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*Bessie Griffin was born on this date in 1922. She was a Black gospel vocalist.
Born Arlette B. Broil in New Orleans, Louisiana, she was the daughter of Enoch Broil and Victoria Walker Broil. Her mother died when she was just five and she was raised by her grandmother, Lucy Narcisse, from whom she learned to sing. Griffin was educated in the Orleans Parish schools graduating from McDonough Number 35 Senior H.S. Her first marriage to Willie Griffin lasted two years and her second to Spencer James Jackson, Sr. produced one son Spencer Jr. She sang in church choirs and a number of gospel singing groups.
In 1951, Mahalia Jackson invited Griffin to sing at Jackson’s anniversary celebration. Two years later Griffin joined the Caravans and traveled with them for a year before settling in Chicago. She also hosted her own radio show “The Queen of the South” in New Orleans. In 1956, Griffin visited and worked in Los Angeles and after performing in the musical, Portraits in Bronze, she moved there.
It was in Los Angeles that Griffin began to take Gospel into the nightclub circuit. This allowed her to contribute to her profession and differentiated her from Jackson. Both singers were from the same hometown. Jackson was Griffin’s mentor, to whom she was often compared but Jackson would never have performed in nightclubs. Some of Griffins noted recording were: The Days Are Passed and Gone, It’s Real, and Soon-ah Will Be Done With the Trouble of the World. She worked concert tours, television, and Broadway and was nominated for a Grammy. Bessie Griffin died on April 10, 1989 in Los Angeles.
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