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Jimmy McGriff

Jimmy McGriff
Jimmy McGriff at Organ Summit, Toronto 2004
Background information
Birth name James Harrell McGriff
Born (1936-04-03)April 3, 1936
Germantown, Pennsylvania United States
Died May 24, 2008(2008-05-24) (aged 72)
Voorhees Township, New Jersey United States
Genres Jazz, hard bop, blues, soul-jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader
Instruments piano, vibes, alto saxophone, drums, upright bass
Years active 1960–2007
Labels Groove Merchant, Jell Records, Sue, Solid State
Notable instruments
Hammond B-3 organ
Hammond XB-3 synthesizer

James Harrell McGriff (April 3, 1936 – May 24, 2008)[1] was an bandleader who developed a distinctive style of playing the Hammond B-3 organ.


  • Biography 1
    • Early years and influences 1.1
    • 1960s: First combos 1.2
    • 1970s–1980s 1.3
    • 1990s–2000s 1.4
  • Discography 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Early years and influences

Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, McGriff started playing piano at the age of five and by his teens had also learned to play vibes, alto sax, drums and upright bass.[2] His first group was as bassist in a piano trio. When he joined the United States Army, McGriff served as an MP during the Korean War and he later became a police officer in Philadelphia for two years.[1]

Music kept drawing McGriff's attention away from the police force. His childhood friend, organist Richard "Groove" Holmes played at his sister's wedding. Holmes went on to become McGriff's teacher and friend and they recorded together on two occasions in 1973 for two Groove Merchant records.

McGriff bought his first

1960s: First combos

McGriff formed a combo that played around Philadelphia and often featured Don Gardner, Arthur Prysock, Candido and Carmen McRae, who came through town for local club dates.[1]

In 1961, McGriff's trio was offered the chance to record an instrumental version of gospel, soul and "fatback groove".

McGriff recorded a series of popular albums for the Sue label between 1962 and 1965, ending with what still stands as one of his finest examples of blues-based jazz, Blues for Mister Jimmy. When producer Electric Funk and singles such as "The Worm" and "Step 1").

During this time, McGriff performed at clubs and concert halls worldwide. He settled in Newark, New Jersey, and eventually opened his own supper club, the Golden Slipper - where he recorded Black Pearl and a live album, Love Ain’t Nothin’ But A Business Goin’ On with Junior Parker in 1971. Beginning in 1969, he also performed regularly with Buddy Rich's band, though the two were only recorded once together in 1974 on The Last Blues Album Volume 1.


McGriff "retired" from the music industry in 1972 to start a horse farm in Connecticut. But Sonny Lester's new record company,

  • Jimmy McGriff at AllMusic
  • The New York Times Obituary
  • Washington Post Obituary
  • Illustrated Discography
  • Jimmy McGriff discography on

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Allmusic Biography
  2. ^ a b c d Fordham, John (2008-06-04). "Jimmy McGriff: Preacher and musician who saw himself as king of the blues-rooted Hammond organ". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  3. ^ Ratliff, Ben. "Jimmy McGriff, 72, Jazz and Blues Organist",


