DAVE'S DIARY - 13 JANUARY 2005 - JIMMY GRIFFIN RIP

JIMMY GRIFFIN RIP AT 61

BORN JAMES ARTHUR GRIFFIN - AUGUST 10, 1943 - CINCINNATI, OHIO.
DIED JANUARY 11, 2005 - NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.

BREAD CO-FOUNDER DIES

Prolific singer-songwriter and some time actor Jimmy Griffin has died of cancer at 61.

Griffin, who toured Australia with Bread, had been undergoing treatment for several months.

He was first known in country music for his role in Black Tie with Billy Swan and former Eagles singer Randy Meisner.

Griffin also recorded two albums with The Remingtons who had a big hit with A Long Time Ago.

The singer also cut solo and duet albums and had 83 original songs listed on the BMI site at the time of his death.

Jimmy Bowen produced his debut solo disc Summer Holiday, a collection of cover tunes, in 1963 for Frank Sinatra's label Reprise.

Griffin also began developing as a songwriter with Rudy Vallee, Ed Ames, Lesley Gore, Bobby Vee and others covering his songs.

His acting foray included roles in the movies For Those Who Think Young (1964) and None But the Brave (1965) - the only film Sinatra produced. .

Griffin later wrote a brace of hits for Bread between 1969 and 1977.

In 1970, under the pseudonym of Arthur James he collaborated with Bread members Robb Royer and Fred Carlin on the song For All We Know for the film Lovers and Other Strangers.

The song won an Academy Award for Best Song and went on to become a #3 hit for the Carpenters.

FROM OHIO TO MEMPHIS

Griffin was born in Cincinnati on Aug. 10, 1943, but moved to Memphis with his family soon after.

When he was 7, his mother started him on accordion lessons at the Central Academy of Music.

He developed musical talents and performed locally until graduation from Kingsbury High School in 1962.

Living across the street from Griffin and serving as musical inspiration were brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette.

The Burnettes were embryonic rockabilly and rock musicians who sired roots singers Rocky and Billy Burnette.

Billy - a member of veteran super group Fleetwood Mac - also had a successful career as a solo country artist and songwriter.

HOLLYWOOD

Griffin followed the elder Burnettes to California.

"I went out to visit Dorsey Burnette, after I graduated high school," Griffin revealed.

"Dorsey and Johnny Burnette moved in across the street from me in Memphis when I was seven years old, and they were living in California by this time.

"Dorsey played the upright bass and steel guitar, as well as acoustic guitar. Johnny played acoustic guitar and together they were fabulous songwriters and singers.

"Their harmonies were always real tight and I enjoyed singing with them, even at that age. Johnny Burnette had a big hit called Dreamin and then Dorsey had a hit called The Tall Oak Tree.

"Dreamin was produced by Snuff Garrett, who also produced artists like Bobby Vee, Timi Yuro and others, and eventually myself.

"Dorsey was recording for Reprise Records at this time and was impressed with my songs enough to take me to meet his producer, Steve Venet, and I played some songs for him that I had recorded demos of in Memphis. I also sang two or three songs live." Griffin released the Venet produced singles before the album.

SUMMER HOLIDAY

"I got out there on July 4th of '62", Griffin recalled.

"I had a record deal by September. Steve produced Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys and one more. Then he and I wrote a few songs together and became good friends. He was a talented producer. His brother, Nik Venet, produced many Capitol Records acts, including Bobby Darin. When Steve left in 1963, Jimmy Bowen took over. Jimmy dropped most of the acts that Steve had signed, but kept me and produced my first album."

Griffin's first album, Summer Holiday, a collection of cover tunes, was released in 1963.
Producer Bowen chose the Cliff Richard song - also a movie - as the title track.

Bowen later headed the country divisions of Warner Bros., MCA and Capitol Records before writing a revealing book Rough Mix and coming out of retirement to produce Merle Haggard's new album.

Griffin's disc featured Leon Russell on piano, guitarist Glen Campbell and Hal Blaine on drums.

MARRIAGE TO AN ACTRESS

The album cover also featured Griffin's first wife in a cameo role.

"I produced a song for Bobby Vee called Get The Message," Griffin revealed in an interview.

"Interestingly, Bobby was dating the girl on the cover Mikki, whom I later married. I ended up marrying her for four months!" She was an actress and she played in Lost At Sea with Robert Logan. She was in a lot of shows. Her name was Mikki Jameson. The other girl was just a model - I didn't know her. I think we were in Marina del Ray. I don't remember too much about that area. I was new in town."

Griffin also studied acting as an "artist-in-development" at MGM studios.

He appeared in For Those Who Think Young in 1963 and None But The Brave in 1964.

"I got killed on page 42!," Griffin joked about the latter role.

