Born Arlette B. Broil in New Orleans, Louisiana, she was steeped in church music as a child. She sang for a while with the Southern Harps, had her own radio show in New Orleans, and later appeared in night clubs, on Broadway and in 1962 on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Griffin performed briefly with “Queen of Gospel” Albertina Walker & The Caravans in 1953 but spent most of her career as a solo artist. While often compared to Mahalia Jackson, Griffin had a lighter contralto that allowed her to achieve more vocal pyrotechnics —- holding a note for long periods of time, continuing a song for as long as twenty minutes and ranging through three octaves.
Griffin began her known recording career with the Gospel Consolators, an a’capella group in New Orleans, in the late 1940’s. They issued several 78 rpm shellac records with her billed as lead vocalist. She later recorded several singles on various labels. After moving to Chicago in the early 1950’s, she recorded briefly with the “Caravans” gospel group led by Albertina Walker. After moving to Los Angeles she was signed by Art Rupe of the Specialty label. After collaboration with Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, she recorded an album on the Decca label with an orchestra: “It Takes A Lot of Love”; “Portraits in Bronze” on the Liberty label, and joined the lucrative night club circuit singing and recording gospel albums in night clubs in the 1960’s. She recorded a solo album on the Savoy label which was unremarkable except as a great example of her voice, and an album with the Gospel Pearls entitled “Gospel Soul” on Sunset, a subsidiary of Liberty. The Nashboro label released an album recorded live in concert in stereo and Griffin continued to tour and record as her health allowed, up to her death. There is an album on the SpiritFeel label which samples her four-decade long recording career.
In 1974 she appeared in the 20th Century Fox thriller movie: “Together Brothers”, which was filmed in Galveston, Texas. She played a female preacher, “Reverend Brown”, who conducts a funeral service for a murdered policeman. The only witness to the crime is a little boy who is stalked and his “brothers” pull together and help apprehend the killer. The soundtrack for the movie was scored by Barry White.