R.L. Griffin

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R.L. Griffin is a major figure on the Dallas blues scene, doing much more than just bending notes to keep the genre of music vital and ensure that a forum exists for its appreciation. He runs his own…
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R.L. Griffin is a major figure on the Dallas blues scene, doing much more than just bending notes to keep the genre of music vital and ensure that a forum exists for its appreciation. He runs his own nightclub, which he promises to be R.L. Griffin's Blues Palace. The man often called "the Right Reverend of the Blues" or "Ting-A-Ling" is also a classic blues and R&B disc jockey on KKDA, sometimes broadcasting directly from his club. Musicians who toil in the related careers of radio and venue management are naturally in the position to help other players, something Griffin seems to have excelled at, apparently at the expense of his own personal glory and fame.

Griffin hails from Kilgore, TX, and remembers a contrasting scenario to the usual family full of blues, folk, and/or gospel enthusiasts. He was the only member of his family interested in playing music, beginning enthusiastically with school bands. He initially was a drummer and claims singing came about only in response to an off the cuff request for him to try a version of "Fever" by Little Willie John -- in terms of singing, the man seems not to have known his own strength. Once discovered, the talent led to an R&B combo, the Corvettes, eight pieces strong and attempting a James Brown sound.

In 1965, Griffin hit Dallas for what turned into an eight-year stint at the Empire Room. During a period when the rock audience began discovering authentic blues, Griffin was handled by the same agency that booked guitar monster Freddie King, a favorite of Eric Clapton. Griffin, however, was not swept up in the kind of demand that allowed King -- any of them -- to tour auditorium-size venues throughout the world. Instead, Griffin's offices were Texas honky tonks: Louann's, Kenneth's Place, the Red Jacket, and the Climax Club, the latter owned by gunman Jack Ruby. As for managing his own enterprises of this nature, Griffin began with the Blues Alley in 1987, upgrading to a palace six years later. On record, the Griffin presence can be felt on the regional scene beginning with Robin Hood -- not the outlaw, but a bluesman who worked out of Tyler, TX. Griffin also cut sides with a group called the Sweet Sounds of Music, Big Bo Thomas, Al Braggs, and Earnest Davis. He has toured overseas with Charlie Musselwhite.