DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Griff Is Back & He’s At Papa’s Pizza

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

Folks, we’re in for a treat. Griff is back and he’ll be playing at Papa’s Pizza with veteran sax player Johnny Cox on Saturday, Nov. 22 from 8 to 11 p.m. For anyone who doesn’t know, musician George “Griff” Griffith underwent carotid artery surgery earlier this year. During the procedure, I’m told, the surgeon accidentally nicked the venal nerve in his larynx, leaving him virtually unable to speak, never mind to sing, for over six months.

Happily, his voice has returned. Longtime buddy and often recording partner, Johnny Cox said, “Griff is an awesome entertainer, a great songwriter, singer and keyboard player. He had a bad break with the surgery, but thank God his voice is back.”

According to Griff, though, he’s just an old fart who refuses to go away. (His words, not mine. Don’t write me letters.)

Griff has written and recorded lots of songs, although he doesn’t know how many. “Check with Marion Carter at Ripete; he’d have a better idea,” he says. One of his best known recordings is “Savannah In the Rain,” although Griff says, “It was Raleigh in the rain, not Savannah. And it was snow, not rain, but that didn’t sound so good.

“It was during one of my wilder times,” he told me. “I was between wives, and I was with this lady, who decided she didn’t want her daughter to see me in the morning, so I was out in the cold.

“I wound up at a Huddle House, not a Waffle House like in the song, a real rogues gallery – hookers, bums, you name it. I called a buddy to pick me up.”

In the song, Joe was the buddy and the lyrics are classic, vintage Griff:

Where are you, bro? I’ll come get you
I looked up and I see a flashing sign
I said, Joe, I think I’m at the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk
He said Yeah I know where that is
I’ll be down to get you in a minute
Just hold on brother

What a storyteller. His other songs are just as lyrical, but sometimes more humorous. “Bang All Night” is the story of a young boy playing piano, and “Shirt Full of Goodies” is about, well, a shirt full of goodies.

Griff and Johnny have been playing together some five, six, seven years. They’re not exactly sure. Johnny and his wife Linda were returning from a Chapel Hill football game, when a friend popped a CD in the player and said, “You gotta hear this.” It was Griff’s “Savannah In the Rain.” Not long after that, Johnny pulled into the Winn Dixie on Hwy 17 and saw a trailer with Griff’s name on it. Inside he asked this big guy if he worked for Griff. “I am Griff,” came the reply. They started playing together almost immediately.

“Johnny and I, we do a lot of ad libbing when we work together,” Griff told me.”We like to try and stump each other, but so far it hasn’t happened. We have a good time. These are the perks of old age.”

Not everyone is aware of this, but Griff is also pretty well known in the art community. He was one of three artists chosen to kick off the initial Artist Series for the South Carolina Education Lottery. His wildlife paintings are hugely popular, although his best known piece may be one titled “Six Pack,” a painting of five black labs and one yellow lab in the back of a truck. “I’m better at painting people,” Griff laughs, “but who wants to buy people?”

If you’re in town this weekend, head over to Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things for some cool blues and a plate of their lip-rippin’ wings (or pasta, pizza, salads or sandwiches).Since owners Dickie and Dianne Spencer added space to their restaurant this summer, they’ve been able to bring in the occasional musician. Rickey Godfrey played in August and Gary Brown entertained last month. And now, Griff is back! Don’t miss it. This is something special.

Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things is located at 111 Pavilion Plaza (the Lowes Food shopping center on the road to Calabash) in Little River, South Carolina. If you need directions, the phone number is 843-249-3663. Click here to visit their website. Or check them out right here on MySpace.

This blog was written Nov. 5, 2008 and published in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine.

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