card and called her."
They teamed up to work on the record. Grayson recalled the moment he fell in love with Polly. "Jan. 21, 2007, when she walked up the stairs. She was wearing Shalimar, it blew me away. It was so natural, falling in love."
"Effortless," Polly chimed in. "He gets me musically and on a personal level."
They married Aug. 17, 2008, at Tarrywile in Danbury. Instead of a honeymoon, they poured their money into the record, "An American Record."
"She gets me, my love of nature. Polly really gets the details, she remembers songs I wrote 30 years ago," Grayson said. As for working together, "I'm the boss of music, Polly is the boss of art direction."
You can hear how these two sound together when Grayson Hugh performs at the Town Crier Cafe in Pawling, N.Y., Friday, Feb. 15. Polly Messer will bring the harmony.
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