...............James A. Griffin 1943-2005....................
On this fifth anniversary of the passing of music legend James "Jimmy" Griffin, it's only natural to honor his past with a career epilogue. Although much of Jimmy Griffin's creative endeavors are already posted throughout the Internet, I certainly won't try to compete with those well documented discographys and biographies as this is not a collection of his entire body of work. However, this is a personal account of time spent with this outstanding individual. In looking back, and in certain times in our lives, I played a variety of roles in our relationship. I was his friend, his neighbor, a business associate, his record promoter, his song plugger, his consultant, his alibi, and most enjoyable of all...his sidekick. Never once during the course of those events were there any disagreements, fights, arguments, strained relations or outstanding debts. Jimmy was a good EGG and I'm proud to say that I knew him. With that being said, let it be known that he and I had a similarity with something in common. And that would be the affinity for being in the company of beautiful women. If you've ever heard the songs and alluring tones of Jimmy's singing voice or witnessed the captivating effects of his lyrics, I'm sure you'd agree, he definitely knew something about reaching out and touching the hearts of females.
A brief glimpse into Jimmy's background reveals that he grew up in the musical rich city of Memphis, TN. His early influences were local with so many artists calling Memphis their home as the community was fertile grounds to develop his skills. Jimmy was raised in a neighborhood known as the Treadwell-Grahamwood area and attended Kingsbury High School. This section of Memphis would produce many fine musicians including Jimmy's immediate neighbors, Charlie Musselwhite and Johnny & Dorsey Burnette. After graduating in 1963, Jimmy took a trip to California to visit the Dorsey Brothers who had since relocated to Los Angeles to pursue careers in the music business. There his old neighbors were experiencing moderate success as professional musicians. Young Jimmy liked what he saw and never looked-back.
Within a short period of arriving in Los Angeles, Jimmy's good looks and help from the Burnette Brothers, secures a recording contract with Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records. There he is immediately groomed to fit the mold of a Teen idol. At Reprise, Jimmy has several single releases along with this EP all being produced in a assembly line cookie-cutter form with songs targeted at teenage girls.
As the hit machine attempts to capture the right sound combination, Griffin's budding young record producer named Jimmy Bowen, recruits the services of key session men such as Jack Nitzche, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Glen Campbell.
Despite several single releases with no major chart action to build upon, the record company remains committed to support Griffin. Yet, in hindsight and looking back with assessment, it appears all of Griffin's early releases sounded as if he was being produced to sound similar to Bobby Vee or Gene Pitney.
As Griffin continues to release singles, he also begins developing his writing skills and teams with songwriter Michael Gordon to write songs for many recording artist such as; Gary Lewis, Brian Hyland, Leslie Gore, Ed Ames, Bobby Vee, The Standells, Sandy Nelson and Cher.
Later in 1963 while shooting the cover of his first album, Summer Holiday, Griffin meets his first wife, Mikki. Following that event they would soon get married yet only stay together for a brief period.
In 1964 Jimmy lands several small acting rolls in the movies titled, "For Those Who Think Young" and "None But The Brave."
In 1965 while still searching for a hit, Jimmy Griffin changes record labels and switches to Imperial Records.
Finding that stardome is no easy task, Jimmy again changes record labels and music producers in 1967.
In 1967 while still signed to the security of a solo artist contract, Jimmy senses distinct changes in music styles and youth culture in general. At that point he seeks to revise his plans and plots a different course.
In 1968, Griffin re-shuffles the deck and teams with new song writing partners Robb Royer and David Gates to form a new band called, BREAD.
More about Jimmy Griffin's new group in the next posting...
Next Posting; Part II - Remembering Bread's Jimmy Griffin