Although very humbly privileged to be recognized as one of the most accomplished harmonica player in the world, I am far more than this and I play many more instruments than the harmonica. Of all of the instruments I now play, the harmonica was the easiest to learn, but now after 45 years, I know it is the most difficult to truly master. It is just that simple and that expressive.
I started playing the harmonica and the guitar around age 8, when my grandpap Thomas "Pap" Griffin gave me a Hohner Echo Harp, to help me with my lungs and juvenile asthma. It worked! I started guitar around the same time and my first was an old sunburst f-hole. I got some keyboards starting then, but didn't really get more serious about learning piano/organ until about age 12, when Grandma Griffin, an elder and the organist for a Pentecostal church, would show me some things from time to time.
Due to my genetic gait defect from birth, I found myself sitting and playing, when I wasn't sitting and studying. I even had a laboratory in the basement and a lot of tropical fish tanks.
At a young age (18), I became a noted stage and studio player on the guitar, the bass, the saxophone, and the harmonica in the greater Pittsburgh area including eastern Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia.
From polkas to pop music, I learned various styles of music growing up in a steel mill, blue-collar, German and Polish ethnically oriented community, located 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, on the Allegheny River. This certainly was true for how the harmonica was played by the old men at the PNA Polish Club and the American Legion halls.. But the country music that influenced me most came out of Nashville, TN, where they also played many of the other styles of music that intrigued me as a young musician, including rock, pop, blues, and jazz.
While a freshman in college, I first went to Nashville in 1975 for brief periods to work on recording projects, doing a few demo sessions for various artists with Cherish Records and other independent labels, to pay for my college education.
During one of these trips to Nashville, for a recording week in the Summer of 1976, I was befriended by the legendary harmonica player, multi-instrumentalist, and multiple award winning (including Grammy) studio musician Charlie McCoy. I learned much, beyond a whole host of harmonica licks, from the already established, noted and award-winning Charlie McCoy. Charlie had just become the music director of the TV show "Hee-Haw" and taught me by discussions and example, regarding the need in these types of situations of being the complete musician and person and how musicians should be treated and encouraged to create. McCoy advice such as: "If you can't hear every word in the lyric, you're playing too much and if you can't hear everybody else, you're playing too loud", "its not what you play sometimes, its what you don't play", and "it all starts with the song...learn to write songs"; have proven priceless to me.
"Not too many people in my life had me awe-struck when I finally met them. McCoy was one, Chet Atkins was another and Roy Orbison was definitely the third . . . when I met these guys, I had sphincter pucker so bad, I could have $#!+ through a screen-door and not touched a wire".
It was Charlie McCoy who first introduced me to both Chet Atkins and Roy Orbison on separate occasions. McCoy took me at age 19 to the offices of RCA records, where Chet Atkins was president of the record label at that time. Charlie and I sat down in Mr. Atkins plush office and McCoy introduced the 19 year old Will Griffin as follows: "Chester, this is Billy Griffin . . . Chester, this boy has stolen every lick you ever played". I looked at the acoustic guitar sitting by the desk and prayed to God that Mr. Atkins didn't hand it to him. I nervously replied to the introduction: "No sir Mr. Atkins, I ain't stolen all of your licks, I'm still working on all of Charlie's, which is what you're hiring me to do and play, when he's too busy Hee-Hawing". Although I have admired and respected Charlie ever since I first heard him play and absolutely ever since I met him and we became friends (now 33 years ago), on that day . . . I could have strangled Charlie Mccoy!
Charlie McCoy did much to motivate me to complete my education, continue his musical talents, to also learn to write songs and arrange. As an instrumentalist, Charlie advised me to learn as much as I could from listening to many other top musicians, and to learn to manage the business end of the music writing and recording industry. Charlie also opened many doors of introduction for me; with some of the other legendary studio musicians, songwriters, and record company executives, who have influenced Will and the philosophies that govern the Desktop-Radio cluster of businesses, with emphasis to Independent-Artists.com and the Studio Musicians' Network.
In addition to Charlie McCoy, my other harmonica playing influences include: Stevie Wonder, Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry, Larry Adler, Mark Brown, Smokey Greenwell, and Johnnie Polao and his Harmonicats. My guitar influences include: Chet Atkins, Roy Clark, Billy Byrd, Pete Mitchell, Reggie Young, Roy Nichols, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
At age 21, I produced his first master recording session in 1977, calling upon his friends in the then very popular band "Barefoot Jerry" (Wayne Moss, Russ Hicks, Barry Chance, Si Edward, Mike McBride and Charlie McCoy) to help out a fledgling producer and session manager. At this time, I was still in Pittsburgh as a graduate student, working on his M.Ed. in vocational counseling and he was doing his field work as the Director of Educational and Social Welfare Programs for the Salvation Army in the Pittsburgh, PA area. I completed my Ed.D. in Education Administration and then began the process of permanently moving to Nashville.
I formerly relocated to Nashville in 1982 to be closer to the music industry, while also completing post-doctorate studies at Peabody College for Teachers (Vanderbilt University) in the Process of Re-Education. During the 1980's and early 90's, I played on and produced a few master sessions and publishing demo sessions, giving his primary efforts to my professional career in computers, administration, education and political lobbying; because of the major demands these activities required of him.
