Small Groups - part two ©JCMarion
The Bits of Rhythm - The Bits of Rhythm in the late forties were then known as the Three Bits of Rhythm, a trio fronted by Teddy Rudolph. In late January of 1950, the group added swinging violinist Johnny Creach. (He would reappear two decades later as "Poppa" John Creach, and become an integral part of the Jefferson Starship-Hot Tuna conglomeration during the progressive rock era.) The group, now a quartet were part of the big Easter Promenade in Los Angeles sponsored by the LA Sentinel as a celebration of the Black community in the southern California area. The members of the quartet are Teddy Rudolph on vibraphone and bass, Thomas Askew on piano and vocals, Bruce Williams on guitar, and Johnny Creach on violin. After a stint in the Denver area the combo opened up at Peacock Alley in Los Angeles. Many patrons request their version of "I'll Be True". They appear with Smokie Lynn at Ace Cain's in June and are signed to appear in a nightclub scene as entertainers in the motion picture "Cry Danger" which stars Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming, and is being filmed by RKO studios. After appearing at the Waikiki Inn in Los Angeles the group heads down the coast to San Diego and a gig at The Tops. Later in the year back in L.A., the combo becomes a trio again as Johnny Creach decides to leave and organize his own small combo. He becomes one of the first musical performers to be signed by a new area label called Dootone started by Dootsie Williams, and his first release (by the Johnny Creach Trio) is "Danny Boy". At the end of the year the Bits of Rhythm disbanded and became part of the history of the foundation of R & B.
The Three Peppers The combo known as the Three Peppers was like the Do-Ray-Mi Trio based in Philadelphia. Like the others they maintained a good following for in person appearances despite meager record sales. The leader of this combo was Roy Branker and in 1949 and into the new year the Peppers appeared at such Philly establishments as the Cabana and Roy Bohn's. They were one of a featured number of performers for the well known Jolly Joyce Agency in that city. They were signed to a recording contract by Philadelphia's independent Gotham label. Besides personal appearances in Philadelphia, the combo did well in Toronto's Brown Derby and Parkside before returning to the Click in Philly.If the small Gotham label released any recordings by the Three Peppers during 1951 they are certainly difficult to document, and most likely the record companies realized that between Nat Cole and Charles Brown with the Three Blazers, there was little room for a like sounding small group to find wide spread success on records.
The trio began the new year with extensive engagements in Canada with a return engagement at Toronto's Brown Derby and at the Brass Rail in London Ontario. They warmed up for the spring with an extended stay at Snooky's Inn in Miami Florida.They shared the bill with the Cecil Young Combo at Chicago's Capitol Lounge and then finally returned to their home base in Philadelphia at the Glen Hotel during the late summer and throught the fall months. In 1953 it was more of the same for the Three Peppers. They divided time between Canada, at the Esquire Show Bar in Montreal, and Florida at Miami's Singapore Lounge. Recording opportunities continued to elude the trio but they continued to find work at spots such as the Brown Derby in Toronto and the Carver Bar in Philadelphia. The trio shared a bill with Chris Powell & The Blue Flames throughout the summer at Moore's Inlet in Wildwood, New Jersey. When that gig ended after Labor Day weekend in 1953, Roy Branker called it quits and went out as a solo performer ending the story of the Three Peppers.
Griffin Brothers - Came to the attention of the Rhythm & Blues world with a recording contract with Randy Woods Dot Records located in Gallatin Tennessee near Nashville. The first release in September of 1950 was the instrumental "Riffin' With Griffin". The flip side was "Street Walking Daddy". They had one other release that year - "Red Rooster" / "Blues All Alone". In February of 1951 Dot #1020 is released - "Griff's Boogie" / Blues With A Beat". The huge R & B management agency Shaw Artists signs them to an exclusove management contract in March. After an extensive series of one nighters throughout the South, their next release for Dot is presented. "Sadie Green" / "One Man Steady" is followed shortly by another recording for Dot, this time backing up the vocal group the Four Dots on "My Dear" / "You Won't Let Me Go". In June vocalist Tommy Brown records "Tra La La" with the combo, and the flip is an instrumental titled "Hoppin'". The Griffin Brothers spend much of the summer of 1951 in a new R & B night spot in Baltimore called Gamby's. Late in the year another vocal by Tommy Brown called "Weepin' And Cryin'" is coupled with an instrumental "Shuffle Bug". It is not any more successful than the previous try. They end the year and begin the new one by playing dates in the midwest centered in St. Louis.
They featured a new vocalist Margie Day, and their first release was "It'd Surprise You" / "I'll Get A Deal" in March of 1952. One month later the combo set out on a series of one nighters throughout the south with Amos Milburn and Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams band. Two Dot releases followed quickly ; "I'm Gonna Jump In The River" / "Stormy Night" and "Comin' Home" / "Stay Away From The Horses". They next appeared at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia with Sugar Chile Robinson. After a June swing through southern Ohio, they were on the bill with the Five Keys on a riverboat cruise in the Washington D.C. area. Margie Day again was featured on vocals on the next Dot release - "The Clock Song" / "Ace In The Hole". Carlton Coleman leaves the combo to go out as a solo and signs with RCA Victor in late August. In early October vocalist Margie Day leaves to become singer with Floyd Dixon's Combo. Now the Griffin Brothers have to revamp their entire act. Early in 1953 they search for a sister-vocalist act to complement the two Griffin Brothers. They have a big engagement at Pep's in Philadelphia and then head off to Miami. Later that spring they have an extensive tour package with The Orioles and Chuck Willis. In August Dot releases "Move It On Over" / "Bouncing Home". The Griffin Brothers do some dates with Claudia Swan in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania in mid November. The next year was one of disappointment for the combo. They failed to generate record sales although their in person appearances continue to do quite well. During the summer and early fall they tour the South with Faye Adams. In October Dot does not renew their contract and they sign with Chess Records in Chicago. The combo backs up Buddy and Claudia on their original version of "I Wanna Hug Ya. Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya" for Chess. In late October Jimmy Griffin leaves the combo to sign as a solo with Atlantic. The Griffin Brothers combo is now disbanded. Jimmy's first Atlantic outing is called "She's A W-O-M-A-N" which goes nowhere, as do any subsequent releases. Margie Day bounces around, first with Floyd Dixon, then with Paul Williams, then as a solo with Decca and then Atlantic. Her one big success was the Cat release in May of 1955 "The Pitty Pat Band". Other than that, the Griffin Brothers and their entire entourage are now but a dim memory during those first explosive days of the R & B age.
to next page . . . . .
back to title page . . .