It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll But He Likes It

Workers’ comp attorney Greg Presmanes never let the music die

Published in 2008 Georgia Super Lawyers — March 2008

A phone call to his dormitory one night in 1968 was the proverbial fork in the road for Greg Presmanes, then a sophomore at Emory University. On the line was Maury Apertow, manager of The Amboy Dukes, a rising rock band best remembered for launching Ted Nugent’s career.

“They’d lost their lead singer, and [Apertow] had heard this little 45 rpm record that I’d co-written and recorded,” Presmanes says. “He wanted me to be his new lead singer.”

Apertow wooed Presmanes for an hour with a rock-waits-for-no-man pitch, but failed to convince him to swap school for the vagabond life of a musician.

“It’s a tough industry and the odds [of making it] were slim,” says Presmanes, who heads the workers’ compensation department at Bovis, Kyle & Burch in Atlanta. “I wanted to stay in school. I figured my odds were better with a law degree.”

Still, the music never died for Presmanes. Except during law school and his first three years as an attorney, he’s been a performing musician: clubs, cocktail parties, mountain fairs, country clubs, jam sessions and other points on the musical compass.

“I never turn down a gig,” says the 59-year-old Sandy Springs resident with a rock/country repertoire. “Whenever anybody wants music, I’ll show up and play.”

Over the decades, Presmanes has also written about 100 songs, 25 of which he calls “keepers.” Three have been recorded—all co-written with Nashville country artist David Staton—and one of their songs, “Now I Get It”, won first place in the Georgia Music Industry Association’s songwriting competition in 2003. “It’s my best song so far,” says Presmanes, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. True to the country spirit, it’s a song of loss: “Too much pride kept me from being/The man I knew she needed/I had it, I lost it, but now I get it.”

Striking a sharply different note, Presmanes wrote “I’ll Always Be Yours” for his daughter Alison’s recent wedding. “I’m going to do a demo of it as soon as I can find the time,” he says. “I do all my demos in Nashville. It’s cheaper, and you can find better musicians.”

Music was a big part of his life growing up in the Morningside area of Atlanta. When he was 8, his mother gave him a Harmony acoustic guitar from Sears, which led to years of guitar lessons. Eventually Presmanes ditched the lessons for a compelling reason: “I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll,” he says with a laugh.

In high school and college, Presmanes performed in a litany of bands—some well-known in Atlanta and even the Southeast—and one adolescent song proved to have legs decades long. While at Grady High School, Presmanes and Bob Levinson co-wrote “Found Love,” a song their garage band, Fly by Nites, recorded on a 45 rpm single to sell at gigs. Radio stations picked it up, and it was that song that eventually caught Apertow’s ear.

“We sold all 300 copies, and it was played all over the place,” Presmanes says. “One night in 1995 or so I got a call from this fellow in Connecticut who says he’d been looking for me for 10 years. He was doing a book on the influence of independent-label music. Well, ours was sure an independent label. It was called Tiffany Records, and we named it ourselves.”

The caller said he’d first heard “Found Love” in Germany, and had a copy of it on a bootleg album that came from Australia. “He told me that record had been bootlegged all over the world.

“It’s been quite a journey,” he adds. “I get paid a little, but mainly I have a lot of fun.”

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