The Totally Unofficial & Unauthorized
John L's Bread Pages
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Bread on the Radio – Why Play Just the Hits?
Among the joys of doing occasional "mostly oldies" programs at an "alternative" radio station (WORT-FM in Madison, WI) is playing selections from the first Bread LP and other relatively heavy and/or obscure Bread songs that do not fit the softer image fashionably and mindlessly perpetuated by the commercial oldies stations with their limited playlists. When was the last time your favorite oldies station played "Fancy Dancer," "Why Do You Keep Me Waiting," "Down On My Knees," "Take Comfort," the original "It Don't Matter To Me" or even "Could I"? (Slade's cover of "Could I" is worth a listen. They really made it their own.) Many of the solo Gates and Griffin singles included in the discography herein have also been featured on my shows as well as associated groups like The Pleasure Fair, The Beethoven Soul and The Travel Agency. Albums by the last two groups were among the many Griffin productions of the late 1960s, and they are classic period pieces; see the "red box" on the left for links to photos.
During their heyday in the 1980s, the Madison band Chunky Pie was into the spirit of things and included "Truckin'" in their Bread Medley.
When I had a classical music program on the same station (back in the 1900s) and found ways to link everything together, Moondog's 1956 recording of "To A Sea Horse" and David Gates' "Chain Me" (on the "Never Let Her Go" LP) made a most interesting double-play. Indeed, classical influences can be heard in a number of Bread-related recordings. Further examples: A fleeting motif in Howard Hanson's "Sinfonia Sacra" may very well have inspired the melody in The Pleasure Fair's "Today," and Anton Bruckner's ponderous influence is felt throughout Griffin's "The Light Of Your Mind" which was arranged by Al Capps.
Some More Notes about Jimmy Griffin's Career
Qualified individuals have written extensively on the web about James (I believe he preferred "Jimmy") Griffin's life and career, and it is not the intention here to provide a detailed biography. Hopefully his Recording Legacy is in good hands and great things are planned. Perhaps some prominent use of his singing in movies could generate enough public interest in a compilation CD? One that would provide at least a representative sampling of his notable four decade-plus recording and writing career would be just the thing for a reissue label to put out. A comprehensive multi-CD set (such as what the renowned El Toro and Bear Family labels release) would probably be too much to ask for at this point, but the true Bread fans can only hope for an intelligent and annotated career retrospective to come along.
While driving home from a gathering of some of his friends and fans in Memphis on his birthday in August, 2005, the idea of a roadside marker took shape in my mind. While an actual roadside marker probably won't materialize any time soon, a virtual one can be downloaded by clicking on the image on the right and then installed anywhere. As the sign would indicate, those who actually take the trouble to really seek out his work are indeed rewarded greatly.
True and lasting fame may not come in an artist's lifetime, and of course the artist cannot be whisked forward in a time machine to see what mark he might have left. An interesting episode of Doctor Who comes to mind, specifically "Vincent and the Doctor" which ran in 2010. The key scene is seen here.
On this website are discography pages which include (1) Jimmy Griffin's solo and duo recordings and (2) his work as a member of groups other than Bread. Further involvement in studio work (more duets and supporting vocals, productions, etc.) is only hinted at by examining the unfinished and very incomplete list on (3) this page which also includes some of his songs recorded by others.
Mention having already been made (on Page One) about Griffin's pre-Bread recordings and "Cosmo and Robetta" and also his writing association with Michael Z. Gordon, the following section is a rough and rambling chronology of some more things.
There are a number of songs performed in movies and on TV which still have not seen the light of day on disc – a couple examples: Jimmy Griffin performed "I'm Gonna Walk All Over This Land" in the 1964 film "For Those Who Think Young." He also sang (off-camera) "Yesterday's Love" on the "Programmed for Panic" episode of "Ironside" which aired September 28, 1972 (in Season 6).
Jimmy played a significant singing role in the CBS-TV special "They Said It with Music: Yankee Doodle to Ragtime" which aired on July 4, 1977. How well I remember stumbling upon this program and – to my great surprise and delight – seeing Jimmy's contributions to the various routines. Tony Randall, Bernadette Peters, Jason Robards, Flip Wilson and Jean Stapleton were also featured on the program. A number of excerpts are shown here; at about the 8-minute mark is Jimmy singing "Lorena" as a Civil War soldier shivering in the snow. One can only hope that the entire two-hour show will someday be made available on DVD. The UCLA Music Library appears to have the music in their collection under "They Said It with Music." They just don't write songs like that any more.
Three Bread songs appear on James Griffin solo albums on the Polydor label. "Love You Till The Cows Come Home" and "She Knows" had their origin in Bread sessions before the first breakup of the group in early 1973, and these songs are found on "Breakin' Up Is Easy," a full-page ad for which is shown on the right. For session details, see footnote J2 on this page for photos of the LP's inner sleeve.
The third of these "displaced" Bread songs – "That's All I Need" – was written by Robb Royer and recorded by Griffin, Gates, Botts and Knechtel in September, 1974 (quite the reunion!) and is found on the second Polydor LP, "James Griffin" which was originally released only in Germany and the U.K. in 1977. Also on this LP is "Blood From A Stone" – an "almost-Bread" track recorded in Dec., 1974 – produced by Griffin, Knechtel and Royer with Mike Botts on drums. See footnote L on this page for photos of the LP's covers which include the session details. A compilation of both LPs plus bonus tracks may still be located on-line.
