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.
Sweetbriar, the first country rock band in Waycross, Georgia, faded in the early winter months of 1975.
Billy Ray Herrin and I started the group in the summer of '74, and saw it through several personnel changes. Lead guitar and keyboard players were added; and, drummers and bass players departed. By the spring of '75, veteran Blackshear drummer, Bruce Wood, was in the group; and, Billy Ray Herrin had left.
Bruce had been in one of Blackshear, Georgia's early garage bands, Midnight Sun, and provided stability; but, I was having a difficult time managing the group. Sweetbriar was still an excellent band with good players; and, our strength lay in our vocal harmonies.
We were rehearsing in a cowhouse in Blackshear, belonging to Punk Davis—a nice guy, a little older than us, and friend of our former drummer, Monnie Carden. I remember, he sang a little barbershop quartet in his spare time.
One Sunday, at a cowhouse rehearsal, the door opened and in walked Wayne and Anne Scarborough with Donnie and Sandy Kinney. Recognizing Wayne at once, we straightened up and sang as pretty as we could.
Terry Wayne Scarborough was an elder statesman on the Waycross music scene. A 1965 graduate of Waycross High School, Wayne had played in The Royals and The Riots, local dance bands around town, before heading off to the University of Georgia in Athens.
Once there, he became a member of King David and The Slaves, one of the foremost soul music bands in the Southeast. Lead singer for The Slaves was multi-instrumentalist, Randall Bramblett, one of Georgia's most talented musical sons, who went on to play with Cowboy, Gregg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood, and Sea Level, while maintaining a stellar solo career.
King David and The Slaves had the advantage of two quality lead vocalists in the group. The other was an Albany, Georgia native by the name of Eddie Middleton, who had success, in the late 70s, with a solo record on the Epic label. In 1981, he helped found the acclaimed, contemporary Christian vocal band, NewSong.
Wayne Scarborough headed back to Waycross, after his college days with The Slaves, and hired on as a late night deejay at WAYX. He married Anne Watkins, a beautiful local girl, and wound up selling guitars at Harrell's Music Store, located behind the Waycross City Auditorium.
I bought my first guitar, in the early Seventies, from Harrell's—probably from Wayne—a TEMPO acoustic guitar that was all of $50, but worth a million to me.
Word had gotten around town and back to Wayne that there was a young band that could sing their asses off. So, he, Anne, and another couple came out to the cowhouse to listen. We passed the audition; and, Wayne Scarborough became our new bass player, manager, and booking agent.
Musically employed again, he bought himself a gorgeous Rickenbacker bass guitar; and, we started booking the band with a new name, Homegrown.
Son of former Ware County Sheriff, Robert E. Lee, Robert Lee and his cousin, Owen Lee, opened a small bar on Reynolds Street in Waycross, and called it the NuBar. It became our home away from home, as we rehearsed and played there every weekend.
In September of 1975, Eddie Middleton was fronting a 3-piece R&B outfit at the Inn Place, a Holiday Inn bar right next to I-75 in Valdosta, Georgia. His keyboard player had announced his resignation, to take a foreign ministry position in South America, leaving Middleton scrambling to find a suitable replacement group.
He called his old King David and The Slaves bandmate, Wayne Scarborough; and, Wayne told him, “I got your band”. At the time, Homegrown's repertoire mainly consisted of Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Orleans, Allman Brothers, and a skintight dance medley, ending with Spirit's funky “I Got a Line on You”.
I had listened to R&B on the radio growing up; but, I had never played any, except for Dave Mason's version of Sam Cooke's “Bring It On Home To Me”. This young man was fixin' to get an education.
With our future employer's song list in our hands, we practiced weeknights at the NuBar, performing Friday and Saturday, and rehearsing with Middleton there on Sundays for about a month, learning Sly and the Family Stone's “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, Brook Benton's “Rainy Night in Georgia”, and countless other Soul classics.
Finally, the end of October came. I had just a few weeks left, before graduating from an electronics course at Waycross-Ware Technical School, when I told my daddy I was going on the road to play music for a living. That did not bode well with him at the time; and, I can totally understand his disappointment. But, music was calling my name; and, nothing could stand in the way.
I packed my VW van and headed west to Valdosta. In my old Setico 8-track tape player was the band, WAR, singing in beautiful harmony, as the sun dropped in front of me.
“Music is what we like to play...Yeah yeah All day, all day, all day, all day, all day”
--- “All Day Music”
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
YouTube Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin