The Fastest Tenor in the West

17th January 2018

He was a seventeen year-old alto saxophone player when he first joined Lionel Hampton’s band in 1945, but Gladys Hampton, Lionel’s wife, who also managed Lionel’s band, insisted that the teenager with the alto had been hired to play tenor saxophone, and no one argued with Gladys. So, Johnny Griffin started to play tenor. Before too long he was duetting with the band’s star tenor player, Arnett Cobb.  Eventually the routine of playing Hampton’s big hits night after night became tiresome.  Griffin left Hampton’s band, and, though he returned for a brief spell, he finally quit for good shortly after his nineteenth birthday.