Somerset native reflects on career, explains one of newest songs
By John Herndon, Kentucky Sings.com
It was fitting that Rodney Griffin was chosen as one of the speakers during the portion of the ceremony when Gerald Wolfe was officially inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame last week.
And it wasn’t surprising that Griffin punctuated his talk with some tears as he talked about his friend, mentor and, yes, boss with Greater Vision for the last 26 years.
“I cry very easily,” Griffin smiled as we talked shortly after the ceremony at the National Quartet Convention. “I always have, especially when I am talking about something so dear to me as a friendship. Gerald and his family were standing right there behind me, so it got to me and I got emotional.”
One of the most well-known figures in gospel music today, Griffin says he “just walked in the door” when offered an opportunity to sing with Greater Vision in 1993. The Somerset native has been singing lead or baritone and playing bass guitar for one of Southern Gospel’s most popular groups — and the recipient of The Singing News Fan Awards Favorite Trio at the NQC — ever since. We talked about his relationship with Wolfe, life on the road and a new song that is touching audiences with a fresh look at the result of one of Jesus’ miracles.
During his brief remarks leading up to Wolfe receiving a Hall of Fame medal and trophy, Griffin referred to Wolfe as a “mentor,” even though Wolfe is just 3.5 years his senior. “He’s been doing this since high school, so he’s got about 10 years on me,” Griffin says with a grin.
(Griffin prompted the Tuesday afternoon crowd to erupt in laughter when he deadpanned, “I wasn’t smart enough to write anything down,” before his brief remarks. He later explained that he only had a very small window to speak anyway.)
A graduate of Berea College, Griffin had been putting his biology degree to use working as a landscape artist and working in horticulture while singing on the side before joining the Dixie Melody Boys in the early 1990s. After two years there, he caught on with Greater Vision, where he’s known as Wolfe’s right-hand man.
He’d already been a fan when Wolfe became a household name and sang with the Cathedrals in the mid-1980s. “Absolutely,” Griffin remembers. “I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Have You Visited Heaven Lately’ and ‘Daystar,’ ‘Champion of Love,’ and ‘Land of the Living.’ I just enjoyed all the songs he sang and that powerful voice that he has. It was just a blessing to me.”
The 26 years together have cultivated a strong bond between the gospel veterans as they travel. Griffin says his mentor lives as he sings for the Lord. “His family is very supportive of him,” Griffin says. “A great reflection of how a man is doing is how his family feels about him. …His family will testify that he is a man of God.
“I have traveled with him all these years and I enjoy it very much.”
Griffin has been named Gospel Music’s Songwriter of the Year 20 times and continues to touch lives. One of his most recent compositions, “I Remember the Fish,” can be found on Greater Vision’s latest CD, “You’ve Arrived,” released in late summer.
The song is not getting radio airplay but has touched many in concerts across the nation.
“I Remember the Fish” is set around one of Jesus’ great miracles, the feeding of the 5,000, found in all four of the gospel accounts.
“I was just thinking one day about the little boy who gave the fish and loaves to Jesus,” Griffin says. “He had taken the five loaves and two fish. And I thought after he witnessed what he had witnessed and he saw everything being multiplied, it was hard to shake that young man’s faith. I just created a scene in the first verse. They are sitting at the supper table and they are going through hard times, but he remembered the fish.
“When life gets tough, just remember the fish. We all have fish in our lives, times of multiplication when God has blessed us. We need to remember those time God has blessed us and hold on to that.”
The song has resonated with fans who had not thought of the application of the biblical story in that manner.
Griffin has stayed close to his roots, living with his wife, Regina, in Mt. Vernon, Ky., just over two hours from Greater Vision’s base in Morristown, Tenn. “I am usually home every week. There are times when we are gone for 10 days or two weeks but there are times when I am home for a week or two. We try to balance the schedule out,” he says. “Every time I get off the bus and drive home, I feel like I have been blessed.”
And you can be sure that those who hear his songs feel the same way.