Two years later, Griffith got a call from a friend. Had he ever heard of Whitney Houston? She asked him. He remembered her name immediately from the show he’d seen and said so. “You better move fast,” she cautioned. “She’s negotiating with Elektra for a deal.” The news shook him up. “I said, ‘Uh-oh – I better check this out,’” he recalls. As it turned out, Houston was performing that very weekend at another New York club, Seventh Avenue South. Griffith called Houston’s manager, Gene Harvey, and had his name put on the guest list.

“So I went down, and I was completely floored,” Griffith says now. “She was mesmerizing. I couldn’t believe she had grown so much in that two-year period. She went from a teenager to a woman. She had a mature look, her voice was more mature, she had obvious star quality. It took no genius to see it – all you had to do was just see her and you knew. I’ll never forget, she sang the song ‘Tomorrow’ from [the musical] Annie, and it was a showstopper. After I got up off the floor, I just knew that I had to bring her to the label.”

From Billboard in 1986, the story of how Clive Davis and Arista won the battle to sign Whitney Houston—then went searching for songs for her debut.

Read the story