LA042 Interview: Bessie Griffin (LA042Abbott_Side1)
Side 1 and 2: Interview with Bessie Griffin on 1982-05-14. Abstract for Griffin: [00:00-46:40] Bessie Griffin recalls the first quartet she sang with, the Brent-Quillens Four, a teenaged female group of two pairs of sisters from the Pailetland community. She says they showed her how to sing baritone - 01:40. Regarding female quartets singing male voice parts: "We wanted to sing like the fellas did" - 02:15. She says the Brent-Quillens Four made weekend tours as far as Florida; sometimes in a "package" with a "young boys' quartet," the Nelson Brothers. She recalls meeting Alberta Johnson and the Southern Harps. She recalls the group's early members and their early broadcasts and tours. She says she and Johnson started singing "switch leads" - 12:22. She mentions quartet instructors like Gilbert Porterfield did not "believe too much in the lady quartets" - 12:39. Still, she notes, the Southern Harps gave the men "some stiff competition" - 14:15. She talks about their ongoing radio broadcasts and her early recordings as a soloist; then mentions her favorite local quartets: the Soproco Singers and the Loving Four: "they came in with a guitar" – 20:22. She mentions that she also sang with the Jackson Singers, but that "in between all of this I was always a soloist" – 21:11. She relates the saga of her return to New Orleans from Chicago with nodules on her vocal chords; which forced her to stop singing and start working as a deejay on WMRY until she was healed in a little spiritual church on Felicity Street - 22:01, and she relates her dream of building a retirement home for gospel singers. Returning to the subject of the Southern Harps, she says they started touring nationally through New Orleans promoter August Jackson; she sheds light on their various recording sessions. She relates that people insist on comparing her to Mahalia Jackson, and how Jackson had brought her to Chicago to perform as a soloist. She recalls that the Southern Harps had varied their program with solos by herself and other members of the group, to the accompaniment of Alberta Johnson's piano – 45:42. [00:00-17:32] On LA042Abbott_Side2, responding to a question about jubilee singing and gospel singing, Griffin notes that her father was known for singing jubilees, while her mother "was a moaner" (demonstrates). Asked to compare the Jackson Singers with the Southern Harps, she says, "It was like Uptown and Downtown," and that "it really was a rivalry" - 03:29. The interview ends with her comments on the Soproco Singers, the Four Great Wonders, and the Duncan Brothers, who she saw with her grandmother.