Friday, 6 June 2008

Caught By The Reaper

Jimmy McGriff, April 3, 1936 - May 24, 2008.

The death of Jimy McGriff this week comes as particularly sad news to those of us who grew up in the 1960s believing that the sound of the Hammond organ was an indispensable element of life's soundtrack. McGriff's passing completes a clean sweep of the decade's big five, following the deaths of Richard "Groove" Holmes in 1991, Brother Jack McDuff in 2001,Big John Patton in 2002 and the most famous of them all,Jimmy Smith, in 2005. (Hard-core Hammond fans might add the names of Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette, who died as long ago as 1971, and the most original of the lot, Larry Young, who departed in 1978.)
McGriff was the one whose records implanted themselves most deeply in the hearts of soul and R&B fans, not least because you could dance to them. His early hits, notably "All About My Girl" and "I Got a Woman", were issued in the UK on the impeccably hip Sue label, which Guy Stevens -- the disc jockey at the hugely influential Scene club as well as Sue's visionary A&R man -- made a byword for good taste among mods in the early '60s.

Another Sue release, recorded in 1963, was the double-sided "The Last Minute Pts 1 and 2", a deliriously funky piece of work on which McGriff plays both organ and piano. Forty five years later, its relentless chugging groove still makes it sound like the signature tune for the late-night radio show of your dreams.

Richard Williams.