VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach local BJ Griffin wowed the crowd and the America’s Got Talent judges in a performance of Let’s Stay Together that aired Tuesday evening on WAVY-TV 10.
Griffin played the electric cello while singing the iconic Al Green song, garnering massive applause and a standing ovation from the crowd and the four judges – Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell.
“What a surprise, what a delight,” Vergara said of Griffin’s performance.
Mandel said he loved everything about the performance.
“Right now in singing, you’re my favorite,” Mandel said.
Klum said Griffin had a glow about him.
He easily got a yes from all four judges. Cowell said the performance was distinctive and stunning and gave him a “100% yes.”
“That’s what you call a moment,” Cowell said, adding that “this is an audition that we’re all going to remember.”
He also said he enjoyed talking to Vergara.
The day after the airing of his stellar performance, the man with a cello and a sweet voice stopped by 10 On Your Side and was able to share what he had to keep as a secret for several weeks.
“I got four yeses from the celebrity judges in what was a whirlwind of fun.
But that whirlwind of fun almost didn’t happen.
Moments before his big shot on the big stage, Griffin had a full-scale panic attack.
Griffin, who is also a certified master free diver, paused to ease the panic.
“I held my breath,” Griffin said, “took a big breath. I went on a dive in my mind that helped me calm and I went onstage, and it was just an amazing experience after that.”
While an audience in Pasadena, California applauded, locals at the historic Cavalier Hotel jumped for joy at a viewing party.
“To culminate that experience with a watch party on the hill, the big screen, and so many loving fans and family out here,” Griffin said, “it was such a blessing. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this longest-running, most popular show ever.”
When he introduced himself on the show, Griffin said he wanted to share healing through music, and noted that he quit football in high school to be a musician.
“I’m done holding myself back,” Griffin told the judges.
Griffin, 34, is originally from Detroit but grew up in Virginia Beach. He began playing violin in the fifth grade, but in sixth grade a Virginia Beach teacher advised him to play the cello. Griffin says the cello chose him.
“The cello being the closest sound to the human voice it’s kind of like my writing buddy and my best friend,” Griffin said.
Griffin plays in a duo called “BJ+JB” and a band “BJ Griffin and the Galaxy Groove” but it will just be him and his cello on America’s Got Talent Tuesday night.
“I actually use music to process those emotions,” said Griffin. “So my music usually starts from an idea that I usually associate with a feeling.”
Griffin’s sent this message to his hometown fans:
“Virginia Beach is my home. Virginia Beach is the best city in the world and I’m proud to represent Virginia Beach and just make my town proud. There is something the water, and I’m so glad to be able to share my talents on America’s Got Talent and I hope you enjoy it.”