DOT 1095; MARCH 1952



Back to basics.

The Griffin Brothers were a good rock band with solid songwriting and arranging skills, but they initially lacked a vocalist. So they’d hired Margie Day who got them some hits with her fiery singing and equally strong writing abilities, and then picked up Tommy Brown to diversify their output with a male perspective and got a hit with him too.

The billing on those records varied though and while they were contractually the headliners, their roles had become more of a highly competent backing band.

Which is what makes this, an instrumental under their own name with no one to share the spotlight with, a welcome sight, giving them the opportunity to shine, to perhaps get a hit and at least remind those of us in the peanut gallery why they were important in their own right.


Teaser: A Conundrum
Despite neither Griffin Brother playing what could be called a typical soloing instrument for rock – piano for Buddy, trombone for Jimmy – their greatest strength had always been their ability to get those instruments featured in their tight arrangements without detracting from more traditional outlets like the tenor sax, now manned by Noble “Thin Man” Watts.

In vocal records you could do that with a little more ease however, because the windows were smaller and thus each part could be made to fit the opening.

With no one singing however you tended to ride one instrument for longer stretches and though you certainly could trade off effectively between them, one flawed transition or a poorly conceived extended solo by any one of them could bring the song to its knees.

Since they didn’t write The Teaser, their job was simply in how they put it together, deciding who to feature, when to feature them and how to make those features stand out.

In 1952, even with Jimmy Forrest’s Night Train rocketing up the charts as we speak, the rock instrumental’s commercial potential was a lot more limited than it had been a few years back, but its ability to show off a great band’s unity, vision and abilities was as full of potential as it always had been… and always would be.

The question therefore was whether or not The Griffin Brothers could come out of this with a record that would justify their status as headliners, or if it’d only prove they were best utilized behind others more qualified to bask in the glow of the spotlight.


Teaser: A Riddle
The way this unfolds, piano leading into horns, forming a catchy understated riff on top of which is laid an intermittent sax to give you something to focus on, you can tell they were not trying to seize your attention by force, but rather to gradually lure you into their musical web.

It’s an effective strategy, but one that is in dire need of a more rousing song.

That’s not to say The Teaser doesn’t have its charms. There’s a steady underlying rhythm, plenty of opportunity for different instruments to step up and it clearly has dancing as its number one priority when it comes to the reaction it wants to elicit, all of which is good… for a live date that is.

But with that as its primary goal, it shirks the number one requirement for a record, which is a whole ‘nuther ballgame.

A record needs a recurring hook, something that burrows into your brain the moment you hear it and keeps pulling you back for more. Instrumentals are like drugs in a sense. The slower groove-based ones replicate the trancelike effect some illegal substances have on you, getting you high and keeping you there for an extended period, while the faster paced tracks are for that sudden jolt and subsequent buzz of other narcotics.

The key for all of those examples – drugs and both types of instrumentals – is the addictive quality they possess. They need to provide it every time out otherwise you’re not coming back for more.

Unfortunately while this is a record that sounds fine while it’s playing, giving us a decent sax solo over that steady beat along with cohesive playing and shifting melodic patterns, it doesn’t captivate us with a feeling so strong that it compels us to return to get our fix a second and third and tenth time.

If you don’t think that matters much so long as the record sounds okay, then I’d ask you what do you believe MAKES a hit if not the need to hear that record a second, third and tenth time?

This is fine to listen to the first time as you attempt to figure out where it’s taking you, and certainly not bad to hear any time thereafter, but it isn’t going to be memorable enough once it’s over to consciously seek out down the road.

At a live date it will get you on the floor, but even if you had a good time dancing to it, you’re not stopping at the bandstand after their set is over to ask the name of it so you can race to the store tomorrow and pick up a copy for yourself.


Teaser: A Tormenter
Does that modest response it gets reflect badly on The Griffin Brothers?

No, not at all. They did their job here well enough, but their job isn’t as glamorous as they would’ve liked it to be, nor was it necessarily as profitable enough as Dot Records were hoping it would be.

The problem I think comes with the unrealistic expectations they all seemed to have.

The Griffin Brothers were invaluable as a self-contained band who could ably back any singer the company had and if needed come up with solid material for those singers and put on a good show on the road where all of them would get their own sets. But they weren’t going to be consistent hitmakers without those singers and so while they may have been the ones hiring Margie Day and Tommy Brown, the stars had to be Day and Brown, not Buddy and Jimmy Griffin.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get their own releases like The Teaser to give them a reward for their less glamorous work behind others and so they’d have a repertoire of songs they could play on stage while the singers took a break, but if they were looking to become stars in their own right with records like this, well that just wasn’t going to be in the cards.

Maybe in 1948 or 1949 when the instrumental was king they’d have stood a better chance at being known to the public, but those days were short-lived and though it may be hard to accept for talented and ambitious bandleaders, there was the potential for a longer and more interesting career if you just stuck to what you were best suited for all the time.


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