KEN GRIFFIN EVENING
Friday, August 30, 2002
Lincoln Park (Chicago), Illinois
by Frank Pugno
A wonderful evening was presented to honor the memory of internationally famed organist Ken Griffin. Special guests present were Kirby Griffin, Kenís nephew who was at one time was an organist, his sister Kay and son Kerry. Sally White, a longtime friend of Ken, also shared some recollections.
The first performer of the evening was Kurt Armsden, who owns one of Kenís traveling Hammond AV organs. He played wonderful Ken Griffin impressions on the Hammond B3 provided by The Beautiful Sound of Countryside, Illinois. His registrations were the same as Ken Griffinís and his stylings were very enjoyable. He played Deep Purple in a way that Ken may have played it. We also heard two beautiful Jesse Crawford renditions.
The next performer was Brian Wessel, who surprised us all with a homemade CD of Ken Griffin and Henry Keats of WMRO-Radio Aurora, recorded by Brianís father off the radio in 1943. He then played two Ken Griffin songs on his accordion, which although we were not hearing an organ, we did hear faithful reproductions of Kenís music right down to the musical cliches.
The next organist to perform was Frank Pugno on his personal Hammond A100. The first four songs were in imitation of Ken Griffin, The Louisiana Waltz, he said, was a Ken Griffin-Frank Pugno hybrid. Frank then played three songs in his own style, relating that the motivation of Ken Griffin was the catapult for him being a professional organist and this lead to other branches. Plantation Boogie by Lenny Dee was the climax of this section. He then did two duets with Eric Larson simulating the overdub effects that Ken used on many of his recordings.
Eric Larson then grabbed the reins. His playing was excellent with a great deal of life and animation. He did some great impressions of Ken. Bumble Bee On A Bender was a great hybrid with Ken Griffin and Eric Larson shining right through. An extra surprise was the singing of two songs by his wife. All through the program, Eric was helping Kurt and Frank perform on the overdub numbers. It should be known that it was Eric who set both organs and the two electronic keyboards into the sound system, in addition to the microphone. The two Hammond Organs sounded identical.
After a brief intermission, Sally White came to the microphone and shared memories of Ken Griffin with us. Afterwards, Kirbyís sister, Kay, also shared memories. She related to us that Ken had formal lessons on the violin, but not on the organ. Kirby Griffin came up and played Du, Du, Liest Mir Im Herzen, which was a great tribute to his uncle. Then he sang You Canít Be True, Dear accompanied by Frank Pugno at the organ.
For the finale, Kurt at the B3, Eric at the A100 and Frank on an electronic keyboard, played a trio of You Canít Be True, Dear.
As one of the coordinators and performers for this show, I would like to thank Bill Reid for coming up with the idea of a commemorative night for Ken Griffin, and especially Andy Antoncyck for all his work, heartache and generosity in the formation of this program (we could have never done it without him), and Eric Larson who had all the technical know-how to set up the equipment properly and helped set up the program.
"Ken's music just goes on and on"