Bandleading siblings whose work under their own name were only a part of their contributions to rock during the 1950’s as the cornerstone of Dot Records in their early days as a label.

Edward “Buddy” Griffin, born 1919, and younger brother Jimmy, born 1921, formed The Griffin Brothers band after both attended Julliard to study music. Buddy, a pianist and Jimmy on trombone were rounded out by Wilbur Dyer and Virgil Wilson on alto and tenor sax while Jimmy Reeves (bass) and Nab Shields (drums) formed the rhythm section as they made a name for themselves around the mid-Atlantic states in the late 1940’s.

Their first break on record came when Shields and the Griffins recorded a session with Roy Brown for DeLuxe which resulted in the Number One hit Hard Luck Blues but the label did not try and sign the group leaving them free to look elsewhere.

Having recruited singer Margie Day the entire package was signed to newly formed Dot Records in 1950 where they got the label off to a great start with back to back Top Ten hits in the fall and winter of 1950 featuring Day’s vocals, while their own instrumental B-side of their debut was regional hit in its own right.

Retooling the group on the fly with the addition of Noble “Thin Man” Watts on sax and a new rhythm section of Wilbur Little and Belton Evans, and bringing another singer, Tommy Brown from Atlanta, into the fold, in effect replicating the diverse lineup of Johnny Otis at the time, the group scored further hits with both Brown and Day on lead over the next two years with Brown’s “Weepin’ And Cryin’” becoming their only chart topper in 1952.

Day left the group around that time and Claudia Swann replaced her but were unable to score any further hits. With Dot Records moving in a more pop direction they left the label in 1954 and split their partnership with Buddy taking Swann with him to Chess Records where the duo scored a hit in 1955. Jimmy meanwhile worked briefly for Atco Records without success, though Noble Watts had a hit of his own with “Hard Times” in late 1957 for Baton Records.

After a long career in real estate following his music days, Buddy Griffin died in 1981 just two weeks after turning 62 , while younger brother Jimmy passed away in 2000, less than two weeks shy of his 79th birthday.
THE GRIFFIN BROTHERS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(DeLuxe 3304; May, 1950)
As backing band for Roy Brown… contributing to the despondent mood with Buddy’s piano setting the early pace in an arrangement that features layers of sound wrapping up with Nab Shields’ drums slamming you out of your trance. (8)

(DeLuxe 3304; May, 1950)
As backing band for Roy Brown… the Griffins provide the vigorous musical attitude that turns what on paper looks like a dire lament into something a lot more rousing. (7)

(Dot 1010; August, 1950)
Coolly efficient backing for Margie Day on this suggestive hit that marked their first credited appearance on record, laying back at the start to set the story up and then briefly exploding when called upon in the break. (7)

(Dot 1010; August, 1950)
Solid instrumental featuring a good arrangement that spreads the wealth around with Buddy, Jimmy and tenor sax ace Virgil Wilson all getting chances to shine… it’s not anything groundbreaking, but it gets the job done. (5)

(Dot 1019; December, 1950)
Matching Margie Day’s racy spirited performance the band get a chance to strut their stuff as well with multiple solos and an undulating rhythm that never lets up… a well deserved hit and more proof the Griffins were shaping up to be one of the top rock bands on the scene. (9)

(Dot 1019; December, 1950)
Though they’re taking a back seat here to Margie Day’s emotional reading of a song whose slow deliberate pace provides little room to maneuver, the Griffins aid her cause immeasurably with their discreet parts that frame the song nicely. (6)

(Dot 1020; December, 1950)
A good ensemble performance where every member of the group gets a chance to shine with Jimmy’s trombone, Virgil Wilson’s tenor sax and Nab Shields on drums all standing out, showing this group didn’t need to back a singer in order to make you move. (6)

(Dot 1020; December, 1950)
Fairly generic piano boogie replete with a vague train association thanks to the horns, capably played but without anything really jumping out at you, conceived more to let pianist Buddy get a turn in the spotlight than anything else. (4)

(Dot 1024; December, 1950)
The replacement of fiddles with horns and a backbeat only go so far to distance this from the country original – and less so from the Kay Starr trumpet led hit – so while it’s played fairly well it’s still an unwelcome diversion for them. (3)

(Dot 1024; December, 1950)
A solid unpretentious instrumental with a modest rolling boogie as its foundation but a hot tenor solo by Virgil Wilson to make it worth the trouble… a record that isn’t quite a showstopper but perfectly suited to provide the backdrop for a party. (6)

