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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 1.3

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

“But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke—The same cigarettes as me” — “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction”

Hi. My name is Uncle Dave—and I'm a smoker. Grandaddy Carter owned a farm just west of Hoboken, Georgia. His main cash crop was tobacco. I started working on the farm when I was eight—handin' tobacco to Mama, Aunt Darceil, and Aunt Jaquita, who would then string the leaves on a stick about five feet long—I made five bucks a week. Daddy joined the Air Force in 1946 and retired after 20 years—and for the whole time he was in, I remember him smoking Salem cigarettes—the taste that's Springtime fresh. He quit smoking when he quit the Air Force and admonished me and my brother, “They'll coldly kill you!” A year and a half before Daddy retired in 1966, The Rolling Stones played a chaotic concert at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Florida. That night, Keith Richards woke up in his hotel room with an 8-note riff that he played into his cassette recorder mumbling the phrase “Can't get no satisfaction”. A day or two later, while lounging around the hotel pool, Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics in just ten minutes. A folky version of the song was recorded May 10, 1965 at Chess Studios in Chicago. Two days later at RCA Studios in Hollywood, “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” was recorded again with the definitive fuzz-toned guitar riff that Richards had dreamed up only a week earlier. It was the Stones first Number 1 hit in the U.S.

I never took cigarette smoking seriously, dabbling with them in college. As I grew older, I considered myself a seasonal smoker—as soon as beach weather rolled around, I'd drink a beer and light one up. When I caught that inevitable first cold of the winter season, I would put them down; and, by the time my cold had run its course, I was a non-smoker again. At the turn of the millennium, I started work at Paul Lee's Crosstown Music store. Those boys were hardcore Camel smokers; and, I fell easily into the habit. It was in 2007 that American Spirit cigarettes first came to Waycross. I had heard about them already, reading somewhere that Bob Dylan smoked them. So, I figured what was good enough for Bob was good enough for me.

That evening, as I sat at the computer listening to some obscure Neil Young, I glanced at the ashtray to see my American Spirit smoking majestically, its Indian eagle totem emblazoned across the filter, and thought, 'That's exactly what Bob Dylan sees.'

So, with two of my most-adored artists already in the room—sonically and spiritually—what better time to attempt to write a song? What followed—on my yellow legal pad—was a cosmic, stream-of-consciousness songwriting experiment that many tell me is their favorite Uncle Dave original.

I called it, of course, “American Spirit”—a story of unrequited love between the narrator and his fictional “Mary Alice”, who passed away before he could tell her of his infatuation.

About a year after writing “American Spirit”, I was singing the song to a small crowd in a restaurant. During my break, a Blackshear, Georgia lady found me outside—smoking—and was hellbound on finding out who the dead “Mary Alice” actually was.

When I told her the song and its lady of misfortune were both fictitious, she seemed more than disappointed. When I asked why, she said—her sister, named Mary Alice, who lived in Waycrosshad died about the same time the song was written.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy

REFERENCES Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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