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Shirley Griffith

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Shirley Griffith (April 26, 1908 – June 18, 1974) was an American blues singer and guitarist, mainly based in Indianapolis. He is best known for his recordings, “Walkin’ Blues” and “Bad Luck Blues”

Born in 1908 near Brandon, Mississippi, Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920s and ’30s and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so.

In 1928, his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started, but, by his own account, he was too “wild and reckless” in those days. In 1928, he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935, Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made.

It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and who also precipitated the comeback of Scrapper Blackwell. Rosenbaum produced Griffith’s Bluesville albums. “I recall one August afternoon”, he wrote in the notes to Saturday Blues, “shortly after these recordings were made; Shirley sat in Scrapper Blackwell’s furnished room singing the Bye Bye Blues with such intensity that everyone present was deeply moved, though they had all heard him sing it many times before. Scrapper was playing , too, and the little room swelled with sound. When they finished there was a moment of awkward silence. Finally Shirley smiled and said: ‘The blues’ll kill you. And make you live, too.’”

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