Papa Grows Funk, but what can a musician teach us about growing a business?

Posted On December 6, 2018

In past posts on this blog, we have examined lessons that people from various backgrounds, from military officers to football coaches, can teach us about running a business.

But stay with us on this next one: What about musicians?

Our guest in this week’s episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” is John “Papa” Gros, a longtime New Orleans musician who toured the world with his band, Papa Grows Funk, but often found himself dealing with issues that might seem familiar to managers in many different lines of business.

Papa Grows Funk came together organically, Gros says – they knew they had something special the first time they jammed together – but with each of the band members in demand for more lucrative gigs as sidemen for other artists, securing full commitment from them was a far more difficult proposition.

The band grew through the efforts of a couple of different managers, including one who left a law practice in Philadelphia to take on the job, and through the hard work and sacrifice of Gros, who took on management of the band himself for a period of time. He spent much of his time during that period marketing the group and doing what he could to keep it together by making sure all the rest of the members had to do was show up and play.

Ultimately, with debt from touring eating into the band’s profits and the commitment level still well below 100 percent, Papa Grows Funk folded. Gros, however, left grateful for the experience and bolstered by the lessons he learned along the way.

“Just move forward,” he said. “Whatever mistakes you make, you try not to make them again and you just move on to the next thing.”

Gros is still making music — you can check out his latest projects at In a lengthy discussions with us, he shares the management lesson he learned in a day with John Fogerty; why volatile personalities often make for good music; what it takes to be a good sideman; what managing a rotating group of musicians can teach us about getting the most out of impromptu teams; and the connection, between band members and between the band and the audience, that he considers his job as a musician.

“If we do our job right, somebody out there is going to get it,” he says, “and that’s my goal every night.”

Categories: Blog, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston