Tail of the Weak 1.16
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 Waycross/Hortense/Alma contingent of The Newfanglers were flyin' high after the recording session with Don Helms, fabled steel guitarist of Hank Sr.'s Drifting Cowboys band.
It was Sunday, October 30, 2005; and, we were still in Nashville, Tennessee soaking up more of what Music City USA had to offer. We pulled out a local newspaper and scanned the Entertainment Guide.
TONY JOE WHITE
THE HACKENSAW BOYS
3rd and Lindsley Bar and Grill
No question about it.
We took our seats in a balcony overlooking the stage and were treated to a high energy set of ol' time string music from the Hackensaw Boys. Ain't no drums in an ol' time string band; but, they had a fella that had invented this thing he called a “charismo”—a homemade percussion instrument made out of tin cans, license plates, a hubcap, and book bag straps—and mercilessly beat with wire brush sticks.
The star of the evening, Tony Joe White, sauntered out by himself and sat down in a chair, center stage with nothin' but a Stratocaster electric guitar, a small, blond Fender amp, a wah-wah pedal, and his voice—like gravel on a dirt road—honey on the rocks.
Tony Joe is best remembered for his swampadelic “Polk Salad Annie”, released in 1969 and peaking at Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song that I was waiting to hear was one that he wrote in '67, which was a huge hit for Brook Benton. If there was ever a song that comes close to the loneliness of “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry”, I believe it might be “Rainy Night in Georgia”.
He and his guitar growled and sang for about an hour before he eased off the stage; and, we eased back into the Nashville night.
The next day, Monday, would be our last day in Nashville; and, we were looking for any excuse to prolong the visit. Our host, Nashville photographer, Jimmy Stratton, made sure we remained entertained.
We had lunch downtown and strolled through Manuel's clothing store. Owner, Manuel Cuevas, was once the partner of Nudie Cohn, the rodeo tailor who designed the glamorous hand-stitched suits that folks like Hank Sr. and Gram Parsons wore. Manuel married Nudie's only daughter, Barbara, and eventually opened his boutique in Nashville, where he still lives and works.
That afternoon, Jimmy took us by the Nashville Songwriters Association International and introduced us to Bart Herbison, the Executive Director of the organization. He was very congenial and invited us upstairs to his office.
Our entourage was spread out on the couch and carpet when in walked a man in a straw cowboy hat, a NASCAR t-shirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. He looked like he could've been from Hortense, no more or no less ordinary than any one of us.
The president asked him to play a song for us. He timidly reached behind the sofa and grabbed an old Gibson acoustic guitar that was leaning against the wall and said, “Here's one that I wrote you might have heard”. He strummed a G chord, opened his mouth and sang—“Day after day I'm more confused—yet I look for the light in the pourin' rain”.
Lord, have mercy! Our jaws dropped all over that room. This guy wrote “Drift Away” for Dobie Gray. Well, my Hortense theory was blown to pieces. He proceeded to play us another original, Alabama's “When We Make Love”; and, finally, we were introduced to this phenomenal songwriter, Mentor Williams.
Mentor's brother, Paul, was a fine songwriter himself. Paul Williams wrote “We've Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” for The Carpenters, Three Dog Night's “An Old Fashioned Love Song”, and “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie. He also starred as Little Enos Burdette in Smokey and the Bandit.
Sadly, our Nashville weekend had to come to an end. Before we took off in that little air-plane, with Mike Johnson at the helm, I heard him say to the control tower, “Six souls on board”.
Six Nashville-enchanted, musically-satisfied, beautifully-exhausted, South Georgia souls.
Blood in the Pines: The Story of Hollis Sheppard: The Newfanglers Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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