  • I've Got a Woman (Sue, 1962)
  • One of Mine (Sue, 1963)
  • Jimmy McGriff at the Apollo (Sue, 1963)
  • Christmas With McGriff (Sue, 1964)
  • Jimmy McGriff at the Organ (Sue, 1964)
  • Topkapi (Sue, 1964)
  • Blues for Mister Jimmy (Sue, 1965)
  • The Big Band of Jimmy McGriff (Solid State, 1966)
  • Cherry (Solid State, 1966)
  • A Bag Full of Soul (Solid State, 1966)
  • A Bag Full of Blues (Solid State, 1967)
  • I've Got a New Woman (Solid State, 1967)
  • The Worm (Solid State, 1968)
  • Honey (Solid State, 1968)
  • Step 1 (Solid State, 1969)
  • A Thing to Come By (Solid State, 1969)
  • Electric Funk (Blue Note, 1969)
  • The Way You Look Tonight (Solid State, 1970)
  • Something to Listen To (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Black Pearl (Blue Note, 1971)
  • Good Things Don't Happen Everyday (Groove Merchant, 1971)
  • Groove Grease (Groove Merchant, 1971)
  • Black and Blues (Groove Merchant, 1971)
  • Soul Sugar (Capitol, 1971)
  • Let's Stay Together (Groove Merchant, 1972)
  • Fly Dude (Groove Merchant, 1972)
  • Giants of the Organ Come Together (Groove Merchant, 1973) - with Groove Holmes
  • Giants of the Organ in Concert (Groove Merchant, 1974) - with Groove Holmes
  • The Main Squeeze (Groove Merchant, 1974)
  • Stump Juice (Groove Merchant, 1975)
  • The Mean Machine (Groove Merchant, 1976) - with Joe Thomas
  • Red Beans (Groove Merchant, 1976)
  • Tailgunner (Lester Radio Corp., 1977)
  • Outside Looking In (Lester Radio Corp., 1978)
  • City Lights (Jazz America, 1980)
  • Movin' Upside the Blues (JAM, 1980)
  • The Groover (JAM, 1982)
  • Countdown (Milestone, 1983)
  • Skywalk (Milestone, 1984)
  • State of the Art (Milestone, 1985)
  • Soul Survivors (Milestone, 1986) - with Hank Crawford
  • The Starting Five (Milestone, 1986)
  • Steppin' Up (Milestone, 1987) - with Hank Crawford
  • Blue to the Bone (Milestone, 1988)
  • On the Blue Side (Milestone, 1986) - with Hank Crawford
  • You Ought To Think About Me (Headfirst, 1990)
  • In A Blue Mood (Headfirst, 1991)
  • Right Turn on Blues (Telarc, 1994) - with Hank Crawford
  • Blues Groove (Telarc, 1994) - with Hank Crawford
  • The Dream Team (Milestone, 1996) - with David 'Fathead' Newman
  • Charles Earland's Jazz Organ Summit (Cannonball, 1997)
  • Road Tested (Milestone, 1997) - with Hank Crawford
  • Straight Up (Milestone, 1998) - with David 'Fathead' Newman
  • Crunch Time (Milestone, 1999) - with Hank Crawford
  • McGriff's House Party (Milestone, 1999) - with Dr. Lonnie Smith
  • Feelin' It (Milestone, 2000)
  • McGriff Avenue (Milestone, 2001)


A resident of Voorhees Township, New Jersey, McGriff died there at age 72 on May 24, 2008, due to complications of multiple sclerosis.[3]

On March 29, 2008, McGriff was given a last private concert by "Mr. B3" Bill Dilks and Grant Macavoy in his honor in Voorhees, New Jersey. Dilks brought his B3 and played for McGriff his wife Margaret, their guests, and the folks at Genesis HealthCare. As Dilks said, "The Hammond reaches its players far beyond where the conscious mind lives".

Along with the soul-jazz sound, McGriff experienced renewed popularity in the mid-1990s, forming The Dream Team group, which featured David "Fathead" Newman (a longtime saxophonist with Ray Charles) and drummer Bernard Purdie, and recording the Straight Up (1998), McGriff's House Party (2000), Feelin' It (2001), and McGriff Avenue (2002) albums.

Jimmy, as well as Groove Holmes, spent a great deal of time experimenting and modifying their B3's and Leslie speakers over the years. Some of these modifications made their way into products manufactured by both Hammond and Leslie, for which they did not always receive credit.

McGriff was one of the first B3 players to add MIDI to the upper keyboard his personal B3 to add and extend "his sound" beyond just the drawbar sound of the B3. He incorporated synthesizers in his live performances as he liked vibes, piano, string, brass and other sounds that could only be created by a synthesizer and which the classic B3 cannot provide. Jimmy purchased the XB-3 as he had more control over the MIDI functions, and the XB-3 weighs about half of the classic B3, which made it easier to move.

Between 1994 and 1998, McGriff also experimented with the Lonnie Smith). House Party did include the use of the XB-3; however, he did not use the MIDI functions.


In 1986, McGriff started a popular partnership with alto saxophone player Hank Crawford. Their partnership yielded 1987's Soul Survivors and 1997's Road Tested. But it was only during their brief period at Telarc in the mid-1990s that McGriff's name headlined the popular club and cruise ship attraction.

By 1980, McGriff broke away from Sonny Lester and began working actively with producer Bob Porter (and recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder). McGriff began a long relationship with Fantasy Records' Milestone label, collaborating with Rusty Bryant, Al Grey, Red Holloway, David "Fathead" Newman, Frank Wess and Eric Alexander.


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