Monday, January 11, 2010

Remembering Bread's Jimmy Griffin

This is the 1st of a 3-part posting on music legend Jimmy Griffin

...............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


Blogger Jim said...

Great stuff! It brings back many memories including the post Bread era when I worked the Black Tie product for Bench Records out of LA in the mid-late 80's. Met Jimmy out there at Reggie Fisher's along with Randy Meisner when they were in the studio. Look forward to more!

10:15 AM  
Blogger geno722 said...

Phillip, glad to see this posting! I had the extreme luck and privilege to work with Jimmy on a number of projects at Shoe/Daily Planet in Memphis including the Griffin-Sylvester project, the Shoe Records release "Lonely Girls," and a wealth of other tunes that I hope somehow see the light of day. Jimmy was a brilliant musician and a great guy!

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Phillip, I did not know he was a local boy, neat stuff, thanks, Bobby.

10:26 AM  
Blogger All Memphis Music said...

Great article on a great musician!

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

Thank you, Phillip, for remembering Jimmy. A bunch of us were very fortunate to get to Nashville (from the UK, California, Illinois and Texas) when Jim appeared at the Bluebird in 2004. I first met Jim in 1963 and for a period of time answered Bread's fan mail. I was out there last November to visit his gravesite. Then some of us met up in Nashville for a fan reunion. We call them Breadfests, but they're really more Griffinfests.
Like Geno, I'd love to see more of Jim's treasures surface.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Philip,
I enjoy reading your blog and your photolog. I know that your enjoying your life in the Northwest. Such beautiful country. I'm evvious! None the less life is a journey and you have made the best of it. A long way from the "rat pack days". What great memories. For myself I'm winding down and plan to move back to my roots. Funny huh? Out of room. Write when you can. Sam

6:14 AM  
Blogger Fran Hart said...

Well done retropsective from an insider's point of view.

I was friends with Jimmy from about 1980 onward - ran The Remingtons fan club and had the privilege to dine with Jimmy several times - heck, I drove him to The Palms in Boston after his "Rock with the Jocks" concert with (Terry Sylvester and Don Brewer), which semms very cool now, and a little surreal.

I was with Judy, who posted earlier, and Lisa and Val and others when we made the trek, first to Nashville and then to Memphis, to visit Jimmy's neighborhoods and schools, and, sadly, his grave. That trip is documented on YouTube - just search using "Breadfest" and all three parts should appear. You will see some of Jimmy's homes and get a narrated visit of his school by Bill Harbin.

A highlight of the trip was to meet Robb Royer who spoke fondly yet honestly about Jimmy. For those who don't know, Robb just released an album of Jimmy's later music and did a wonderful job producing the songs, many of which had been heard previously by "Griffinphiles" only in their raw, demo form.

Anyway, thanks for writing this and for letting us comment - it's good cartharsis!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Dolphin said...

Excellent articles!!! Thank you!

One minor correction of a repeated error. In Article 1, you refer to the Dorsey brothers. That should be the Burnette brothers (Johnny and Dorsey Burnette). Johnny Burnette recorded "Your Sixteen" which reached no. 8 on the charts (before being killed in a boating accident in 1964). Dorsey Burnette continued to record.

9:31 PM  
Blogger phillip rauls said...

Dolphin, Thank you for your clarification.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Joi Patterson said...

Thank you so much for the information. I have always loved Bread, but never realized Jimmy Griffin was not only from Memphis, but the neighborhood I grew up in (Kingsbury).

8:43 AM  

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