Dick Griffey, Founder of SOLAR Records, Dies

Posted September 30, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in News

Best known for starting up the Los Angeles, Cali.-based SOLAR Records, Dick Griffey dies at the age of 71 from complications resulting from quadruple bypass surgery.

American record producer Dick Griffey passed away at the age of 71.

Griffey died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from quadruple bypass surgery, according to a family statement released Tuesday. The Nashville, Tenn.-born entrepreneur was instrumental to soul and funk music and in black entertainment

Griffey was responsible for founding and operating SOLAR Records (acronym for Sound of Los Angeles Records). The label – starting in 1975 as Soul Train Records – began as a spin-off label for Don Cornelius’ popular dance show “Soul Train”. The label’s first act, The Soul Train Gang, had minimal success with their newly-crafted theme song “Soul Train ’76 (Get On Board).” Using similar patterns from the Philly-birthed soul of the original MFSB-crafted theme song, “Soul Train ’76 (Get On Board)” featured the production of Norman Harris. After the Soul Train Gang’s sophomore release, Griffey decided to focus on new talent and signed Shalamar, the Whispers, and funk outfits like Lakeside, Midnight Star and Klymaxx. Super R&B hits including “Second Time Around” (Shalamar), “And The Beat Goes On” (Whispers), “Rock Steady” (Whispers),  “I Miss You” (Klymaxx), “Two Occasions” (The Deele), “Freak-a-Zoid” (Midnight Star), “Fantastic Voyage” (Lakeside) were all part of the SOLAR catalog.

Griffey is also credited with giving the upstart production duo of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis early work paving the way for their blockbuster songwriting and production career. SOLAR was also home to the group the Deele, which featured L.A. Reid and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Babyface.

The label was eventually sold to CBS in 1989 and eventually closed its doors in 1995. Its back catalog was purchased by EMI and later purchased by Unidisc.

Towards the end of his life, Griffey provided a wealth of knowledge concerning Shalamar and Klymaxx on two TV documentaries aired on TV/One’s Unsung.

In a statement, Quincy Jones said: “Dick Griffey was one of the great pioneering executives in the music business. … Although Dick stepped away from the music industry many years ago, his presence will forever be felt through the artists that he worked with and shepherded over his time in the business.”

Survivors include his wife and five children.

NEKESA MUMBI MOODY, of the Associated Press, contributed portions to this story.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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