Grandpa Elliot


“I’ve been here a long time and seen a lot of changes. It’s gonna be back, you’ll see.”

One of the nice features of this wordpress blog is that a page that allows me to see not only how many people have visited Illegible Me in a day but also why. Recently a hell of a lot of people have come here looking for information on a chap named Grandpa Elliot. He’s the guy in the the videos below.

I only mentioned Elliot briefly in this post some time ago but he seems to be attracting a lot of attention.My guess is that the documentary Playing For Change has alerted a lot of people to his existence recently. It’s not hard to see why people seem drawn to him, the man has talent, and perhaps more importantly character, by the bucket load. I can’t claim to be an expert on the man at all but since so many people seem to be Googling his name I shall endeavor to do my best.

“I used to sing on the street corners in New York in the 1960’s, back when there was music on the corners, instead of crack.”

Grandpa Elliot (63-ish), real name Elliot Small, is a New Orleans based street musician who can be found playing in the French Quarter of the city throughout most of the year. The Grandpa persona is apparently somewhat of a character he adopts when performing; Grandpa is blind, Small is not. He was born and raised in the city and has been playing on the streets for over fifty years now. In addition to a fine bluesy voice he can play the harmonica and the harp!  Best known for playing the blues he has also been known to treat fans to some self styled rap and a dose of classical music. His partner in crime is often a younger man named Michael Stone aka Stoney B. Although Small has laid down some recordings over the years these are quite hard to come by. When Katrina struck in 2005 Small was forced to relocate for some time but has now returned to his rightful place, entertaining locals and tourists who are passing by but can’t help stopping.

I hope that helps. For more information there is an excellent New York Times article here.

63 Responses to “Grandpa Elliot”

  1. David Cartwright Says:

    I haven’t seen the documentary, Playing for Change; however, I did see Grandpa doing a totally unique version of “Hotel California” during his set at JazzFest this year. For those unfamiliar with the “Fest” experience, it is somewhat unusual that a local street musician would be given a coveted spot in the Blues Tent.

    Sound equipment is prohibited on the Fair Grounds. I have seen at least one violator being hauled out of the Jazz Tent and arrested for recording a set. Thus, bootlegs are very rare. I am unaware of any legally authorized recording of Grandpa’s set. So you will just have to trust me that it was the most haunting version of this tune ever heard!

    Somewhere in time and space there must be some of this man’s music preserved for posterity, other than what you can find on You Tube videos. If anyone has access to such recordings, it would be great if you could post some information about them, for the sake of the artist and his fans. Thanks.

  2. Juliette Perry Says:

    I was so overcome by Grandpa Elliott that I googled to check a flight from NC to New Orleans to see him in person.

  3. Dianne Reily Says:

    I am searching for any cd’s that might be available with Grandpa Elliot…….not sure where to look any more…….any help would be appreciated….what a man and singer!

    • illegibleme Says:

      I personally have no idea where to find any of his recordings but who knows, maybe someone reading this site will.

      • steve hudson Says:

        Hi ,
        Grandpa Elliott (real name Elliott Small) recorded several songs on the Northern Soul record lable many years ago,,,, I was looking for some of his recordings for my collection and noticed there were several listed on ebay…. Check out the current as well as the past auctions for the specific song titles.

    • Shelby Trento Says:

      There is a cd titled “Blues for Days” with Grandpa Elliott and Stony B…it is usually sold on the streets in NO whenever they are playing…great number…”The Rain” and others…awesome blues..

  4. Just saw him today. I’m a local here in the French Quarter. He’s been playing again with Stony B and they have a CD which they sell there on the street. I got one for my Dad who loves Grandpa and it’s ok but not great… it has much more Stony B and less Gramps than I’d like but over all not too bad.