Starting in 1982, I became friends and further aligned myself with many dignitaries and legends in the Music Industry, including but not limited to:
legendary recording engineers and producers such as Tommy Cassassa, Buddy Killiian, Jimmy Bowan, Pete Drake, Johnny Drake, Owen Bradley and Joe Harshman;
songwriters, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran, Peter McCann, Richard Lee, Rick Peables, Joe Sun, Bill Anderson, Tommy Barnes, Kostas, Dennis Morgan, Jim Stafford, John Prine, Jan Crutchfield, Ray Stevens, Larry Henley, Larry Shaw, and many other;
legendary universal studio musicians such as Chet Atkins, Charlie McCoy,
(steel pickers) Pete Drake, Curley Chalker, Lloyd Greene, Jim Veste, Sonny Garrish, Russ Hicks,
(piano players) Hargus "Pig" Robins, Floyd Cramer, David Briggs, Ronnie Godfrey, Gary Caudel,
(guitar pickers) Chet Atkins, Roy Clark, Reggie Young, Chip Young, Ray Flacke, Pete Mitchell, Leo Kotke;
(bass players) Bob Babbitt, Dave Palmroy, Mike Dunbar; Stanley Clarke,
(fiddlers) Vassar Clemens, Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, "Hoot" Hester,
(dobro players) "Uncle" Josh Graves, Jerry Douglas,
(banjo players) Bela Fleck, Buck Trent, John Hartford, Earle Scruggs, Doug Dillard and
legendary recording artist such as: Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Roy Orbison, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Faron Young, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr, Don Williams, Glen Campbell, Roger Miller, Ray Price, Charlie Rich, Charlie Pride, Larry Gatlin, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, Guy Clarke, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmie Vaughn, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, George Benson, George Harrison, Gus Hardin, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, Lee Greenwood, Michael Martin Murphy, Glenn Campbell, Tom T. Hall, Mel McDaniel, Joe Stampley, Joan Armitrading, and many others.
Music Attorney Dennis L. Tomlin,
In 1992, during a time I was working with an artist producing a master session for them, I was injured as a passenger in an automobile accident. Combining my administrative and government lobby experiences, with my years of computer skills at all levels, I formed the Griffin Group consulting company, using my resources to re-engineer my life post-accident.
I continued to develop my consulting company and resources, but after some negative experiences dealing with some less than professional and ethical folks I encountered in the music industry and because I could not comfortably play music either sitting or standing, I got discouraged and quit playing music completely.
At that time, I was simply physically unable to meet the demands of appearing on stage and the many hours often required in the studios, so quitting music and focusing on other priorities was imposed upon me, rather than a real choice. In 1994, because of my still healing lower back spinal injuries, physical rehabilitation, and other considerations, I had to decline a White House appointment by President Bill Clinton...although, I still have the letter with the White House letterhead, printed on paper with an eagle watermark.
After almost 6 years, in late 1999 and while in Atlanta on a Y2K related computer project, as a Christmas present to myself, without any regard to the cost; I purchased another acoustic guitar, after carefully playing every guitar (and there were many), in a tire-kicking process taking a few hours, that must have made the clerk think that I was a professional shopper sent by corporate. Walking over to the counter to pay for the acoustic-electric guitar I meticulously chose as my favorite, I looked into the display case and noticed the selection of Hohner harmonicas, knowing I would need at least one to get pitch to tune the guitar and to keep it in tune.
Leaving the large music store with my carefully selected acoustic-electric guitar and about 10 various harmonicas in the major keys most often used, I began my first steps in his return to music, just to have some fun and not completely give up the playing skills I had worked and studied for over 35 years to develop. With a philosophy of "You can't entertain anybody else, until you entertain yourself first", it wasn't very long that I and those who have known me for decades realized that I was playing his best guitar, bass, and harmonica ever!
In May 2000, after completing computer projects, I purchased and founded what is now Desktop-Radio to combine my administrative, computer and musical skills and experiences. The size of web site, visitor traffic and the number of related sites in the cluster grew, until the Desktop-Radio, including Independent-Artists and the Studio Musicians' Network, have become huge endeavors and very viable realities, which are uniquely postured for the future of radio and music on the web.
To form the Studio Musicians' Network in late 2001, I reached out to others he had known and I had worked with since 1975, to form a fraternity of studio players with the highest level of personal and ethical standards, to match their almost magical playing abilities. Only the top studio musicians, who are also the type of people that make playing music fun and rewarding were chosen, with each of the musicians in the early forming Studio Musicians' Network discussing and agreeing with each regarding each new and carefully selected candidate for an invitation to join.
To have a core band of solid players and personalities available to create products and tracks for Desktop-Radio and Independent-Artists.com and for various independent artists needing multi-talented, experienced, and ethical musicians, l recruited David Briggs, Mike Dunbar and Steve Turner to form Music Circle South.
In addition to these core players, Music Circle South also includes many of the top studio musicians in Nashville, with many specialty instrument players such as steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, string sections, horns, reeds, and background singers, with an impressive roster of substitutes for any of the core rhythm sections or specialty instrument players, who may not be available, due to their heavy schedules and demand for their talents. Advanced booking is therefore recommended, if someone wishes to have the founding players assembled on their recording projects.
Music Circle South and the Studio Musicians' Network enjoy the deepest bench of the available top talent studio musicians for a core rhythm section, specialty instrumentalists, and substitute players of any band in the world; and they give the same efforts, commitment to excellence, and quality to those who are recording their first sessions, equally as they give it to the major artists working on their next Platinum CD.
I continue to write my own songs, play all of the instruments on the publishing demos for all of the songs I have written, and I perform publicly at many events, with a band, or by simply taking out my "tin box" harmonica and performing the National Anthem a capella at the beginning of sporting or racing events around the USA.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help in organizing, arranging, producing, staffing and scheduling your recording project, to book me for a live performance, or simply just to say "Howdy!".