R.I.P. Jimmy McGriff

by Modculture 28 May, 2008

One of the mod scene’s most cherished jazz and
blues organists, Jimmy McGriff, died on Saturday (May 24th) in his hometown of Voorhees, New
Jersey from heart failure. McGriff had suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. He was 72.

Born in Philadelphia in 1936, McGriff learnt the organ as a boy from his parents. An early follower of Count Basie, he took lessons and learnt his trade from renowned organists Jimmy Smith and Richard Holmes. Whilst playing in a New Jersey club one night in 1962 his instrumental reading of Ray Charles‘ ‘I Got A Woman’ was heard and got him a deal with Sue Records. The song was a hit, and an album of the same name, plus a further hit (‘All About My Girl’), soon followed. His trademark during the 1960s was his hard-grooving playing of the Hammond B-3 organ. The blues was always his favoured sound. As he himself once said, ‘Jimmy Smith is the jazz king on the organ, but when it comes to blues,
I can do things where he can’t touch me’. Throughout his 40-year career he played with such greats as Junior Parker, Buddy Rich, and Hank Crawford. He is survived by his wife Margaret and two children.

Below is YouTube footage of McGriff speaking in 1997 about how he wins over an audience. Enjoy.