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DOT 1095; MARCH 1952



Just when we get done explaining why The Griffin Brothers, arguably the top self-contained rock band in the business at this time, were at a severe disadvantage commercially on their own records because they were instrumentalists in a period where those had lost their allure, here they come to cross us up with a vocal performance.

Now understandably you might say that if either of them were a capable singer why wouldn’t they have tried this tactic before now.

Good question.

We may not have the answer for that beyond speculation, but we do have the performance itself to critique and then you can ask – and possibly answer – your own questions.


Pushed Back In A Closet
When Dot Records went into business in late summer 1950 The Griffin Brothers were among their initial signees and their presence on the label represented an unexpected coup for the company because of their versatility.

Ostensibly they were there to cut their own records, but given their experience as a well-drilled self-contained band they could act a studio unit for other artists on the label as well.

That’s not exactly what they did, though it probably appeared as if it were the case, as they’d hired Margie Day in the spring of 1950 to sing for them on stage. Naturally took Day with them when they went to Dot and while their musical acumen was key in making the resulting records sound so good, she was the one with the star quality and got them their initial hits. But after first being billed as the lead act, the credits got reversed on subsequent singles and The Griffin Brothers – much like Johnny Otis with his array of singers – got the primary credit.

Day was fine with this but since she was the voice you heard on record and was the face at the front of the bandstand, she started getting billed first on marquees which caused some hard feelings. The Griffins were her sponsors so to speak but because they were merely in the background – as vital as their contributions were – it was natural that they be at risk to get overlooked.

Maybe that’s why they felt they had no choice but to do something about it, which is how pianist Buddy Griffin took on the added duties of warbling I’ve A New Love… and did so fairly well at that for its rather limited aims.

(An aside… the song credits on the Spotify album below are off by one, which explains the different title seen below and also why the song that somebody uploaded to YouTube with today’s title is a different song that Margie Day sings instead… but you should be able to tell the difference between her voice and Buddy Griffin’s and if not, maybe visiting a music website shouldn’t be the way you spend your free time)


Both Day And Night
The inevitable comparison here is again to Johnny Otis, who had been perfectly content to lead the band and let the likes of Little Esther and Mel Walker get the spotlight for their singing, especially since Johnny was getting the co-lead artist credit on their records.

But with Esther having departed and in need of some new wrinkle, Otis took his first vocal on All Night Long last year and got a hit with it and over time would become a reliable lead singer, even though it wasn’t a role he particularly cherished.

Buddy Griffin seems to have felt the same way but in spite of his reservations he probably had the credentials for it. Not only was he a very good songwriter and bandleader, he and his brother Jimmy both had trained at the elite Julliard School Of Music in New York, so while it’s true that one can’t be instructed to have a good voice, they could be taught how to use the voices they had to project a song with reasonable effectiveness.

Unlike Otis who tackled an uptempo tune his first time out, maybe feeling the quicker pace would take the onus off his uncertain technical abilities and give an outlet to his enthusiasm – or nervousness – here Buddy is taking things slow on I’ve Got A New Love which puts more pressure of his technique, but in even with his methodical approach he comes off alright.

His voice is somewhat indistinct and he’s clearly focusing more on the technical side of his delivery rather than honing in on the emotional content, but he’s got a strong handle on the dynamics of the song – which he wrote by himself it should be said – as he holds notes with confidence and explores every inch of his range without fear of losing his grip.

He may not be very flamboyant, and you’d like to see what a Wynonie Harris might’ve done with this same song about bouncing back from a romantic failure, but Buddy Griffin the vocalist actually fares a little better here than Buddy – and Jimmy – Griffin, bandleaders on this one as this is a stock arrangement with very little flare. The horn interlude is curiously subdued and even Noble “Thin Man” Watts seems to be soft-peddling his sax solo so as not to overwhelm Buddy’s vocals.

So call it what it is… a tentative foray into the vocal realm that is carefully watching its step at every turn, but never losing its footing as a result, getting you where they want to take you with a minimum of side roads. It might not be very scenic, but all things considered it’s hardly a bad route to take.

Treats Me Oh So Kind
Not that anybody asked, but if I had my preference this would be the formula for The Griffin Brothers:

Let the featured vocalists, be it Tommy Brown or especially the terrific Margie Day, get lead credit on their records and on stage. Day had definite star potential and there was plenty of room for The Griffin Brothers to shine in both roles. With them getting secondary credit on the label it would promote their and bolster their reputation while not coming at the expense of building up the career of the singers.

Then ensure that The Griffin Brothers got their own singles featuring an instrumental side along with a vocal side. Buddy proves he can handle the job well enough on I’ve Got A New Love and in the process can add to the growing résumé that he and brother Jimmy were busy constructing.

If I were them I’d then look to expand on that even further with freelancing session work, even forcing Randy Wood’s hand by insisting he allow them to get secondary label credit for unaffiliated artists on DIFFERENT labels (which they did not receive when backing Roy Brown on the chart topping Hard Luck Blues on DeLuxe in 1950).

It wouldn’t be hard to convince Wood that while he might be legally able to prevent that since they were under contract to him, \if he didn’t go along with it they’d sign elsewhere when their deal was up. Furthermore, by giving The Griffin Brothers the ability to boost their commercial impact and name recognition this way, it would in turn benefit Wood when it came to their singles and those of Day and Brown with their prominently displayed support.

Everybody wins that way and with that game plan in place the vocal excursions of Buddy Griffin, as welcome as they’d be for variety’s sake, would hardly need to move the needle at all.


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