BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY


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):

HARD LUCK BLUES
(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)

NEW REBECCA
(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)

STREET WALKIN’ DADDY
(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)

RIFFIN’ WITH GRIFFIN
(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)

LITTLE RED ROOSTER
(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)

BLUES ALL ALONE
(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)

BLUES WITH A BEAT
(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)

GRIFF’S BOOGIE
(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)

BONAPARTE’S RETREAT
(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)

HOT PEPPER
(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)

ATLANTA BOOGIE
(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)

SADIE GREEN
(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 ★

ONE STEADY BABY
(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)

IF YOU WANT SOME LOVIN’
(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)

YOUR BEST FRIEND
(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)

TRA-LA-LA
(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)

HOPPIN’
(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)