  5. Hi
    I hope …that some day…i can afford a ticket to New Orleans to see him for real…
    Merry X-mas
    (Googling in here)

  6. I saw the Bill Moyers journal on 12-5-’08 and fell in love with Grampa Elliot!! I taped the show and play it all the time .. brings lots of inward and outward smiles! I too would love to have some cd music by him! I’ll check back often and see if any news of music is posted. I lived in New Orleans over 50 years ago! LOVE zydeco and Delta Blues! Sure would love to send him a message about how much he is thought of here!! Love you, Grampa!! You bring great Joy!! My Best to you and yours!! Piper

  7. A friend send this video to me Playing for Change…Stand By Me…..awesome ..awesome video…touched my heart…..Although they are all great Grandpa Elliot is amazing….I also would love to meet him in person….

    • Bill Chafatelli Says:

      Please, please, tell me where I can find the “Stand by me” CD that Granpa and the other talented musicians made. Bill

  8. Logan Lettiere Says:

    I saw these ggreat musicians back 3 years ago in new orleans. I bought one of the cds and it is great.

  9. Anita Hoffman Says:

    I’m hoping for a cd too. it’s hard to come by new original delta blues.

  10. I too would love to find out more about Grandpa Elliott.. He touched my heart like few people..Where did he come from? Who is he.. I know he is an undiscovered gift to us all..

    I found him on utube, playing for change..
    What a discovery..

    Musically yours,

    John Moultrie

  11. I was captured by Grandpa Eliots music and talent. His mere presence in the video, Playing for Change, “stand by me” empowered me.

    I want to meet him and know more about him.

  12. I heard and met the man last year, while I was visiting N.O. My experience of him matches what others above have indicated; this man can warm your soul.

  13. genial!

  14. Eugenio Matos Says:

    I recently heard this man music, it keeps me upside down

  15. Hello friends,
    Where can I find him in the French Quarter? He’s awesome and I’m planning on drivng there just to see and meet him.



    • I have known Elliott Small (Grandpa Elliott)for a long time and always enjoy his music and also visiting with him. You will usually find him on Royal Street in the quarter or sometimes at Jackson square. He has waited a long time for this recent fame and he well deserves it.

  16. Doreen Burke Says:

    Saw the video loved it can’t get enough of Stand my me
    Grandpa Elliot touched my heart.

  17. […] blues singing street performer Roger Ridley from Santa Monica, California and bluesy baritone Grandpa Elliot from New Orleans. It incorporates the chill inducing notes of Amsterdam’s Clarence Bekker […]

  18. M.Hastings Says:

    I am totally blown away by Grandpa Elliot. I WANT a cd…..if anyone has access to a cd of him, I’d like a posting on how to find it….

  19. Kimberly Ross Says:

    You must see the video clip ‘Playing for Change’. It is truly an awesome musical endeavor and play it every day. Perhaps if ALL people in the world viewed this, we would at least experience World Peace.

    • Shelby Trento Says:

      Aside from his popularity gain from “Playing for Change”…there is also a cd titled “Blues for Days”…a compliation with Grandpa Elliott and Stony B(another NO street musician) is normally sold whenever they are “street” playing and in some bars in Algiers

  20. Don Muench Says:

    Four years ago, I “discovered” this talented musician when I visited NOLA as part of a relief team in the wake of Katrina. As a harmonica player myself, I recognized that this guy is phenomenal and a better musician than some of the people playing in bars in town. I will be in NOLA agin in May and I hope to see him again. I have seen him on three different trips since Katrina. I have a Grandpa and Stoney CD and if I can locate another one, I’ll buy it.
    After my first trip, when I saw him, I took pictures of him and Stoney and had an artist friend make up a picture of them which is hanging up in our Campus Ministry office at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY.

  21. Si tu aimes la musique authentique, va en Louisiane et dans le pays, avec Nick Spitzer:
    If you love true music, take a trip to Louisiana and the country, with Nick Spitzer at
    Neuf ans d’archives, 52 par an !
    Archives running over nine years, 52 a year!

