Just Movin’ Air
Forty Four years ago, Paul and Irene Griffin set out on a journey that would cover nearly the entire lower forty-eight, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Africa, The Middle East and all places in between. Irene was born and raised in Oswaldtwistle which is in the northwest of England while Paul is from the north shore of Long Island, NY in Manhasset. They were brought together in one cataclysmic event by none other than Fred Waring when he invited Irene to join his Performing Group, The Pennsylvanians. Paul was already playing trumpet, orchestrating and contracting for the organization. Upon returning from a convalescent trip to London, Mr. Waring invited Paul to share lunch with him and to discuss the music and musicians for the upcoming International Tour. Between courses, Mr. Waring laid the groundwork for what would become an amazing prophecy for Paul’s future when he stated, “boy, have I found the girl for you.” And so it came to pass…
Their first meeting was at a rehearsal at The Delaware Water Gap where Mr. Waring owned a musical publishing company (Shawnee Press, Inc.) and two hotels, Shawnee On The Delaware and The Castle Inn. The rest is history…
However, the story gets complicated when a devastating injury necessitated a move from the entertainment industry to the hospitality industry and Paul and Irene became Hoteliers. Their success in the hospitality industry prompted them to expand when they purchased a resort hotel on 70 acres, called: The Meadows. With facilities catering to over 300 people, they featured many local artists and catered to conventions, weddings, etc. Unfortunately, they were reluctant pawns in the chess-like maneuvers of some extremely enigmatic socio-economic, theological and judicial dynamics when they sought to cash in on their currency, only to find themselves up the creek without a paddle and all was subsequently lost through a fraudulent bankruptcy by a Hasidic religious congregation from Brooklyn, NY…
– A chronicle of their true love story of international intrigue (involving the Houses of Parliament and Scotland Yard) and their musical journey from The USA to The UK, To South Africa and Zimbabwe: From Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians, to Ella Fitzgerald; Natalie Cole; Tom Jones; and from Broadway, to The London Palladium; from CBS Television to Thames Television to South African Television, Irene and Paul have been there, and their adventures are the stuff of legends, a series of books and worthy of a full length feature film. Ironically, their images are uncanny in their early appearances; Irene resembles the gorgeous actress Lee Remick, while Paul bore a remarkable resemblance to her romantic lead, Gregory Peck. Paul wonders how one human being can morph from Gregory Peck to Dom DeLuise or Rob “Meathead” Reiner in one lifetime. Like seniors everywhere, Paul shakes his head in bewilderment as he gazes at his reflection in the mirror, “How’d that happen?”
(Paul can be seen on The Ed Sullivan Show reruns as a young lead trumpet player with Ella Fitzgerald “Can’t Buy Me Love” and with Tom Jones “Delilah” & “It’s Not Unusual.”)
THE TWO OF US
The lines were drawn early on in their marriage…Irene was “the singer” and Paul was “the trumpet player”…He wouldn’t sing and she wouldn’t play the trumpet. (Nor sing when a trumpet player was on the radio, television, practicing or anywhere within hearing distance.) Irene took great pains, when meeting with Doc Severensen, to complain to him about the number of times during their early courting days while “on the road” with Fred Waring, when she would be dropped like a free radical at a gay pride parade if he, “The Doc” happened to be playing a solo on The Tonight Show. Romance was immediately suspended or put on hold. Paul’s identity was so wrapped up in the trumpet that when he lost the ability to play through a tragic accident, he began to question “who” “what” or “if” he was anymore. It was at this crossroads when they decided to open a Bed & Breakfast Inn and later, a resort hotel…but then, that’s another story. Eventually, as Paul began to compile their musical history, he came across a vocal duet that he and Irene had recorded years earlier. It prompted him to consider a complete album of duets and thus the genesis of a new vehicle for his musical creativity which now includes audio and video production along with web authoring.
Born Irene Stephens in King Oswald’s Twistle. (A twistle is a neck of land between two rivers and that is how Oswaldtwistle got its name. (Paul likes to proffer that Manhattan could then be considered “a twistle.”) All things considered, being born in the north of England in 1941 during the height of WWII, and requiring a major surgery to save her life, Irene was fortunate to have survived at all although she was to later discover that she would be unable to carry childbirth to full term. In the war ravaged industrial north, Irene’s mother had three children within three years. Cobbled streets, no electricity, no hot water, coconut matting for carpeting and an outdoor toilet…aside from bone jarring trips on cobbled roads to the shops, gas lamps for reading, bathing in a galvanized tub filled with hot water from a coal fired cauldron, skinned knees playing on the “carpet” and a quiet humility for her jaunts down the back yard to the “lou,” Irene says that in spite of it all, she recalls a happy childhood. The moors of Oswaldtwistle were not far and she would spend much of her time exploring them with her companions. The barrage balloons setup to snag the German V1 flying bombs were nothing more than exciting vehicles for their entertainment. While her father was working away in the munitions factories it was left up to her mother to cope during the bombing raids. While the candle would nervously tremble in her hands and illuminate the concern on her face, she would whisk her children away under the stairs. Oswaldtwistle became a point of destination for German prisoners of war who would work in the fields and were happy to remain there for the duration.