(Regent 1030; February, 1951)
As backing band for Tommy Brown… though their support here is only rumored, there’s not much doubt it’s them backing their soon to be featured male vocalist on his debut for another label, as they contribute to the cacophony with their unhinged playing. (7)

(Dot 1041; March, 1951)
While they may not have deserved lead artist credit over Margie Day who absolutely owns this record with a fiery performance, the Griffins more than hold their own with a frantic arrangement that delivers just as much kick as the vocals. ★ 10 ★

(Dot 1041; March, 1951)
Though it’s a little sketchy lyrically, Margie Day sells it well and the Griffins contribute a nice groove behind her, but this is still clearly a more unambitious B-side by design and while it succeeds on that level it’s still a secondary effort. (5)

(Dot 1042; March, 1951)
Though Margie Day handles the sexual connotations brilliantly, the Griffins don’t match her passion with their lightly swinging arrangement which is devoid of solos robbing it of the additional power it needs to really hit home. (6)

(Dot 1042; March, 1951)
One of the best rock bands in the country decides to prove they can be as boring as any pop band as they attempt to drag Margie Day into crossover territory with this lifeless arrangement that shows just how futile these attempts were for all involved. (2)

(Dot 1060; June, 1951)
Simplifying the arrangement from Dave Bartholomew’s rendition the Griffins provide plenty of muscle behind Tommy Brown’s more measured vocals making this slightly superior to the original and a bigger hit to boot. (7)

(Dot 1060; June, 1951)
A well-constructed tight instrumental featuring a nice churning riff and two well-judged solos, the first by a more typical tenor sax and then a trombone solo from Jimmy Griffin which manages to stick within the song’s well established groove. (5)

(Dot 1070; November, 1951)
Nothing flashy here but there doesn’t need to be with the band hitting on all cylinders topped by two solid sax breaks by Nobel Watts behind Margie Day’s characteristically zesty lead vocal on a song that hints as more than meets the eye. (7)

(Dot 1070; November, 1951)
Adding nothing of note to a pointless cover record featuring Margie Day being joined by Tommy Brown, this somehow became a brief national hit and confirmed the Griffin’s commercial potential even if it didn’t deliver on their musical prowess. (3)

(Dot 1071; November, 1951)
One of the biggest hits they were associated with doesn’t feature much of note by the band, just a reasonably effective dirge with Buddy’s piano anchoring the track amidst some modest horn work and a sax solo overshadowed by Tommy Brown’s incessant sobbing. (5)

(Dot 1071; November, 1951)
A cohesive and reasonably well-played, but unambitious and frankly kind of boring instrumental that doesn’t provide any of them with worthwhile parts, instead choosing to meander along unobtrusively until you’ve lost interest. (3)

(Dot 1094; March, 1952)
Hardly the most dynamic arrangement for Margie Day’s emotional ballad but at least it’s well-played even if it is too discreet in its choices, making this more of an afterthought track than an attempt for a hit. (5)

(Dot 1094; March, 1952)
If this were being judged solely on The Griffin Brothers contribution it’d get the lowest score possible as they are adding nothing of value here, but Margie Day turns in a good performance of a poorly chosen song to salvage what she can out of it. (3)

(Dot 1095; March, 1952)
A decent instrumental that nonetheless lacks a distinctive character, not wild enough nor locked into a groove but instead focused on constantly shifting its musical impressions making it seem as though it’s wandering aimlessly even though it’s well played. (5)

(Dot 1095; March, 1952)
With an admirable, if hardly exciting, vocal turn by Buddy Griffin, the brothers expand their possibilities going forward even as they shirk their arranging duties somewhat with this, maybe holding back on the musical side so as not to overwhelm the singing. (4)

(Dot 1104; May, 1952)
While the musical side of the equation on this torch song cover is adequate, there’s not really much of an arrangement here, just mild support and a wistful sax solo behind Margie Day, but the song itself is wrong for all of them. (3)

(Dot 1105; May, 1952)
A dull, unambitious instrumental with no melodic hook, no inspired riffs, no real point to it existing other than to fill a hole in their release schedule, it’s competently played but they’re just going through the motions. (3)

(Dot 1105; May, 1952)
Whether a shameful cultural appropriation of calypso, or merely an honest tribute to it, this gets the structural aspects down okay but obviously doesn’t fare as well with the performance itself, especially the faux island accent of Buddy Griffin which is sure to offend. (3)