DATE: Friday, March 21, 1997                TAG: 9703190123



                                            LENGTH:  103 lines


All Rodney P. Griffin ever wanted to do was sing. He wanted to use his rich baritone voice to praise the glory of the Lord.

He will do just that when he joins the other two members - Gerald Wolfe and Jason Waldroup - of the Tennessee-based professional Southern gospel singing trio, Greater Vision, for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Deep Creek.

He said said he achieved his life dream of singing professional gospel music thanks to the influence and guidance of Ken Channell, leader and one of the founding members of the well-known Chesapeake-based gospel group, The Galileans.

``My heart's desire was to sing,'' Griffin, 30, said from his Morristown, Tenn., home. ``But first I ended up working at the same shipyard as my dad.''

Griffin's dad, Jeff, worked at the Newport News Shipyard, but he later quit his job to spread the Gospel. He relocated the family to Kentucky to attend Bible college and become a preacher.

Griffin spent his formative years in Kentucky and eventually earned a degree in 1988 from Berea (Ky.) College.

``I wanted to move back to the (East) Coast,'' Griffin said.

From 1989 to 1990 he worked at the shipyard in nuclear quality analysis. But his desire to sing for the glory of God, primed by his participation in several local Kentucky Gospel groups, was too strong. He was ready to give up his well-paying shipyard job to sing the Gospel in every hamlet in America.

As fate would have it, Channell's Galileans sang at a church Griffin attended on the Peninsula.

``After the concert, he gave us his card with his name and phone number on it,'' Channell said. ``He asked us if we ever needed a singer, to give him a call.''

Months later he got the call.

``He sang with us for a little less than two years,'' Channell said. ``But we were an amateur group, with day jobs. Rodney wanted to go on the road full time to sing the Lord's praises.''

``Through the Galileans and Ken's influence, it made me want to do it full time,'' Griffin said.

Making his jump to full time pro, Griffin joined the Ohio-based group Higher Dedication. After the group disbanded he hooked up with The Brashears from Arkansas, performing about 300 dates with them in one year.

Later, while attending the National Gospel Quartet Convention in Nashville, Griffin met the Dixie Melody Boys, a popular professional touring gospel group based in North Carolina.

But after a two-year stint with them he moved on to join Greater Vision, begun in 1990 by lead singer Wolfe, also a noted pianist and songwriter.

At the time Griffin came onboard, the ensemble was already enjoying a national reputation and following thanks to such recordings as ``On A Journey'' and ``It's Just Like Heaven,'' which spawned such top-10 hits as ``He Is Mine,'' ``New Wine'' and ``There is a River.''

The group also appears frequently on television and on cruises.

``I moved from Arkansas to North Carolina and finally to Tennessee, still following my dream,'' he said. ``I've been with Greater Vision for a little over three years and I hope to finish up my singing career with them.''

The group, noted for its three-part harmonies anchored by Griffin's rich baritone, performs about 175 dates a year. Its latest national recording is the 1995 ``Take Him at His Word,'' which featured the top-10 gospel hit ``Oh, What A Friend.''

``Greater Vision is probably THE best gospel trio in the United States today,'' Channell said. ``They have a huge nationwide following and are noted for their expert singing, harmonies and original songs. I'm just as proud as I can be that Rodney is with them and I'm proud to say that Rodney once sang with us.''

The group's most recent release showed off another side to Griffin's talent: songwriting.

``I've always written songs,'' said Griffin, who also plays bass for the trio. ``Even when I worked at the shipyard, I was writing songs.''

Greater Vision songs like ``Follow Me,'' which quickly became a group favorite, and ``The Spirit of Brokenness'' were both penned by Griffin.

``The songs were written out of my own experiences,'' he said. ``I try to write plain and simple songs that will touch people. I try to write songs of encouragement for hurting people. I share with my heart how good the Lord is.''

Besides his own group, Griffin said other gospel acts have performed or recorded his compositions.

``It's a blessing to know other folks have confidence in my writing,'' he said. ``I'm humbled that people would choose my songs to deliver His message.''

But Griffin said the ultimate thrill is performing with Wolfe and Waldroup in front of an appreciative audience. To them, singing is just another form of spreading the Gospel, touching other souls.

``We all love to sing gospel music,'' he said. ``I know how it's influenced my life. Throughout my life there was always a song that would reach me and touch me. I want to provide people with that same song.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo courtesy of RIVERSONG RECORD

Rodney Griffin, center, who got his start with the well-known

Chesapeake-based gospel group, The Galileans, now contributes his

rich baritone to the three-part harmonies of Tennessee-basedGreater

Vision with partners Jason Waldroup, left, and Gerald Wolfe.



Who/What: A concert featuring Greater Vision with The Galileans

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday.

Where: Deep Creek Family Life Center, 250 Mill Creek Parkway, off

of George Washington Highway (Route 17).

Cost: Free, but a love offering will be taken at the door.

Call: For more information, call 487-2160.

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