Jazzy Blues Organ Virtuoso
(1936- )

Birth of a Living Legend

The City of Brotherly Love could be called the City of Organ Masters where James Harrell McGriff was born one spring day on the third of April of 1936. In fact Jimmy's Philadelphia parents were pianists, but the prodigy learned bass, saxophone, drums, vibes and then piano. Eventually Charles Earland a local great organist, among the many there which included Doc Bageley and Shirley Scott, taught him on the instrument on which he would become famous but first he chose acoustic bass and sax. A big part of his indelible musical influence came from his attendance at the Eastern Star Baptist Church with his family.

Copped Out

Jimmy, after High School studied for a while at Combe College of Music in Philly, and even had courses at Juilliard until he signed up and served as an Military Policeman in Korea. When he left the Army he, with such experience, became a Philadelphia police officer, and now instead of music school he was studying at the Penn Institue of Criminology. While moonlighting playing bass during nights at places like Pep's Showboat club during some of his three dozens of years he finally permanently and happily chose music as his career. One highlight during his part-time playing in the fifties was working with blues stars of the time like Big Maybelle. He was able to study with Jimmy Smith, his old neighbor, Groove Holmes, Milt Buckner and even included classical training from Sonny Gatewood. Though Jimmy Smith inspired him with blistering jazz solos, his protege stayed with bluesier roots more akin to Booker T.

From Spotted to the Spotlight

Some forgotten talent scout from Jell's Records happened to be in some equally forgotten club in Trenton, New Jersey one night in 1962 and was so enthralled by Jimmy McGriff's reinvention covering Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman" he signed him up and the release of that instrumental got attention. Juggy Murry's Sue Records from New York City in turn bought the rights and their 1963 airplay followed the flight to number 5 on the R & B charts, and number 20 on Billboard's pop. Those Gospel roots surfaced in one of his first albums released in 1963 with "Gospel Time" and "Gospel Time Encore".

On Sue Record in the sixties, he continued his hegira on his Hammond B-3 with follow-up singles like, "All About My Girl," "M.G. Blues," and "Bump De Bump" (Probably where Tower of Power borrowed a part for "Down at the Nightclub")

Musical Migrant

Jimmy switched to Solid State Records where he had another hit in 1969, "The Worm." Then, he worked for Blue Note, Capitol, Groove Merchant and LRC. Fortunately he switched back to his soul roots and his B-3 on Milestone in 1983 after fooling around with electronic keyboards and fusion rock/pop. Working with Hank Crawford, and trying some other companies, he's with The Dream Team and Milestone, and in the turn of the century he has invited us to McGriff's House Party.

Lastly boasting 100% Pure Funk, in 2001, he is still going strong and has a website in production.


Jimmy McGriff at the Organ; Sue 1963
I've Got a Woman; Sue, 1963
At The Apollo; Sue, 1963
Topkapi ; Sue, 1964
Blues For Mr. Jimmy; Sue, 1965
The Last Minute; Sue
One of Mine; Sue, 1963
A Bag Full of Soul; Solid State, 1966
The Big Band of Jimmy McGriff; Solid State1966
Cherry, 1966 Solid State, 1966
Tribute to Basie; 1966 LRC, 1966
I've Got a New Woman; Solid State, 1967
A Bag Full of Blues; Solid State, 1967
Step One; Solid State, 196?
Funkiest Little Band in the Land LRC, 1968
Georgia On My Mind; LRC
Christmas with McGriff; ? Black Label
The Worm Solid State, 1968
Organ and Blues Band Solid State, 1968
Honey Solid State, 1968
Electric Funk Blue Note, 1969
A Thing to Come By Solid State, 1970
Something to Listen To Blue Note, 1970
Let's Stay Together Groove Merchant, 1971
Groove Grease Groove Merchant, 1971
Good Things Don't Happen... Groove Merchant, 1971
Black Pearl Blue Note, 1971
Flydude Groove Merchant, 1972
If You're Ready Groove Merchant, 1973
Come Together (With "Groove" Holmes) Groove Merchant, 1973
Giants of the Organ in Concert ("Groove" Holmes) Groove Merchant, 1973
Supa Cookin' Groove Merchant, 1975
Stump Juice (Jimmy Ponder) Groove Merchant, 1975
Mean Machine Groove Merchant, 1976
Main Squeeze Groove Merchant, 1976
Flyin' Time Groove Merchant
Black and Blues Groove Merchant
Tail Gunner LRC, 1977
Outside Lookin' In LRC, 1978
Soul Organ 1978 Pickwick, 1978
Movin' Upside the Blues 1982 Jazz America
State of the Art Milestone
Hip Hop Bebop Milestone
Countdown 1983 Milestone, 1983
Skywalk 1984 Milestone, 1984
The Starting Five (Rusty Bryant) 1986 Milestone, 1986
Blue to the Bone (Melvin Sparks) Milestone, 1988
You Ought to Think Headfirst, 1990
The Jazz Collector Edition (L. Killian) Laserlight, 1991
In A Blue Mood Headfirst, 1991
Jimmy McGriff; Laserlight, 1991
Pullin' Out The Stops!-Best Of Blue Note/EMI, 1994
Right Turn On Blue (Hank Crawford) Telarc, 1994
Blues Groove; Milestone ?, 1995
One of Mine, 1996
Dream Team; Milestone ?, 1996
Friends Forever: In Memory of Kenny Drew, Milestone ?, 1997
Straight Up; Milestone ?, 1998
McGriff's HouseParty; Milestone, 2000
100% Pure Funk; Milestone, 2001.
McGruff Avenue; Milestone, 2002.


Soul Survivors ( Hank Crawford) Milestone, 1986
Steppin' Up Milestone, 1987
On the Blue Side Milestone, 1990
Loot To Boot (with Illinois Jacquet, and B. Davis) 197? LRC
Jazz Wave Ltd. on Tour Jones, (with Henderson/Hubbard and the Thad/Mel Lewis Orchestra) Blue Note, 1969
Cold Snap (With Albert Collins and Allen Batts) Alligator, 1986
"Little" Junior Parker (Jimmy McGriff with "Little" Junior Parker) ? LRC

W.C. Handy Biography on CDI (Cyber Data, Inc). for Music Preservation Society, Inc

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.