Brandon “Swaff” Swafford of the GTGs and Tommy Klemis, owner of Junior’s Grill, are a reporter’s dream. They’re two of the most personable and quotable people that one can find on Tech’s campus. Put them together, and there are non-stop smiles and laughter all around the table. How they’ve come to be sharing this table, though, has quite a bit of history that’s worth noting.
Since seeing remarkable success with the “M-Train” music video, Swafford and fellow GTG Daniel “DBay” Baily have been working hard to bring more hilariously entertaining songs to the Tech community.
After receiving a commission from the Athletic Association to produce “The Perfect Option,” writing the new theme song for ESPNU Inside the Polls and making a third music video entitled “The Ratio,” the GTGs recently released their first album, Look to Your Left, Look to Your Right. With ten tracks, all of which relate to Tech, there’s something on it for every Tech student or alumnus.
“Our love for Tech definitely inspired the album. Listening to the songs, you won’t get half of it if you haven’t been here,” said Swafford.
One of the tracks on the album features a song about Juniors Grill, the popular restaurant on campus owned by Tommy Klemis. Klemis, an EE graduate from Tech, left Western Electric in 1975 to help out with the family business and hasn’t looked back since. He’s known for his smiling face and encouraging words and is beloved by the Tech student body.
Originally located at the corner of Techwood Dr. and North Ave., Junior’s has been a Tech tradition sine 1948 and is now located in the Bradley Building, an annex of the Administration Building. When Junior’s Grill was torn down in 1993 to make way for the Olympics, Tech students petitioned to bring it back. For that, Klemis is deeply grateful.
“The students who petitioned painted us as a Tech tradition,” said Klemis. “Next thing I know, I get a call saying that they have an open location for us on campus if we want it.
“I still can’t believe it. It’s a blessing. Since 1994, I can say that Junior’s belongs to the students because they brought it back up.”
The GTGs write songs about Tech. Junior’s Grill has been a Tech tradition since 1948. It’s hardly surprising, then, that “Junior’s Grill Jam” showed up on the first GTGs album.
What may (or may not, depending on how well you know him) come as a surprise is that Klemis is featured in the song, introduced for the first time as rapper “Tommy K.”
“When we first approached [Klemis] about being a part of the album, he was really excited to do it as sort of a tribute to Junior’s for its 60th anniversary,” Swafford said.
“We were thrilled that he wanted to be involved. The energy that he gives off is just amazing.”
This energy, so familiar to Junior’s regulars, translated easily to the studio for Klemis.
“Just leaving it to Swaff’s lead, I was able to get into it. I got so into the rapping, and it was so much fun that they eventually had to tell me that it was really time to go home. I might consider it as a second career,” joked Klemis.
His debut verse says, “Yo, this is Tommy, I been ‘round for a bit / and I be serving up these homemade meals, you know I won’t quit / until that 2pm on Friday, then I’m hittin’ the town. / Me and my girl Lis, with them GTGs, we’re cruisin’ around… way too fast.” He throws in a few more lines throughout the song, most of them peppered with affection for Tech and the GTGs, and then ends with, “This is Tommy Klemis at Junior’s Grill, and I approve this message.”
The next track on the CD is entitled “Y Tommy Dice” and features Klemis giving orders in Spanish. It’s a nod to Leo Vargas, Javier Navarrete and Francisco Moran, all Spanish-speaking employees of Junior’s.
“Since Junior’s is now bilingual, we’ve addressed that in this song,” said Klemis.
It has a different feel to it from the rest of the album and, although short, is fun to listen to, even for those who can’t speak Spanish. Another song on the album that breaks from the usual hip-hop sound of the GTGs is “Library Lullaby.”
“I was really happy with the way it turned out. It’s not out there with a video and all that yet, but it’s more of a rock ‘n’ roll song with distortion guitars and that kind of thing. It brings a different flavor to the album, and I like it a lot,” Swafford said.
Klemis and Swafford may be in two very different lines of work, but they possess a similar enthusiasm and love for the Tech community. So what is it that makes them do what they do?
“It’s cool to know that at a tough school like Tech, we can give the students a little bit of comic relief,” said Swafford.
“Whether through humor or through food… whatever your medium, reaching students in this particular season of their life is not easy,” added Klemis, “but we’re all encouraging each other while we’re here.”