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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 1.7

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.

The thermionic triode, a vacuum tube invented in 1907, enabled amplified radio tech-nology. In 1947, John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain invented the first point-contact transistor at AT&T Bell Labs. Fascinating...right? In 1948, German physicists Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker developed their own prototype and in August 1953, demonstrated a workable all-transistor radio at the Düsseldorf Radio Fair. Texas Instruments, of Dallas, Texas, sold the first transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, in November 1954.

Scientists at the forefront of a revolution in audio technology.
Scientists at the forefront of a revolution in audio technology.

Hundreds of thousands of baby boomers could've cared less about the science that led to the electronic marvel they could hold in the palm of their hand. It was the music coming out of the tiny speaker that spoke volumes. It all came together so perfectly—the technology—the prosperity of a post-World War II economy—the advent of rock 'n' roll music—and a large audience of young people. Like so many, I can tell you where I was or what I was doing when I first heard a certain song on the radio. Some of my earliest recollections came from the dashboard of the old Ford family station wagon—lurching forward in the back seat when Tommy Roe's “Sheila” came on the Mighty 6.90 Big Ape radio station out of Jacksonville, Florida—my Mama and Aunt Ceil cackling away at the hilarity of “Ahab the Arab” as we headed to downtown Waycross for a Saturday movie at the Ritz Theater—curled up in the back floorboard during the winter, feeling the heat of the transmission, listening to “Moonglow”, “Canadian Sunset”, and “Wonderland by Night” on some magical AM radio program called Sundown Serenade as Daddy pointed the car west between Waycross and Albany. After we returned home from Tripoli, Libya in 1960, Daddy, a 20-year Air Force veteran, was immediately stationed at Turner Air Field in Albany, Georgia. We took up residence in a pink house trailer at B&S Trailer Park just east of town on Highway 82.

Just one of many of the handheld marvels of my generation.
Just one of many of the handheld marvels of my generation.

I got my first transistor radio—complete with leather case and earphone—from the PX on the Air Force base and listened to it religiously. I can remember falling asleep to Nino Tempo and April Stevens singing “Deep Purple” with it under my pillow in '63. My older brother, Gary, and I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show at our neighbor's trailer February 9, 1964. Our next-door friends, the Shores, were Marine Corps military brats. Their TV could pick up CBS—so we left our family watching Patrick McGoohan as “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” on Disney's Wonderful World of Color. John, Paul, George, and Ringo left an immediate impact on us. So much so that, less than a week later, we had fashioned guitars from scrap plywood, clothesline wire, and roofing nails—and stood bravely under the trailer park street lamps at night, singing those fabulous songs we had memorized from the radio.

L-R: Johnny Bee Mosses, Pernell Roberts, Sam Wallace
L-R: Johnny Bee Mosses, Pernell Roberts, Sam Wallace

Back then, Waycross had two radio stations, WACL and WAYX. They both had familiar on-air personalities, but none more flamboyant than DJ Johnny “Bee” Mosses (pronounced Moses, like in the Bible) at WACL. He promoted local dances, called Bee Baby Hops, and booked groups like The Candymen, King David and The Slaves, and The Bushmen. Radio in the Fifties and Sixties was all things to all people. In the early morning you had your daily devotional, the news, and the farmer's report, followed by talk shows like Arthur Godfrey Time, then about an hour of bluegrass gospel leading up to the midday news. Following the news, it was country music until school let out; then, Top 40 rock 'n' roll ruled until about bedtime, when many stations played either easy listening or “race” music, as they called it, culminating in the deafening finality of the “sign-off” at midnight with “The Star Spangled Banner”, followed by Ray Charles's “Georgia”. I don't think I've ever slept as good as when I did in the Sixties—with that little transistor radio dialed down low—just above the threshold between sound and silence. “Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines”.

19th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:


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