THE BREAD YEARS

James still had a solo recording deal by 1968 but he and Robb Royer joined Gates and Jim Gordon to form Bread to combine singing, songwriting and instrumental talents.

"I was so tired of getting my songs recorded by other people who would miss the point or change the hooks or tempo," Griffin said.

The following year, the group's debut single, Make It With You, went to #1.

Subsequent hits included It Don't Matter to Me, If, Baby I'm-a Want You, Everything I Own, The Guitar Man, Aubrey and Lost Without Your Love.

James also wrote Bread tunes Truckin, Too Much Love, Any Way You Want Me and Could I.

Griffin and Royer also wrote tunes such as Radio Dixie, Slow Train, Preacher On The Air, Pair Of 8's, Two Hearts Working Overtime, Shango and Share This Love.

BLACK TIE

Griffin reverted to a solo career after strains between him and Gates caused the demise of Bread.

Griffin left the band in 1973 and rejoined in 1976 before the group disbanded in a swirl of rancour and lawsuits.

Griffin, Gates, Michael Botts and Larry Knechtel were the key members of Bread.

But tensions arose: Though Griffin wrote and sang lead on half of Bread's songs, his works were elbowed out by Gates' compositions when it came time to choose singles
Polydor released the album James Griffin In Europe in 1978 and Memphis label Shoe Records issued several his singles.

Polydor released the album James Griffin In Europe in 1978 and Memphis label Shoe Records issued several his singles.

Griffin also recorded an album in Memphis in 1981 with Terry Sylvester (formerly of the Hollies) as Griffin Sylvester.

''He had an amazing voice, and never lost a bit of quality,'' said Sylvester.

''We played some shows with John Ford Coley a couple of years ago, and he was still singing so high. He was in his late 50s and he still had the girls going nuts for him. I couldn't compete.''

''He had such a soft sound,'' said Coley, a friend who often performed with Griffin.

''Jimmy could have looked at you and said, 'I hate your guts,' and it would have sounded like, 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.' And he wasn't your typical road musician who went wild and crazy. Jimmy was kind of quiet. He sang a lot of harmony and played great guitar. He was just easy.''

In the late '80s, Griffin teamed up with Randy Meisner (Eagles and Poco) and Billy Swan to form Black Tie, - a country music trio.

Their only charted single - Learning the Game, written by Buddy Holly - came out in 1990 and hit #59 on the country charts.

But Griffin and Meisner wrote several songs including You're My Life.

THE REMINGTONS

"Well, I never thought it would turn out this way/ I thought I had it made/ I was gonna
go right to the top/ Well, that's everybody said/ I left a sleepy little town and a pretty girl/ And took off down the road/ With a new guitar and a happy song/ A long time ago." - A Long Time Ago - Richard Mainegra.

In 1991, Griffin and Richard Mainegra and Rick Yancey from the group Cymarron formed the Remingtons.

The group, later added Denny Henson - half of Fool's Gold with Andrew Gold - and was signed to the newly established RCA sub-label, BNA Records.

Their debut Long Time Ago was their most successful record, reaching #10 in early 1992.

Their last single Wall Around Her Heart in 1993 topped out at #69.

The Remingtons recorded two albums Aim For The Heart and Blue Frontier.

Originals included Too Timing Me, Blue Moon Risin', Down In The Sunken Road, It's A Cold Day In Hell, I Wonder If She Ever Thinks Of Me, I'll Take Up Where He Takes Off, Nobody Loves You, Lovers Again and She's All I've Got Going Now.

Band members also wrote songs for artists diverse as Lorrie Morgan, Restless Heart and McBride & The Ride.

Mainegra penned Separate Ways - recorded by the late Elvis Presley - and Here's Some Love for Tanya Tucker.

Griffin also earned hits as a songwriter with Conway Twitty on Who's Gonna Know and Restless Heart with the BMI award winning You Can Depend On Me.

''His musicality was strong, but his voice was always the star in that package,'' said Nashville singer-songwriter Bill Lloyd, a label-mate of Griffin and The Remingtons. ''He played guitar, of course, but I was knocked out by a piano song he was working on that he played me in the studio while we were writing. A real nice human being, to boot.''


SOLO AGAIN

Griffin made occasional solo performances throughout the '90s and into the new century but mainly devoted himself to songwriting.

He wrote several tunes including Take The Easy Way Out and You'll Never Leave My Heart with hit writer Kostas.

He did his last studio work last year, pairing up with singer Lynn Bryant to record Todd Rundgren's pop classic, Can We Still Be Friends.

Griffin is survived by his wife, Marti; daughter, Alexis; and son, Jacob, all of Franklin.
The funeral service was at Christ Presbyterian Church, 2323 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville and the graveside service at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis.


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