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Inside BJ Griffin’s Surprising AGT Audition: “That’s What You Call a Moment”

Virginia Beach entertainer BJ Griffin came to AGT with an electric cello, stating, "I'm done holding myself back."

By Jax Miller

America’s Got Talent sees its share of multitalented performers, but one singing cellist was so impressive that Judge Howie Mandel even called him his favorite.

Who is BJ Griffin?

BJ Griffin performs on the America's Got Talent Stage

How to Watch

Watch America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

BJ Griffin is a 34-year-old entertainer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He appeared on stage with his electric cello, explaining he had good reason to audition on AGT.

“I’m done holding myself back,” said Griffin. “So, I came on to win AGT and achieve my dream of sharing healing through my music with the world.”

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Griffin said he made the “hard decision” to quit the football team in high school so he could pursue music, adding, “I’ve always wanted to be a musician.”

“I felt like my parents wanted me to do football, but I really — in my heart — wanted to be a musician only,” he continued. “That’s what I decided.”

Griffin was born in Detroit (the birthplace of Motown) though raised in Virginia Beach, according to his website. As a youngster, he played with the Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra, which took Griffin worldwide, including live performances in China and Greece.

He attended Virginia’s James Madison University, where he studied music, before moving to New York City and teaching with the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. He presently does solo work, blending classical, jazz, and pop, but also performs with BJ Griffin and the Galaxy Groove and The BJ Griffin Duo.

He has opened for some big names, including Lauryn Hill, Lionel Richie, Erykah Badu, Sir Sly, and Smash Mouth.

“As a performer, BJ lives to expand the boundaries of musicians of all genres to a broader audience and conjure even more possibilities to spread the joy of learning and performing music,” his website states.

What song did BJ Griffin perform?

For his AGT Audition, Griffin sang Al Green’s soulful 1971 hit, “Let’s Stay Together.”

Griffin belted sky-high notes while playing a standing electric cello, which even had AGT Host Terry Crews getting into the groove backstage. 

He also had the live AGT audience on their feet just seconds into the song while Judges Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara sang and danced along.

BJ Griffin performs on the America's Got Talent Stage

“I love him,” said Mandel soon after the song began.

He isn’t the first to cover the chart-topping hit, of course. Other versions have famously been covered by Tina Turner (who also topped the charts with her 1984 rendition), Robin Thicke, Boyz II Men, Maroon 5, and many others.

Here’s what the AGT Judges had to say:

The Judges, including Simon Cowell, gave Griffin a standing ovation, with the performer admitting playing on the AGT stage was a better feeling than football.

Vergara kicked off the judging process by calling the performance “amazing.”

“What a surprise, what a delight,” said Vergara. “I mean, I think everybody was loving you.”

Mandel responded with “Love, love, love everything about it” when Vergara asked him for his thoughts.

RELATED: Simon Cowell Says Niall Horan Becoming a Coach on The Voice Is a "Weird, Full Circle-y Thing"

“Right now, in singing, you are my favorite,” said Mandel, prompting the entertainer to bring his hand to his chest and drop his jaw.

Klum said Griffin had “a glow” all around him “and you just push it all to us.”

“That’s what you call a moment,” Cowell said of the audition. “Your voice, it’s so distinctive- actually, it’s stunning."

To no one’s surprise, Griffin received four enthusiastic "Yes" votes from the Judges.

After Griffin exited the stage, Cowell told Mandel that his mother would buy “so many records” from the likes of Griffin, stating so few artists “cater to that market.”

“I feel like this is the beginning of my life,” Griffin told Crews backstage.

It’s certainly the beginning of Griffin’s journey on America’s Got Talent, airing Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and the following day on Peacock.