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BUCK GRIFFIN - That Stutterin' Papa
by Shaun Mather
UPDATE. Posted June 14, 2000 -
Buck's grandson Terry Petrick:
"I'm writing you to tell you that the love of his life, Mildred Griffin,
his wife for 58 yrs pasted away May 31, 2000.At the age of 76. This was a very
sad day in his life and all the relatives and friend that loved her.
She was a very big insperation in his life and his song writing."
One of greatest artists to strike out before making the major league's
was Buck Griffin, despite going to bat for Lin, MGM and Holiday Inn between
1954 and 1962. He tried his hand at both country and the newly emerging
rockabilly style but was destined to remain relatively unknown.
Born Albert C. Griffin in Corsicana, Texas on 23rd February 1923, his
formative years were spent moving throughout Oklahoma and Kansas. Whilst
still in his teens, A.C. as he was known, formed and fronted a country band
with three schoolmates. After leaving school and holding down jobs on
pipelines and oil fields, he started to play the local honky tonks and
eventually got a gig on radio station WKY.
Throughout the forties and fifties radio had bred many stars who once
they were groomed and polished, moved on to better things, leaving the station
manager to find a replacement. WKY probably had this in mind when they
copyrighted the name Chuck Wyman and had our Mr Griffin use it for all his
broadcasts. Once he left the station, singers like Paul Brawner and Pronger
Suggs took over the role and the sponsors continued backing the shows. The
public must surely have noticed whenever a new Chuck arrived, but after
a hard days toil in the cotton fields or rounding up cattle, I don't
suppose they cared.
Local entrepreneur Joe Leonard Jr. Who owned radio station KGAF in
Gainesville, Texas had started his own publishing company and had released
four singles on his fledgling Lin label. Leonard liked what he heard in
Griffin and in early '54 took him to Dallas where they cut two Griffin
originals at the WFAA Studio. It Don't Make No Never Mind featured both
horn and piano solo's but suffered from a pedestrian pace. The jazzier
western swing cut Meadowlark Boogie was catchier but when they were
released as Lin 1005 they went nowhere. Unperturbed by the lack of success
they returned to the studio on 17 September 1954 to cut four more slabs of
hillbilly, again all written by Griffen. Cut at the Jim Beck Studio in
Dallas, two singles were issued with Lin 1007 coupling the slow Rollin'
Tears and the lively One Day After Payday with it's great backing
(including Sonny James on fiddle), and clever lyrics. Lin 1008 again
suffered the same fate despite two more Hank-like numbers.
Thinking that perhaps Buck's songs weren't commercial enough, Leonard chose
to cut the next session using others writers, but then strangely used two gospel
styled tracks. It proved fruitful in that the Woodrow Patty, writer of one
of the cuts, Next In Line, would write such rockabilly classics as She's A
Going Jessie, Old Deacon Jones and the classic Rockin' Rollin' Stone all
recorded by Leonard artists.
When they returned to Jim Beck's studio a couple of months later they cut the
brilliant country bopper, Let's Elope Baby, a track which gained greater
recognition via Janis Martin's cover for RCA. It's thought that the
backing band for the session provided by Bill Wimberley comprised of several
ex-Texas Playboys including Johnnie Gimble on fiddle. The results are thus
very polished and were Buck's best efforts to date. Bawlin' And Squallin' the
flip of Elope was another swinger, as was the marching Go-Stop-Go another
penned by Patty and Cochise was out of the Kaw Liga. Little Dan was very
commercial with driving fiddle and great, playful vocals and could have
been a contender if luck had played more of a part in his career. The
flip Neither Do I was another dip into the Hank Williams book of songwriting.
Despite poor sales Buck received the boost of Hank's label MGM offering to
release his records. Obviously keen to produce the goods and get his career
going in the right direction, Buck must have anticipated great things when
he travelled to the Clifford Herring Studio in Fort Worth, Texas on 9th May
'56 with Leonard and regular guitarist Merl Shelton. All his recordings had
shown a versatility but this session really offered a new sound with the
classic Stutterin' Papa kicking off the proceedings. This rural rockabilly
with great guitar throughout had lyrics which kids could actually relate to,
someone which most of his records failed to have. Issued as MGM K 12284,
the top side Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By featured high lonesome wails and a
good country boogie guitar. It looked good for the guys as the single picked
up a very encouraging review in the June 30 issue of Billboard who awarded
Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By, 82/100 in their Commercial Potential Ratings.
