DOT 1024; DECEMBER 1950



With the A-side of this release Margie Day was forced to compete with her own single issued earlier this same month because Dot Records had delusions of grandeur when it came to trying to capitalize on a pop phenomenon with an ill-conceived cover version.

Since the single rightly was ignored in favor of Day’s brilliant original material that was still fresh on the market, this release came and went without a trace which hardly qualified as a tragedy.

But lost in the wreckage was this B-side turned in by The Griffin Brothers who show once again that they were dual threat with their backing of others as well as contributing solid instrumentals of their own even if their record company kept taking them for granted.


Feel The Sting
To be fair as we get further away from the days in 1948/49 when virtually any snorting saxophonist could put out a record and reasonably expect to get a hit, there’s no likelihood that this cut was somehow destined for a long run on any chart, for while it contains some really good moments it’s still more of a backdrop for a party before midnight rolls around and shit really start to get crazy.

But let’s remember that records like these are still a vital part of establishing an artist’s presence and to have it come out on the flip of an uncalled for vocal record by an artist who already had a killer new record to promote in Little Red Rooster, while at the same time The Griffin Brothers themselves were hoping to draw interest in their latest single, Blues With A Beat, is just blatantly counterproductive.

Does it really have to be said that record companies primary goals should be geared towards building their artists up and providing them with the best chance to succeed? This is not some kindhearted altruistic act, but simply good business… mold the artists into stardom and the record company benefits.

To do that you have to take different approaches with different artists. Some need to hone their craft… if their songwriting isn’t strong enough, get them material from great writers and let them show off their playing abilities. If they write great material but have no special skill in delivering it, pair them with somebody who can do justice to those songs. If they’re inclined to follow a style that’s falling out of favor, nudge them towards what is on the cutting edge. Simple stuff really.

The Griffin Brothers did all of those things pretty well – great songwriters, willing and able to back great singers like Margie Day and contribute great forward-looking arrangements in the process, so maybe Dot Records figured they didn’t need much help.

But what they needed, and what all record labels should treat as a matter of duty, was a sensible release schedule and adequate promotion, the two things totally within Dot Records control. That means spacing out singles to prevent overlap, widely announcing their release to alert the industry and public to their availability, and then pushing them hardest where they garner the most interest to stoke more spins and more sales. Then wait until after it peaks to release the follow-up and do it all over again.

With the rush-release of this single and with all of their focus on the Day-sung top side, it meant Hot Pepper, was an afterthought from the very beginning and when the A-side fizzled the record stopped being promoted at all.

In the process another good cut by The Griffin Brothers falls by the wayside.


Adding Spice To Any Dish
Though both Buddy and Jimmy Griffin were excellent musicians, their instruments (piano and trombone) were not always the best choices to drive each and every rock song.

Luckily they were not only aware of this but were also self-effacing enough to acknowledge it with their choice of material and arrangements. Here they show how dedicated to those ideals they were on a record that features a modest opening with Buddy’s piano backed by steady drumming establishing a slow rolling boogie pattern before the group horns join them to add the melodic components and settle into the comfortable familiar sounding groove.

This section is pleasant, certainly acceptable, but a rather mild flavor that doesn’t correspond with the song’s more promising title. As the horns, all pitched high, deliver a unified riff heading towards the halfway point you start to think of this as what it very well might’ve been – a rush job designed to stick on the back of a song destined to be ignored, thus why waste anything more promising on it?

But once the tenor sax makes it’s first appearance a little over a minute in that’s when the capsaicin found in every Hot Pepper worth its name kicks in and the song heats up.

Though you’ll rarely find his name being discussed in many conversations about the top saxophonists of his day, Virgil Wilson makes his presence known on an extended solo with some melodic, sometimes sensual, sometimes squealing, sometimes just trance-inducing playing over the course of fifty some odd seconds where he takes center stage.

It’s a workout that shows off his range of techniques and never steps wrong but without the kind of rapid-fire assault and obscene honks to draw added attention to it, it’s the kind of solo that is merely well appreciated as it plays but forgotten soon after it ends.

Everything here seems carefully planned yet by virtue of their execution it doesn’t come off as sounding sterile or artificial. There’s a deliberate point to all of their choices and they’re content to let those points be made without any added fuss. There’s no ego to be found here, just a tight band with a job to do and they do that job well.

Season To Taste
Once the bar for wild instrumentals had been raised to unrealistic heights as it was over the previous few years the less gaudy displays such as Hot Pepper tend not to raise eyebrows no matter how well executed they are.

Not surprisingly this is one reason why the tenor would make its move to a supporting role in vocal group records over the next year where it could pack more of a punch in a brief appearance while leaving the rest of the responsibilities to others.

But even if this doesn’t stand your hair on end it’s still the kind of grinding workout that raises the energy in a club or a house party and for that these kind of performances will always have their place in the community.

So too will records like this which delivers just what is needed – no more, no less – in a neat efficient package.


(Visit the Artist page of The Griffin Brothers for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)