Easy on the eyes… Easy on the ears… Easy on the heart.
Born in Cincinnati, Moved to Memphis
Born in Cincinnati, Jimmy soon relocated to the blues and country music Mecca of Memphis, Tennessee. In 1962, he followed his musical neighbors and mentors, Dorsey and Johnny Burnette, to Los Angeles. After striking a good impression with Frank Sinatra’s label, Reprise, Jimmy released his first solo album entitled, Summer Holiday in 1963. He also found time to study acting as an “artist-in-development” at MGM studios, appearing in the films For Those Who Think Young and None but the Brave. Jimmy commented on the latter role, wryly noting, “I got killed on page 42!”
Thus Bread was born.
While pursuing acting roles and recording the occasional single, Jimmy found increasing success as a songwriter, placing songs with such notables as Rudy Vallee, Ed Ames, Lesley Gore and Bobby Vee. By 1967, Jimmy had met Pleasure Faire member (and future Bread member) Robb Royer, with whom he began a career-spanning songwriting partnership. Although Jimmy still had a solo recording deal, in 1968, he and Royer began collaborating with Pleasure Faire producer, David Gates. This collaboration would soon blossom into a group that would use its songwriting and musical talents to form a unit greater than the sum of its parts. As Jimmy commented, “I was so tired of getting my songs recorded by other people who would miss the point or change the hooks or tempo.” Thus Bread was born.
The years 1969-1973 saw Jimmy begin to reach his artistic stride within Bread’s musical framework. Writing and singing lead on half of the songs on each album, Jimmy contributed such Bread classics as, “Too Much Love”, “She’s The Only One”, and “Could I”. In 1970 under the pseudonym Arthur James, he also found the time to collaborate with Robb Royer and Fred Karlin on the song, “For All We Know”, a song which earned him an Academy Award for Best Song and went on to become a hit for the Carpenters.
After Bread disbanded for the final time in 1977, Jimmy continued to sing and write, releasing the album, James Griffin on the European label, Polydor. While living in Memphis, he also recorded a number of singles for the Memphis-based label, Shoe. By 1986, Jimmy had teamed up with ex-Eagle member, Randy Meisner and Billy Swan to form the successful country band, Black Tie, best known for their version of Buddy Holly’s “Learning the Game”. Jimmy later joined the Remingtons and established hits as a country songwriter with Conway Twitty’s “Who’s Gonna Know” and Restless Heart’s “You Can Depend On Me”.
Above all the hits and musical talent, Jimmy’s voice is what remains as the pure art form of his life. His soulful style, filtered through a distinctive country-blues prism has left us with his trademark “easy” demeanor. A good friend of Jimmy’s and long time star in his own right, John Ford Coley once said, “Jimmy could have looked at you and said, ‘I hate your guts,’ and it would have sounded like, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.’… He was just… easy.”