Reviewed in the New C&W Records section, they enthused "Griffin uncorks a
wonderfully effective train-rhythm blues job. The rhythmic figure repeats
for solid spin and sales potentialÖ.New on the label, the performer is
impressive and the country band backing swings."
The same gang returned to the session on July 6th, cutting four more
Griffin originals. Bow My Back and Old Bee Tree were couple as MGM
K 12439 but again no chart action was forthcoming. Both were
strong hillbilly songs, aimed at the country market with Bow My
Back being particularly clever. For the third and final single on
MGM proper, a song from each of the Fort Worth session's was chosen.
The top side Jessie Lee is now rightly considered a classic with groups
copying it to this day. Backed with You'll Never Come Back the coupling
was reviewed in the 23 December 1957 issue of Billboard who described it
thus "Country blues, slow in tempo. Griffin has a very authentic feel
for the genre, and plenty of individuality in his vocal. Solid wax,
and merits real exposure." They also featured it in their "This Week's
Best Buys (Pop)" section where they referred to him as "a solid new.
The backing of national radio still eluded him and despite the
favourable review in Billboard and his appearances on the Big D
Jamboree in Dallas, the sales were only sufficient for MGM to
issue his next single on their Metro subsidiary. Cut in January
58, both The Party and Every Night were poppier than anything
previously attempted with backing vocals and sounding a bit like
Gene Vincent. It should have come as no surprise when this also
bombed and probably getting disillusioned, Buck didn't return to
the studio until the turn of the new decade when he returned to Lin
label. The Nashville sound was evident on First Man To Stand On The
Moon and Twenty Six Steps.
Another two years passed before Joe Leonard produced a single which
came out on the Holiday Inn label, formed by hotelier Kemmons Wilson
and god, Sam Phillips. Pretty Lou was a really neat sax led rocker
with Girl In 1209 being an attractive slowy. It's a shame that Sam
Phillips only fits in this story as an aside because the mouth waters
at the thought of what he could have achieved with Buck Griffin.
That voice was made to be backed by Roland Janes, Billy Lee Riley
Since those days Buck has sold bibles, started his own Rotary label,
hosted a Kansas based NBC TV show and settled in Erick, Oklahoma.
Today, Buck wouldn't have a chance of hitting the country charts with
it's squeaky clean songs and sham lyrics but it's hard to understand
why he couldn't crack them in his hey-day. Together with Joe Leonard
they produced a class catalogue of hillbilly, honky tonk and a few
rockabilly boppers which we are lucky enough to hear on Bear Family's
brilliant Let's Elope Baby (BCD 15811). If you find the Buck Griffin
Sings album on London EB 13 which features the Lin tracks, as Jerry
Lee said "you're a lucky fella son".
Shaun Mather. - email@example.com
BUCK GRIFFIN DISCOGRAPHY
Lin 1005 - It Don't Make No Never Mind / Meadowlark Boogie
Lin 1007 - Rollin' Tears / One Day After Payday
Lin1008 - Going Home All Alone / Lookin' For The Green
Lin1014 - Next To Mine / Lord Give Me Strength
Lin 1015 - Let's Elope Baby / Bawlin' And Squallin'
Lin 1016 - Go-Stop-Go / Cochise
Lin 1018 - Little Dan / Neither Do I
MGM K 12284 - Stutterin' Papa / Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By
MGM K 12439 - Old Bee Tree / Bow My Back
MGM K 12597 - Jessie Lee - You'll Never Come Back
Metro K 20007 - Every Night - The Party
Lin 5030 - First Man To Step On The Moon / Twenty Six Steps
Holiday Inn 109 - Pretty Lou / Girl In 1209
Rotary 459 - Too Many Honkytonks / Seven Lonely Rooms
Rotary 460 - Flashing Lights Wine And Me / I Can't Keep My Wheels On The Ground
Rotary 461 - One Day After Payday / No More Fun
Rotary 462 - Green River Towns / Greener Pastures
Foundation - 415 Viet Nam / Drinkin' With The Blues
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