Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rex Griffin on World 15

Above: Rex Griffin performing at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas during a KRLD broadcast c. 1942. From the collection of the Dallas Public Library. Click to enlarge.

Rex Griffin - Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby (World transcription 15)

"Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby"

While Rex Griffin is mainly remembered today for turning the '20s Tin Pan Alley pop tune "Lovesick Blues" into a country song (his 1939 version being the direct inspiration for Hank Williams' huge hit), it's remarkable that his authorship of "Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby" remains virtually unknown and legally uncredited. Rex first recorded it as a Jimmie Rodgers-esque tune in New Orleans in 1936; this more "modern" version dates from a 1944 World transcription. The song floated around the Southern honky-tonks for many years, where Carl Perkins eventually heard it, rewrote some of the lyrics, and then recorded it for Sun, crediting himself. That alone wasn't so bad -- Perkins probably had no idea who the actual author was -- but after the Beatles revived it in 1964, the song became a lucrative copyright indeed. Yet nobody ever challenged Perkins' authorship, perhaps because they mistakenly assumed that Griffin's version was itself a hokum blues rewrite (it isn't). It wouldn't have helped Griffin by then, anyway. He had died, a broke alcoholic, in a New Orleans charity hospital in 1958.

Griffin worked all over the South, but he lived in Dallas off and on throughout the 1940s and early '50s. He was recruited to the city by KRLD announcer Gus Foster for the Texas Round-Up, the forerunner of the Big D Jamboree. Few photos of Griffin exist, so I was pleased to find this fabulous image of him performing at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas in the early 1940s. (Thanks to the Dallas Public Library.)

Bear Family released a 3-CD box set of Rex Griffin's complete recordings in 1996.