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