Growing up in a small Louisiana town with the pipes to shake the world only means you will eventually have to leave the little town to shake the world. That’s exactly the path soul singer Mary Griffin had to accept.
Down home church classics were popular in the Griffin household. In fact, “Mary Ann”, and all her sisters made up the choir in her father small church near Monroe, LA. The four woman choir became so popular in the area that sometimes they’d sing at three or four programs a day. It was normal for she and her sisters to be paid to sing at weddings, funerals, family reunions, and any other event which drew people. It didn’t take long for the sisters to become regional celebrities.
Like any family of unique personalities, the girls grew beyond “Rev. Griffin’s Little Girls”. All of them began cultivating their own unique talents. Mary instantly became a beam of light for the others to follow. In fact, the girls are so well-gelled that even they saw a light in her. It only encouraged them all to push harder in their individual ambitions. While Adrian still sings in Louisiana, her sister Anitra leads Praise and Worship at her church in California. Teresa is a household name in Chicago and was recently asked to sing at actor/comedian Bernie Mac’s funeral.
Having sang in countries most people don’t even know exist, Mary was singing around the world before she was even 25 years old. She easily attracted the interests of a long list of celebrities who kept her busy singing. She was an opener, a background singer, a coach, a commercial jingle singer, a ballroom headliner, an actress, and any other form of singing before she signed her first recording contract. She had pretty much gotten her foot in the door while most young girls were studying for mid-terms in high school.
A bad marriage changed her path. “I have become a better woman due to my marriage failure,” she explains. “My ex-husband is my friend now because God gave me the strength to use that period of my life as an experience which made me a stronger woman.” After her divorce from Louisiana Congressman Rick Gallot, she felt very dismayed. After success in so many areas at such a young age the one thing she wanted to work most didn’t work out in her favor.
The marriage was the vacuum that sucked her spirit away. The only thing she knew to do was move to a place that would lift her Spirit and give her the motivation to move forward.
“I moved to New Orleans and that’s where I became a real woman.”
Mary moved to the Big Easy and found her rhythm again. “The people. The culture. The food. The buildings. The heart of that city re-birthed a spirit in me that I almost lost,” she confirmed. “I sang for some of everybody while I was there. I will never forget Lawrence Fishbourne sitting on the front row at a spot I did frequently in New Orleans. After the event, he encouraged me and reassured me I was on my way. It’s not that he was God or anything but it was just nice to hear the sound of encouragement again.”
New Orleans embraced her gifts and gave her a new found liberty. She opened for every major event in the city and was highly requested by national artists. A talent of her kind could nowhere but higher.
Then, a storm came.
Hurricane Katrina swept the City of New Orleans like a kitchen broom. “I had to sleep in my car in Houston, Texas for a week. I didn’t know what my next step would be.” She recalls many nights crying and praying to God to re-position her career. The New Orleans restoration didn’t come as quick as everyone expected. She ended up getting a place in Houston and singing in a local night club there while putting the pieces together for her next move.
She like thousands of others from the South Louisiana area had to relocate and start over.
Mary was well known for her popular Labelle Revue. Friends always suggested she should audition for Patti. They believed she could really make it. The opportunity presented itself and Mary walked right in the door.
“I’ve been singing with Ms. Patti for almost 10 years now. She is so professional yet motherly. I couldn’t have survived these years without her beautiful spirit.”
Each night on stage Patti Labelle does sort of a “gospel-like” Spiritual set. This is the moment that thousands of fans get to hear Patti’s Secret Weapon. She pulls Mary out to the front and gives her the stage. “I am so humbled each time she shares her platform with me. She doesn’t have to do it. There are legends like Ms. Patti who recognize the gifts in others and she is not too selfish to give back. I am grateful for her friendship and her desire to embrace my gift and share her light with little me,” she says.
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Patti was even featured on Oprah one day and allowed Mary’s sister, Teresa, to join them on stage. Oprah was so impressed with Patti’s background singers that she asked Mary and Teresa to sing on their own. “I will never forget that moment. Not because I was spotlighted but because two icons believed in my sister and I enough to present us to the world.”
Even though the Patti Labelle set is her priority, she has traveled with Gladys Knight and George Clinton among many others. “To be able to sing for a living is all I’ve ever wanted,” she testifies. “God has blessed me immensely and I am forever grateful.”
She was featured in the movie, Studio 69, and her music has been featured in various blockbuster films. R&B Artist Jaheim pulled some plugs to help her release a single under the name Mahogany. “Take A Look At Me Now” went over well on the East Coast and was big hit in other countries.
She travels so much with other artists that she seldom has time to work on any music for herself. “I’m not like a lot of artists. I’m not dying to be out front. There are times when I get that opportunity. Then, there are times when I’m paid very well to support another person who is out front. Singing is what I was born to do. The only thing that truly matters is that I keep on singing. Whether out front or behind someone else is a non-factor.”
Her father never held his daughters’ gifts hostage. He compelled them to climb to the highest heights but he constantly reminded them to never forget who gave them the gift. “When I have an opportunity to sing about God it’s special to me. I’ve come a long way but I know who he has brought me,” she says.
She works out. “My son, Orlando, is into Health and Fitness and he always keeps me balanced.” People always wonder what keeps her figure so young and refined. She says her secret is simply staying active and eating selectively.
Her new single was just released in several different countries. “My Love Can Take You Higher” is available now on iTunes and all other music outlets.
Mary is a light that continues to shine. “Everywhere we go we should be encouraging people, we should build them up and challenge them to reach for new heights. When people are around us they should leave better off than they were previously. God put people in our lives on purpose so we can help them succeed and help them become all he created them to be. Most people will not reach their full potential without somebody else believing in them, that means we all have an assignment.”