On Sunday 25th May, the Philadelphia-born blues/jazz organist, JIMMY McGRIFF, died aged 72 after battling with multiple sclerosis for several years.
Although McGriff (born April 3rd 1936) learned to play the piano as young as five years old in his local Baptist church, he did not initially pursue music as a career – in fact, he served in the US army in Korea, and upon his return, went on the beat as a policeman in his native Philadelphia for two years. However, his passion for music eventually got the better of him and he gave up law-enforcement to study music at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. Turned on to the Hammond B-3 organ by its use in gospel music, McGriff broke into the US R&B Top 10 in 1962 with his blues-soaked instrumental reading of Ray Charles’s R&B classic, ‘I’ve Got A Woman’ on Sue Records. He also had US chart entries in the ’60s with ‘All About My Girl,’ ‘Kiko,’ and ‘The Worm.’ In the late-1970s, McGriff experimented with jazz-funk-fusion before returning to bluesy organ jazz in the 1980s and ’90s. His final album was last year’s ‘Live At Smoke.’