By John Leaf Special to Published Oct 08, 2011 at 10:22 AM

If you ever have the chance to meet Greg Koch in person, do it, but don't be shy. In his world, he has the personality and talent to sell both the sizzle and the steak. In fact, his personality is the sizzle, his guitar playing is the steak, and his nickname is "The Gristleman." And where better to have that nickname come from than a food fight at Ma Fischer's?

As he said during our interview, "Where there's fat, there's flavor." Probably not the greatest pick up line in a bar, but when you talk to Greg, he's full of two-cent slogans for million-dollar mysteries.

When we chatted a while back to learn how he acquired his nickname, he cut to the bone.

"Years ago we were playing a house gig at a place in Milwaukee on Brady Street called The Up and Under, or, The Rape and Plunder, as I liked to call it. We were playing music and I said, 'Boy we are pounding the gristle like warriors.' Pound the gristle. It became a phrase for intense musical activity. Very quickly, it became a catch-all phase where all that is wrong meets all that is right. Sometime later, we were at Ma Fischer's, and there was a piece of gristle from a steak, and a food fight broke out. Then they started calling me the gristle pounder, then it became The Gristleman, then there was a nickname on a web site, and they started calling me The Gristleman. Where there's fat, there's flavor," says Koch.

As is so often the case with nicknames, they can quickly take on a life of their own. Greg and his nickname became one in the same. His story amplifies that notion like one of his guitar riffs blaring through a JBL speaker. Pretty soon, Greg had a record called "Radio Free Gristle" and a magazine interview titled: "The Gristleman Commeth." No chance of stopping this nickname now.

Locally, he had a signature Fender guitar made called the "Gristlecaster." And on the local Milwaukee radio station WKLH 96.5 with Dave and Carole, they call him the Gristleman as well. It has become a quirky term of endearment to his many fans.

And if you visit his web site, you will see that in many ways, "The Gristleman" nickname has become his own personal brand. Among other things, there is the Gristlebox, and you can now buy the new Gristle King Mrk III, the new circuit by T. Jauernig electronics.

Greg Koch. He's a world-traveler for Fender, father, husband, local guitar legend, an all-around good guy and quite simply nothing more, but nothing less, than The Gristleman. With all the sizzle and the steak.


John Leaf Special to

John Leaf was born in western Illinois, a mile east of the Mississippi. College in Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Leaf was goalie on the soccer team and captain of the golf team in college. He cut class to ride the "L" to see Cubs games, hung out for hours at the Art Institute and bent the brain doing graduate school in Theology.

He spent three mind-blowing summers in coastal British Columbia, as a resort photographer. He worked and lived in Minneapolis. He did hard time at a bank on LaSalle Street in Chicago and learned about PR, working at big firm a block off Michigan Avenue, while living in Evanston.

Now Leaf is just living the dream, under the radar, in Cedarburg. He's passionate about nicknames and launched his website three years ago.

He dabbles in yoga and cycling. Fishtailing as always, and taking a whack at life, like everyone else.