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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Riffin’ With The Griffin Brothers Orchestra

Side A
1. Little Red Rooster
2. Weepin' And Cryin'
3. Griff's Boogie
4. Blues All Alone
5. The Teaser
6. Pretty Baby
7. Blues With A Beat
8. Stubborn As A Mule
Side B
1. I Wanna Go Back
2. I'm Gonna Jump In The River
3. Comin' Home
4. Tra-La-La
5. Shuffle Bug
6. Ace In The Hole
7. Hot Pepper
8. It'd Surprise You

Here’s a cracking little collection released on UK Ace in 1985. There’s enough jumpin’ and jivin’ and bluesin’ chantoosin’ and weepin’ and cryin’ to keep any R&B fan happy. Not only do you get a tight jump combo, you also get star vocalists Margie Day and Tommy Brown and bootin’ tenor sax from Noble “Thin Man” Watts. You have probably concluded that I quite like this LP.
Trombonist James Griffin and his pianist and occasional vocalist brother Edward “Buddy” Griffin hailed from Norfolk, Virginia. In the late 1940s they formed a jump combo which became prominent on the Washington DC rhythm and blues scene. The band was taken under the managerial wing of local music entrepreneur Lillian Claiborne who in 1950 fixed them up with Dot Records, a recently founded label out of Gallatin, Tennessee.

A few months before signing with Dot, the Griffin Brothers band had been augmented by singer Margaret Hoffler, another native of Norfolk, who had moved to New York in the mid 1940s to pursue a singing career and had performed vocal duties with a group called “Four Bars And a Melody”.

In 1947 they had released a single “Near You” / “It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream” on Savoy. The platter had been mercilessly panned in a Billboard review, with Margaret’s song stylings receiving some especially cutting remarks – “thin and listless”, “straining uncomfortably in her chant.” As you can hear on the featured LP Margaret would prove to be a dynamic and earthy blues singer when she recorded with the Griffin Brothers.

Marriage, pregnancy and a subsequent marital breakup brought Margaret’s musical career to a halt and she moved back to Norfolk in 1950. The Griffin Brothers asked her to join their band and after the Dot signing, she changed her name to Margie Day at the suggestion of label owner Randy Wood.

The band’s first release “Street Walkin’ Daddy” / “Riffin’ With Griffin” sold well, and their next release, with both sides featuring Margie, “Little Red Rooster” / “Blues All Alone”, was a bigger hit, reaching number 5 in the R&B charts in 1951.

In early 1951, the Griffin Brothers recruited Atlanta based blues singer Tommy Brown as another vocalist. Brown had recorded some raucous sides for Savoy in January 1951, including “Atlanta Boogie” which featured a chorus of “Let’s rock and roll till the break of day.” It’s possible that the backing band on the session was the Griffin Brothers outfit, but this has never been confirmed.

The band recorded a cover version of Dave Bartholomew’s “Tra La La” with Tommy on vocals, achieving another R&B top ten hit in the summer of 1951 and then gained even more success with a Margie Day double sider, “Pretty Baby” / ”Stubborn As A Mule” which reached number 10 in the R&B charts.

Tommy Brown’s “Weepin’ And Cryin’” which was released late in 1951 became the band’s biggest chart hit, reaching number 3 but by then Brown was already in the process of leaving, having been called up for military service after which he pursued a solo career.

Margie Day left the band in August 1952, toured and recorded with Paul Williams on Dot and Decca, and made further R&B and jazz recordings on various labels, eventually returning to Norfolk where she organised a community project to help children wishing to develop careers in the performing arts.

The Griffin Brothers Orchestra continued to record for Dot into 1954 when the band split with Buddy joining Chess Records.


Sleevenotes to “Riffin’ With The Griffin Brothers Orchestra” by Ray Topping

Notes to Acrobat CD “The Griffin Brothers: Blues With A Beat” by Dave Penny

Article on Margie Day in “Dancing On The Edge” Vol 1 No 3 by ‘Fessa John Hook

Ripped from vinyl @ 320 kbps. No password.

Download from here:

Or here:

1. Little Red Rooster – vocal: Margie Day (December 1950, Dot 1019)

2. Weepin' And Cryin' – vocal: Tommy Brown (February 1951, Dot 1071)

3. Griff's Boogie – instrumental (December 1950, Dot 1020)

4. Blues All Alone - vocal: Margie Day (December 1950, Dot 1019)

5. The Teaser – instrumental (February 1952, Dot 1095)

6. Pretty Baby – vocal: Margie Day and Tommy Brown (February 1951, Dot 1070)

7. Blues With A Beat – instrumental (December 1950, Dot 1020)

8. Stubborn As A Mule - vocal: Margie Day (February 1951, Dot 1070)

9. I Wanna Go Back – vocal: Buddy Griffin (mid 1952, Dot 1117)

10. I'm Gonna Jump In The River – vocal: Margie Day (mid 1952, Dot 1104)

11. Comin' Home – instrumental (mid 1952, Dot 1105)

12. Tra-La-La – vocal: Tommy Brown (February 1951, Dot 1060)

13. Shuffle Bug – instrumental (February 1951, Dot 1071)

14. Ace In The Hole – vocal: Margie Day (mid 1952, Dot 1108)

15. Hot Pepper – instrumental (December 1950, Dot 1024)

16. It'd Surprise You – vocal: Margie Day (February 1952, Dot 1094)
All sides recorded in Washington DC.
Band personnel in 1950: Jimmy Griffin (tb); Wilbur Dyer (as); Virgil Wilson (ts); Buddy Griffin (p); Jimmy Reeves (b) Emmett "Nab" Shields (d); Margie Day (vcl).
Band personnel in 1951-52: Jimmy Griffin (tb); Wilbur Dyer (as); Noble Watts (ts); Buddy Griffin (p,vcl); Wilbur Little (b); Belton Evans (d); Margie Day (vcl); Tommy Brown (vcl).
Listen Up! Griffins, Margie and Tommy on streaming media player:

Buying The Griffin Brothers – 2 CDs were released on Acrobat about 10 years ago – “Blues With A Beat” Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 includes some of Tommy Brown's sides recorded on Savoy before he joined the Griffin Brothers. Volume 2 includes some tracks recorded by Buddy Griffin with his wife Claudia Swann after the band broke up.



Anonymous said...

Boogiewoody, I just re-posted Margie Day & the Griffin Brothers this morning. I would never want to offend you by saying "two great minds think alike", but I get such a kick out of these strange, eerie coincidences.

boogiewoody said...

Spooky, or what? Two people on opposite sides of the pond coincidentally decide to post on a band that recorded over sixty years ago. What are the chances of that happening?

Unknown said...

Whoa! Just started on the second song and I'm blown away. I have never heard of The Griffin Brothers before but now I'm much more inclined to check out more of their stuff. Definitely satisfied me as fan of the genre.

Unknown said...

I've heard crying tracks before, but that Track 02 just about takes the biscuit.Powerful performance by Tommy Brown.
Thanks for the wonderful blog.