Category: Griffin, Johnny

For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

johnnyGriffinYesterday was the 86th birthday anniversary of Johnny Griffin (1928-2008), the magnificent tenor saxophonist from Chicago.Here is the complete transcript of an interview with him on WKCR conducted by Ted Panken while Griffin while he was in residence at the Village Vanguard in 1990. From the interview:

There’s a funny story about your first gig. You had thought that you were hired to play alto saxophone, and were quickly disabused of that notion.

Right. Well, I was playing alto like a tenor anyway, you know. What happened was, I had graduated on a Thursday, and Hamp started that week at the Regal Theater in Chicago on that Friday. The late Jay Peters, the tenor saxophonist who had been hired to play in the band a few months earlier, had to go into the military service. Then Hamp remembered me because he had come by my high school, and had a jam session in the school assembly or something—so he asked for me. They found me on Sunday, and I went down and played a few tunes with the band with my alto. On the following Friday they went to the RKO Theatre in Toledo, Ohio.

No one said anything to me about I was going to replace a tenor saxophone player, because Maurice Simon or one of his brothers was playing saxophone in the band then. I had no idea what was to transpire, until I was walking on stage in Toledo, and Gladys Hampton stopped me. She used to call me Junior. She said, “Junior, where you going with that alto?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, you’re playing tenor in this band.” “What?” So I immediately caught a train back to Chicago. It was hard to come by a saxophone in those days, as the war was still going on, and they were making bullets and guns instead of musical instruments with the metal. I found an old saxophone and rejoined the band two days later.

Click here to read For The 86th Birthday Anniversary Of Johnny Griffin, a 1990 Interview on WKCR

Johnny Griffin 1982

Johnny Griffin was a great tenor player who is probably best known for his time with Thelonious Monk. An excerpt from the linked 1982 interview at the Canadian Jazz Archive:

Q: “Of everybody you worked with, you had the most admiration for Monk?”

A: “Yes, Thelonious. Yes, I admired Thelonious more than anyone else, you know, just for the man himself. I’d been with Monk when he was getting unemployment compensation from New York State in the 40s and I was with him when they acclaimed him as the greatest, you know, working in the five spots, you know, he’s getting all this acclaim and the man had never changed. He never changed. He was a beautiful person.”

Click here to listen to and read Johnny Griffin 1982