Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The Whispers - Rock Steady Official Video
Years ago, I was a partner at a small record label handling promotions and distribution. It was then that I met Sound of Los Angeles Records Chief Dick Griffey (He had a really raspy voice) and his second in command Virgil Roberts. While the meeting did not lead to a successful partnership it left a lasting impression on me. For one, Mr. Roberts stopped me in the middle of my proposal and asked how long I had left til I got my college degree. I answered, a year and a half at least. He stopped me several times advising me to GET THE DEGREE!
Dick Griffey was the Real Deal! A Real Record Industry Player! A Real Independent, Self Made Mogul.
At the time of our meeting, he was taking the SOLAR Record Label and converting it into the J.Hines Record Distribution Company. Berry Gordy of Motown Records always struggled in the long term because he didn't control the manufacturing or distribution of his labels records. It was litchpin that eventually proved to be part of Motown's undoing.
Game peeped Game!
Dick Griffey, a Night Club Booking Agent along with fellow Pioneer Don Cornelius started Soul Train Records in 1976. Like Soul Train it was independent but Don Cornelius and Dick did not stay in the Record Label business together. They made a cool split and Dick started SOLAR Records. (THE SOUND OF LOS ANGELES) Dick had a serious eye for talent! He took two Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniels ( Pop Lock Dance Pioneer and He showed Micheal Jackson the Back Slide or Moonwalk) and Jody Watley and created Shalamar! This group had hits with two lead singers before settling down and gelling with Howard Hewitt. Just think what if Don had hated on Dick saying You can't use my dancers? We would have missed out on somthing great! But these Brothers were cool!
He took a young Pre-Baby Face guitarist named Kenny Edmonds out of a Funk Band called THE DEELE and made him a Solo Artist! After Bootsy Collins dubbed Kenny "Babyface" then Kenny and LA Reid lit out for Atlanta and started LAFACE Records! They produced Whitney, Usher and TLC. ( You might have heard of them)
He was responsible for ushering in many a Pre-Luther Vandross Baby Making period with hits from the Whispers and Midnight Star. He shook the fat off of many a booty with Lakeside, and gave the Women Everywhere the FIRST ALL GIRL FUNK BAND in Klymaxx!
He gave Leon Sylvers III his shot! In return, Leon wrote and produced hits for SOLAR all through the 1980's. Dick Griffey was so bad that he gave Two Young Prince Proteges a chance to produce records. You may know them as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I think they went on to work with some chick name of JANET Jackson!
Now back to my meeting with Dick Griffey. I met with him for only about 15 minutes with the other partners from the label but I can recall reading an article in the now defunct New Times about how Dick Griffey and Virgil Roberts were being sued by Eric Easy E Wright and brought up on RICO Charges for allegedly helping a up and coming Mogul by the name of Marion "SUGE" Knight get Dr. Dre, the DOC, Michelle and a few others released from their contracts with Ruthless Records and providing some the start up capital for Future Shock Records Better known as Death Row Records. Of course, Suge ruled the nineties with an Iron Fist, oops, I mean HITS!
Of course, it was never proven that Dick Griffey and Virgil Roberts were part of any conspiracy to coerce Eric Wright into releasing Dr. Dre and neither Messrs. Griffey or Roberts were never convicted of Racketeering. (that would make them gangsters) Of course some or all of it may be urban legend. Needless to say I went into my meeting though with both eyes open and a firm grip on the door handle. Just in case (Wink)
Well, our label wanted a press and distribution deal. In other words, we just wanted the manufacturing side of J. Hines (Solar) and for them to place our records in the stores alongside their other products. One thing that any aspiring recording artist should know is that Product Placement is super important!
Dick Griffey had 30 Plus years to learn and build relationships with the record stores, radio and promoters. NO Matter How HOT Your Artist's RECORD IS IT MEANS NOTHING IF YOU CAN'T GET IT PLAYED, PROMOTED and PLACED IN A GOOD SPOT IN THE RIGHT STORES TO BE SOLD! Dick Griffey understood that better than most Record Execs ever will and he did something about it.
Recently, the Mogul succumbed to complications following heart surgery. He leaves behind his Wife, Children, Grand Children and numerous Brothers and Sisters that loved, admired and respected him.
God Bless! Rest in Peace until The Lord Returns for you!
BE Prayerful! BE Mindful! BE Careful!