At three years old Irene walked through the doors of Saint Mary’s Catholic school, which was a one room schoolhouse. One week before her fifteenth birthday she walked out of those same doors and into the doors of the weaving sheds of Lancashire where, she sheepishly grins as she explains how she worked as a “Hooker.” (A large, noisy machine which hooks the cotton in preparation for the next pass.)
Irene’s mother started her in dancing classes at the age of three and Irene is compelled to admit that she was a rather precocious child. At that time, Irene was convinced that she was going to be a tap dancer, but breaking her foot ended that dream. So the chorus line wasn’t for her but, as she soon discovered, she had a voice and she could sing. Irene’s interest in singing was piqued when as a child she would listen to her sister singing scales. She thought to herself, “O.K. I can do that.” Thereafter, she was unbridled in her enthusiasm for the vocal gymnastics that completely overwhelmed her existence; there was no stopping her. Irene was taking lessons with the local Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Greenwood who was helping her through some technical difficulties. Irene had a natural “break” in her voice that was troublesome. The first time Irene sang at the church hall, were it not for a nearby table on which to steady her trembling knees, she would have collapsed. Unfortunately, Mrs. Greenwood couldn’t find a solution for Irene’s dilemma and so the first review Irene ever received was for the part of Josephine in HMS Pinafore, and which stated, “Irene has a sweet voice which unfortunately lacks range.” Well, Irene takes great pride in reporting that over the years she has shattered that particular sound barrier…along with countless pints of ale thus proving them wrong.
Working in the cotton mills, Irene could sing as loud as she wanted. She started singing professionally in the smoke filled halls of the British Workingman’s Clubs on weekends. Her true love at the time was Gilbert and Sullivan and she had many opportunities to perform her favorite roles. Irene states that the most exciting happening in her life was winning the television show “Opportunity Knocks” (The British version of “Idol.”) and a subsequent eight month tour of America.
Irene was seen on The Thames Television by visiting American impresario, Fred Waring who immediately contacted her and invited her to tour North America with his famous “Pennsylvanians.” There, she met her soon to become husband, Paul Griffin. (A trumpet player, musical arranger and contractor for the Waring organization.) When the eight month tour ended, and Irene’s work visa expired, she returned to England and Paul was soon to follow. They were married in Blackburn, Lancashire, and Irene continued her musical career, while Paul played trumpet for The BBC and Thames Television, and with such great British performers as Matt Monro, Tony Christie and also many visiting American entertainers i.e. Frankie Laine, Buddy Greco, The Stylistics, The Temptations, The Four Tops, etc.
Irene’s singing career blossomed as she starred in many stage productions with preeminent British celebrities including comedian and actor, Sir Harry Secombe, (Mr. “Bumble” in the movie “Oliver”)
Paul says that he loved everything about living in the British Isles except for the climate and so after twelve years of seemingly ceaseless and merciless degrees of precipitation, they returned to the land of his origins. They took up residence in Long Beach, LI where Paul believed he could replenish his deficient vitamin D reserves while reestablishing their musical careers on the North American continent.
Irene has since performed her one woman show in such venues as: Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, The Blue Room at Trump Plaza in New York City, (an encore performance for “The Donald” and select friends) The Detroit Athletic Club, and with The River City Brass Band…a fifty piece brass ensemble with featured musicians from the Pittsburgh Symphony. Irene has performed at all of the major resort hotels in The Catskill and Pocono Mountains and was able to fulfill the dream of her life by singing her favorite leading roles with the Delaware Valley Opera Co…the icing on the cake came when she performed Mimi in La Boheme.
About Paul and His Music (Growing Up Griffin)
Accomplishments: Musician, (Trumpet Player) Singer, Songwriter, Orchestrator, Composer, Producer, Promoter, Hotel Manager, Agent, Multi-Media Artist, Writer, Journalist, Author, Philosopher, Poet, Actor, Educator, Inventor, Electronics Engineer, Electrician, Plumber, Carpenter, Business/Property-Development/Management.
Favorite Quotes: “You’ve Been Approved” ~ “Back Off! You’re Standing In My Aura.” ~ “Some Itches Should Be Scratched-Others…Not So Much.” “The world is made up of extraordinary people. Don’t waste your time trying to be normal.” “A picture paints a thousand words while music expresses that for which there are no words.” “If you want to know the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikolai Tesla. “I’ve reached that age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me.” “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin