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Tail of the Weak 1.10

Updated: Jan 24


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.

In 1998, I was still employed by the U.S. Post Office selling stamps to the public. Lawyers, secretaries, accountants, bankers, farmers, blacks, whites, Latinos, food stamp recipients, stamp collectors, housewives, and one transvestite that I know of—well, he's the first cross-dresser in Waycross—all loved the fact that they didn't have to lick stamps anymore.

My wife, Lynne, and I didn't go out a whole lot; but, when we did, I hardly ever failed to run into some Waycross musician who would always say, “We need to get together and pick sometime!” On this particular summer night in '98, the musician who said it was my old buddy, Charles McClellan. As we drove home from the bar, I said to Lynne, “Musicians always say that; but nobody ever does anything about it. By God, we're gonna do something.”

So, the plans were hatched, a date was picked, and a flyer was handmade. I called the gathering the Griffin Guitar Pull, making sure I tagged '1st Annual' on it because if we were going to put time and energy into this endeavor, then it would be something we would do again.

I borrowed the Guitar Pull name after reading stories about the Annual Harlan Howard Birthday Bash and Guitar Pull, held in Nashville, Tennessee in honor of the dean of country songwriters. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Howard earlier in '98 during one of my few pilgrimages to Nashville's Music Row publishing houses with brothers, John Randall and Bill Smith.

The restaurant where we got our early morning caffeine buzz had a bar. At each barstool, there was a bronze placard indicating precisely who that stool belonged to. I saw Harlan Howard's name on one and quizzed the waiter, who assured me, “He comes in here every afternoon.”

After Smith-Griffin-Smith made the rounds to the publishing companies, we returned to the restaurant for nourishment, all but forgetting about the bronze placard that bore Harlan's name.

The legendary Dean of Country Songwriters, Harlan Howard.

Sure enough, he came sauntering in and sat down on his barstool just as our food arrived. I pushed my plate back and told John and Bill, “I'll never be able to eat knowing that the man who wrote “I Fall to Pieces” and “Heartaches by the Number” is less than 10 feet away”.

Collecting my nerve, I walked to the bar and introduced myself. He was as congenial as a favorite uncle, offered me the stool next to him, and was totally unfazed when I dropped the Nashville handshake on him. That's when a nobody walks up to a somebody and hands them a tape or CD of their original songs. We chatted for 15 minutes, he signed his autograph on a folded lyric sheet I had stuffed inside my pocket, and told us to send whatever new songs we came up with directly to his office. Nothing ever came of it; but, meeting Harlan Howard is a memory I will forever treasure.

The 1st Annual Griffin Guitar Pull was scheduled for the Saturday evening following Thanksgiving in 1998. About 20 people showed up with guitars, alcohol, lounge chairs,and potluck dishes for supper. We set up a sound system on the back patio and played music till midnight. It felt good.

By 2001, the backyard gathering had taken on a new name—the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull—in honor of the man who had spent the first 12 years of his life in Waycross, Georgia. Later, as a member of The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, he pioneered a new musical genre by fusing country, r&b, and rock and roll together, to form what he liked to call Cosmic American Soul Music.

My wife and I were unprepared for what happened that Thanksgiving weekend when 250 folks gathered in our backyard and home. The music played, people sang and danced, and the local police showed up at two in the morning to lay it to rest.

The next day, we awoke to find eight dirty footprints in our bathroom's Jacuzzi tub and decided that it was time for a change.

In 2002, with the help of local Gram Parsons historian and songwriter, Billy Ray Herrin, I booked Walter Egan and The Brooklyn Cowboys with Lona Heins, along with Jon Corneal for the first open-to-the-public Gram Parsons Guitar Pull.

It was held once again on the Saturday following Thanksgiving at our local honky tonk, Little Knights. Between 5:00 pm and midnight, guests were treated to a Cosmic American earful of music from supporting acts: Gram Griffin, Megan Griffin Stewart, CC Rider, Luke the Drifter, The Holy Smokes, Brack Haynes, Jack Cadillac, John Davis, Greg Hester, and Hickory Wind.

The little backyard gathering that began in 1998 is now in its 19th year, a full-fledged outdoor music festival offering two stages of nonstop entertainment, complete with RV and tent camping, vendors selling everything from food, clothing, and jewelry to art, incense, and wood engravings, and an audience full of love, peace, and reverence.

Through the years, they have come to Gram's hometown Guitar Pull, to hear the music of Leon Russell, Charlie Louvin, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Bernie Leadon, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Ian Dunlop, Jim Lauderdale, Kevn Kinney, Jay Farrar, Jim White, Randall Bramblett, Tommy Talton, Scott Boyer, Fayssoux Starling, Grayson Capps, Rodney Dillard, Elizabeth Cook, Levi Lowrey, Underhill Rose, and Daniel Romano.

Parsons's legendary former road mangler, Phil Kaufman, has been down twice; and, Stanley Booth, author of Dance with the Devil: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, has made a special appearance.

The true essence of the festival lies in the hearts of the supporting artists—musicians who love the music of Gram Parsons. From Canada, New York, California, Florida, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Georgia, they consider it an honor to play Gram's songs on stage in his hometown, Waycross, Georgia.

By the time this Tail of the Weak is being read, the 19th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival will be history; but, you can always make plans to come next year and help celebrate our 20th Annual!

Does anyone have Emmylou Harris's phone number?

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REFERENCES Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

#WaycrossGeorgia #Georgiamusic #HarlanHoward #GramParsons #GramParsonsGuitarPull #CosmicAmericanSoulMusic #BillyRayHerrin

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