  22. I was in New Orleans this weekend and had the pleasure of listening to Grampa Elliot for the first time. He was playing with a man on guitar and a young woman with a violin at the Chateau Bourbon lounge. I am also trying to locate a CD and was wondering if anyone knows how to obtain one?

  23. My husband and I fell in love with Stony B and Grampa several years ago (before Katrina)on Royal Street in New Orleans. They were absolutely wonderful. We did buy a CD from them but it must have been produced by themselves because all that is on the CD, called “Stony B & Grampa New Orleans Blues French Quarter Style” is a photo of the two them on the front of the CD holder, and inside is a list of their songs: Down Home Blues, Don’t Make Your Move, You Were the One, A Friend, Sweet Home Chicago, Stony B Blues, Drivin’ Wheel, I Got the Blues, Blues Changes, Night Time is the Right Time and Blind Man. And at the bottom it says “Written by Stony”. I hope you can find it some time because it’s very entertaining.

  24. Carla Estabrook Says:

    I would like to know how to purchase a cd of Grampa Elliott?

  25. Melecia Boonzaaier (South Africa) Says:

    I saw the stand by me video, Grampa stole my heart. It feels like he is my grampa too. Does anybody know the reason for his blindness. Is it Cataracts? He is giving people hope, isnt there hope for him to see again? I wish there was something I could do.

  26. James Dauphinais Says:

    Dear Granpa, The first time I saw you on Stand by me, I became an istant fan. I love the BLUES!! and you have such a soulfull voice. GOD Bless hope to make it down to the French Quarter some day soon… Jim D

  27. James Dauphinais Says:

    Icredible Harp playing. I have tried to learn the harmonica,

  28. I saw Grandpa Elliott at a county fair about 1 month after Katrina. I was there doing some releif work at a hospital in Slydell. I was blown away. Have the Playing for Change CD.Have been looking for anything else he’s recorded.

  29. I am a life long resident of New Orleans,and have spent my share of time in the French Quarter and local music clubs over the past 40 years, I have never seen Grandpa Elliot.I may have walked by him on the street. I am now on a mission with camera in hand to find and record his performances.

  30. Please contact me regarding Grandpa’s playing at our conference Nov 5-8 in New Orleans

    Anne Teachworth

    504 430 2561
    504 828 2267

  31. Please give me a phone number to contact Grandpa.

    Anne Teachworth 504 828 2267 504 430 2561

  32. […] the fact that 90% of the visitors to this blog arrive via searches for a fantastic musician named Grandpa Elliot, I do like to add some new material every now and then. The reason for the delay involves my book […]

  33. […] blues men (and others) from all over the world, including the Late Roger Ridley (New York City), Grandpa Elliot (New Orleans), Clarence Bekker “CB” Milton (Netherlands), Washboard Chaz (New Orleans), Francois […]

  34. Take all of the above comments, and triple them on my behalf! I live in s/e Mich. & have friends in kenner La. and if I get the chance to go there someday, Grandpa will be the #1 on my list. I wish we all could make an impact such as he carries. What a wonderful wourld It would be.

  35. Larry C. Says:

    My daughter and I enjoyed Grandpa Elliot for over an hour in 1996. He was playing with a young guitar player and singer and we completely bought in to the blind personna. Not only was the music fantastic but the satirical humiliation ladled out to tourist passing by without dropping some folding money into the hat was a trip in itself. We left a handsome tip and often thought about who that person was. I almost came unglued when I saw Grandpa on the Bill Moyer’s program about Playing for Peace. Just ordered their DVD and would certainly welcome a CD by Elliot.

  36. bucky763 Says:

    This man is so talented and special. He has more love and care in his heart then 99% of people these days. If only everyone could be as amazing of a man as him. LONG LIVE ELLIOT!!!!!!

  37. Michael Says:

    Have never met Grandpa Elliot and had never heard of him until a week ago…and I love him! What a beautiful voice and a beautiful person!!! We should all try to be who is and have what he has!!! He is truly the rich one!!!