In 1982, Jimmy Griffin and Terry Sylvester collaborated on the album "Griffin & Sylvester." The idea for this album came during the recording of Terry Sylvester's 1976 "I Believe" album for which Jimmy participated in a duet of the Paul Williams/Roger Nichols song "Travellin' Boy." This duet is found only on the original U.K. LP; a punched-up solo version produced by Alan Parsons appears on the U.S. editions of the LP and all CD reissues, so the original duet has definitely become a rarity worth seeking out.
The "Griffin & Sylvester" album was recorded in Memphis at the "Daily Planet" production studio which was across the hall from "Shoe Productions" – with Shoe providing many of the musicians involved. In 2020, an 80-minute video detailing activities there became available and can be accessed here for viewing, downloading and purchase as a DVD. In the video, three of Jimmy's recordings are highlighted: Two were on Shoe's one and only single on its own label (which you can find in the discography) containing the songs "Lonely Girls" and "Heartbeat." "All I Need" shows up on the video where seasoned Shoe veterans are providing backup for Jimmy's solo demo from three decades past.
A large number of musicians contributed to the legendary "Black Tie" LP of 1985 including Jimmy Griffin and Robb Royer, and the Black Tie group that emerged publicly had Griffin, Billy Swan and Randy Meisner as its core members. A 1990 revision of the album which became available on CD featured Griffin more predominantly on the tracks "Learning The Game" and "Chain Gang" – both of which were released on a 45 rpm single. Charlie Rich, Jr. joined Black Tie in 1992. As Griffin became involved with other projects, Black Tie was disbanded, and the core group subsequently became known as Meisner, Swan & Rich. A related story or two is told here.
Jimmy Griffin created great music wherever he worked – Memphis (his home town), Nashville, Los Angeles, etc. – and he ultimately centered his activities in Nashville. In the early 1990s, he achieved notable success in country music, co-writing the songs "You Can Depend On Me" and "Who's Gonna Know" which became hits for Restless Heart and Conway Twitty, respectively. Griffin's group The Remingtons introduced some fresh and unique harmonies to country music, hitting the country charts with the release of two CDs and five singles in 1991-93 which are listed here. Likewise, the group GYG which came along early in the next millenium (see below), was most definitely country-flavored and included a totally gorgeous rendition of "Who's Gonna Know." The more recently-released "Sessions 1990-92" CD by The Finnigan Brothers (an authentic outlaw country band) includes a duet with Griffin; group and CD details are here.
Over the years, Griffin could be found in the recording studio making demos of a number of his own songs and those of others. Performing a repetoire search on the BMI website reveals details concerning his writing career and suggests that a considerable quantity of demos exist, and there is certainly no need to reproduce any list of his many dozens of compositions here. The "For All We Know" demo has already been released on the "Retrospective" CD. I am still hoping to come across the elusive demo for "Get The Message" which a DJ friend of mine happily announces as "recorded by many; not a hit for any" when playing the song on his oldies shows. (Note the list on Page One of those who recorded it.)
Griffin, Robb Royer, Larry Knechtel and singer/mandolinist Todd Cerney emerged in Nashville clubs in the 1990's as Toast, and you can read about that (along with an interesting career retrospective) here. Some tracks were recorded for an album titled "Radio Dixie" which was never completed. However, four Toast tracks can be found on Todd's CD "We'll Be Back," and "Slow Train" is the opening track of the Royer-produced Nashfilms Records "Jimmy Griffin" album listed here.
As the millennium turned, Griffin worked with Terry Sylvester and John Ford Coley as Soft Rock Cafe and later (2003-04) with Rick Yancey and Ronnie Guilbeau as GYG. More about GYG is in the section on the bottom of this page.
Griffin provided backing vocals for diverse artists including Billy Burnette, Paul Burlison, Bob Cheevers, Lorrie Morgan, Micky Newbury, Billy Joe Royal and Charlie Taylor. Especially notable is the 2001 "Conjure Man" CD by Micheal Smotherman (produced by Robb Royer) which has Griffin singing background vocals on each of the ten tracks; listen to a complete track here. His association with Dobie Gray resulted in a duet on the old Sam Cooke classic "Cupid." Griffin and Rick Yancey can be heard as background vocalists on the "Nashville Sessions" CD by Edwin Lewis, released in 2005.
A page on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) summarizes some of his movie and TV-related work including "Something Else Altogether" (mentioned on Page One). Two more items which can be added to the list are "They Said It with Music: Yankee Doodle to Ragtime" (discussed above) and another songwriting effort – "Built For Blue Jeans" – a line-dance classic which is in the 2007 movie Camille.
In his last full year, Jimmy Griffin recorded "Share This Love" – his last song written with Robb Royer – which is part of the collection of songs on the "Jimmy Griffin" CD on Robb's Nashfilms label (see Discography). He also participated in the following notable Nashville recording sessions whose CDs emerged in the marketplace in 2005. (These sessions may not be in chronological order.)
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Life is far more important than what you do for a living. (Richard Dean Anderson wrote that.)