The humorous songs of Benny Grunch are hard to escape in the city that his music is based on. Benny Grunch & The Bunch sing about their hometown in "Twelve Y'ats of Christmas," "Friday Nite," and the iconic song "Ain't Dere No More," which highlights shuttered local establishments. Grunch didn't set out to play music about the city, however. "My mother didn't know what else to do with me when I was eleven years old, so she got me guitar lessons at Werlein's," explains Grunch.
Grunch fi rst started performing while attending college at Southeastern Louisiana College. "I had a band called The Dirty Virgins play twice a week where I was going to school. I had some posters around campus that said 'Lena Grunch loved The Dirty Virgins, and you will too,' and the dean wanted to know who this Grunch woman was because he didn't like the band name at all; of course, I just made it up. We had to change it, and I started calling the band Lena Grunch's Bunch. At end of the very fi rst night that we were Lena Grunch's Bunch, people were calling us Benny Grunch & The Bunch. That was 1964, and I've had the same name ever since. It was still fun music, but not specifi cally New Orleans songs. It was the fun side of rock n' roll and rhythm and blues," says Grunch.
Grunch toured the country extensively in bands throughout the 1970s and 80s, but now sticks to entertaining locals with songs that only they understand, and restaurants are a part of his nostalgic music. One such eatery never made it into a song, but is remembered well by Grunch. "The Walgreens lunch counter was the fi rst restaurant I went to by myself and paid for my own food. I was eight and took the streetcar downtown to meet my mother. I bought a tuna salad sandwich and Coca-Cola. The whole thing with tax came to thirty-seven cents," recalls Grunch. Grunch also loves to eat at long-established burger joint Bud's Broiler whenever he can. "I've been going there probably since they opened. I think I was eleven. I met a guy who started working there in 1957. He says Higgins Boats was across the street, and they certainly were," says Grunch.
Bud's Broiler is adored by many who grew up eating their famous charcoal-broiled burgers. Owner Shannon McGuire always adored the restaurant, and fulfi lled her childhood dream of owning it when she purchased the City Park Avenue location in 2009. "I've always loved Bud's Broiler. I grew up on Canal Street. My brother and I would ride our bikes or my grandfather would walk us there and we'd dream that my brother was going to own the po-boy place across the street and I was going to own Bud's Broiler," McGuire remembers fondly.
She also frequented the Bud's Broiler near the University of New Orleans, where she attended college and became close with the staff. "Alvin Smith has run a lot of Bud's Broilers for the owner Joe Catalano, and I used to always ask him, 'Do you think he'd sell me the City Park Avenue location?' And he'd say, 'No way!'" McGuire graduated, married, and worked in various fi elds until her life changed in the mid- and late 2000s, and a chance meeting gave her the opportunity of a lifetime. "Katrina came, and I got divorced after eighteen years. I went to have my car serviced one day, walked into Bud's, and Alvin was there. He said, 'I was thinking about you two weeks ago.' I asked why, and he said, 'Joe is going to sell the City Park Avenue location.' I called Joe up, and he said, 'Well, you have to work for me and see if you're capable of running this.' I worked for him on Causeway for four months, and I'm so glad it happened, because now I really do know it," states McGuire.
McGuire knows that buying Bud's Broiler was a good investment. "It does well; it's just a fabulous location, a fabulous product, it's very inexpensive. Everybody loves it, and everybody has a story; some people say, 'Oh, we came on our fi rst date here, and we've been married fi fty years.' There's a lot of little boy stories from men who came with their dads. People still carve their names in the tables and come and see where their names were carved. It's been good to me, it's fun, and my staff are lovely, good people." Shannon believes that food, art, and music are all integral to culture here, and she enjoys listening to guitarist Eric Lindell in particular. In fact, McGuire made sure that her restaurant opened just in time for Jazz Fest 2009.