  38. Grandpa Elliott e Roger Ridley sono due artisti speciali.Ogni volta che li ascolto mi tramettono una straordinaria forza musicale.

  39. I’m heading to NO for work on Monday, the 27th, and I’m making sure to stop and see him!

  40. Jeanette Lucas Says:

    Grandpa,,, they don’t make ’em like you anymore,,, now THAT’s music!!! I’ve been showing you off like you were my G-pa,,, your blowing us away in CA! I too fell in instant love with you,,,Rock On!

  41. TexxasJim Says:

    Just goes to show you, record companies won’t record someone who doesn’t look good on videos….hooray for true talent

  42. Caught Grandpa Elliot on the World Musicians vid
    and was captivated by this mans voice and musicianship. Just great.

  43. I have just started to use you tube it would seem that no one in the Uk can appriciate Stand by Me. I think it is a great performance by all especialy Rodger Ridley and Grandpa Elliot

  44. Diana Hutchison Says:

    I recently had the video “Stand By Me” and absolutely loved it. It got deleted somewhere along the way and I wonder if you could send it to me again. Thank you.

  45. Len Gilbey Says:

    Trust me folks we Brits that have heard him, and have seen him on Youtube truly love the guy, and his incredible music. We have Susan Boyle, and you have Grandpa…we’d be happy to trade you for him. God bless him, and all he stands for. Saving hard now for a trip to New Orleans with some extra folding money for Grandpas collection. Forget the big names because Grandpa Elliot is a real star.

  46. Aldo García Says:

    I love this page and the Granpa Elliot music, i live in México City, but i enjoy this music

  47. I saw him in New Orleans at a street festival a few weeks ago and he was wonderful! His rendition of Stand by Me brought ppl to their feet! He was selling a CD, so recordings are definitely available.

  48. I just came upon the video Stand by Me and omg I was just blown away. Grandpa and the rest of the musicians just blew me away. I live in Texas, am a big blues fan and someday hope to meet Grandpa. His music has touched me like no other. Keep on bringing on the soul Grandpa….I love ya for what you have given us. ❤

  49. […] Please forgive the self-congratulatory nature of this particular post, but I’m actually quite amazed by the fact my easily distracted brain has been able to stick to one thing for so long. Even more amazing is the fact that I’m not completely embarrassed by some of the things that have been whacked up here, even if all anyone ever seems to want to read is one particular post on the great Grandpa Elliot. […]

  50. Ericka & William Says:

    I would love to have Grandpa Elliot, Stony B and possibly Washboard Chaz to perform for my wedding in August 2011….I can be contacted at or by phone at 314-479-0374. Thanks for any info in advance!

  51. I just finished reading a review of Grandpa Elliot’s Cd that is available on iTunes, and whoever wrote the review, missed the point! It’s not about the “quality” of the music, which I think is very good, and I have to say that I have not heard a better harp player, but about the man and his style of music, which a lot of people around the world apparently like very much! Grandpa Elliot has touched all out hearts, and has brought out the peacefulness in us all, no matter where we live. We all seem to want to live in peace, so why don’t our governments see it the same way??? We, as lovers of Grandpa, want to live in peace, and we are the majority, not our governments, so there has to be a way that we can all get along.
    Thank you Grandpa (and to the producers of the playing for change video) for bringing so many people of the world together in peace.
    I also want to mention Roger Ridley, who I think was just as great a man as Grandpa is!

  52. selvakumar Says:

    Hi i am from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India….. One of my friend from Canada asked me to check out the “Stand By Me”… I was stunned when heard Grandpa Elliot’s voice and his attitude… since i started to google to know about him… really i am speechless… what a man he is. I am really proud to know about him more and more.. and like to here his voice… If you meet him again pls let him know that he has fan across USA… Thank you for posting about him…. take care… regards….

  53. Where could we see Grandpa Elliott? Is he out playing on the street every day? We are in New Orleans on vacation hoping to see him!


  54. darmowe filmy online…

    […]Grandpa Elliot «[…]…

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