When her trumpeter brother-in-law gave Della Griffin a Billie Holiday record at the age of 11, it was the seed which eventually grew into a singing career. Griffin immediately reallocated her weekly allowance from paying for movies to buying all of Holiday's records, as well as records by Count Basie, Charlie Barnet, and other swinging big bands of the day. Griffin started singing professionally while still in South Carolina, performing at local clubs and dances.
In the 1950s, she moved to New York to become part of the Enchanters, singing doo wop and cutting two records with them. She then went on the road with tenor man Jimmy Forrest of "Night Train" fame. Life on the road didn't suit her, so she hooked up with the Del-Tones when Gloria Lynne was in the group. She first gained fame with this group, singing arrangements by Slide Hampton. Griffin also recorded with Sonny Till & the Orioles during this time.
In 1973, Griffin opened at Harlem's Blue Book Club. It became a steady gig for 14 years, ending only when Griffin was injured in a car accident. Frequent comparisons to Billie Holiday were both a blessing and a frustration -- a frustration because she was persistently asked by audiences to sing the songs Billie sang. Limited in her ability to consistently do her own stuff, Griffin left the business. Returning in the '80s, she worked with both Etta Jones and Irene Reid, recording with Jones. This work led to two albums for Muse Records, I'll Get By and Travelin' Light, both produced by Houston Person. When Muse folded, Griffin followed many of that label's performers to the newly formed HighNote-Savant. Her first album for Savant, also produced by Person and on which he appeared, The Very Thought of You, came out in 1998. That same year, Griffin was invited to Finland to appear at one of that country's major jazz festivals. Griffin continues to reside in New York and gigs regularly at clubs and other jazz events. ~ Dave Nathan