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Tail of the Weak 1.23

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.

Considering all the fear and hate mongering our politicians love to incite and love for us to participate in, I expect I—if anyone—have a most valid bone to pick with a small group of Middle Easterners.

Back in 1958, my daddy, a 20-year Air Force man, was stationed in Tripoli, Libya. That's tip-top in the middle of the continent of Africa, bordered on the north by the beautiful, blue-green Mediterranean Sea, and on the east by the Sahara Desert, my wading pool and sand box for a couple of childhood years.

Now, being 4 years old when we arrived there, you'd think it would be quite a culture shock—but, I couldn't have told you whether I was in Cairo, Georgia or Cairo, Egypt. I did notice an abundance of camels and sand.

Daddy, Dave, Gary, Mama: Roman Ruins at Leptis Magna, 1958

It was a beautiful land, rich in ancient history and filled with exotic aromas. We lived in an apartment compound in Tripoli, with neighbors of all ethnicities—American—Italian—French—and British.

There were two Arabic landlords who lived in rudimentary shacks in each corner of the compound—our landlord was Ali—the other landlord, Muhammad. Yes, I'm serious.

A huge wall surrounded the apartment compound, with a couple steel gates for entry and exit. Standing on the balcony of our second-story apartment, you could see shards of glass embedded atop the wall, multi-colored and gleaming in the midday sun.

Inside the apartment, I have to say, we were very American. Mama and Daddy were from south Georgia—Hoboken and Waycross—so, we still ate biscuits and fried chicken, with the occasional spaghetti supper. Though, we did own a handsome Telefunken stereo console cabinet that Daddy bought while stationed in Germany, which housed a AM/FM/Shortwave radio and a turntable that played 78, 45, and 33 1/3 rpm records.

In October of 1959, Daddy brought home a Marty Robbins record—“El Paso”. I was so helplessly drawn into the melody—the stunning harmonies of the Glaser Brothers—the cinematic story line—and would lie on the floor, chin in hands, listening and watching the cowboy die in Falina's arms, over and over again.

Nashville session guitarist, Grady Martin

Grady Martin, acclaimed Nashville session guitarist, provided the eloquent Spanish guitar licks throughout the song. Martin is credited with accidentally stumbling onto the electric guitar “fuzz” effect, during a recording session with Robbins in 1961. His guitar had been run through a faulty channel in a mixing console, generating the distorted sound on "Don't Worry".

He also supplied the memorable guitar line on Roy Orbison's “Oh, Pretty Woman”, played on Red Foley's “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy”, Willie Nelson's “On the Road Again”, and Ray Price's “For the Good Times”.

Uncle Dave (far left) and brother Gary (second from right): Christmas Day, 1958

Like most kids in the Fifties, I was well into the cowboy ethos, and fancied myself a good candidate to outdraw bad guys and rope and ride with the best. How foolish of me—for I was in the land of Ali Baba—you know, the 40 thieves and such.

On Christmas Day 1959, I received a brand spankin' new cowboy outfit from Santy Claus. I ambled out of the apartment, across the compound, and shimmied up the big iron gate that transformed into my stagecoach.

Just about then, four or five young Arab boys had gathered underneath me, speaking in a language I couldn't quite put a finger on. Before I could say, “Yippie-ki-yi-yay”, they reached up and stripped me down to my socks and underwear. Gone was the pearl handled gun and holster, shiny boots, silver spurs, rugged chaps, and childhood innocence.

I kicked and yelled for all I was worth, until Ali, the landlord, finally made it out to see what all the fuss was about. He was too late. They had absconded with the goods and tore out to wherever it was they called home. It was devastating back then; but, I have forgiven them in my heart.

I figure somewhere in Libya, a western cowboy culture was created—with rodeos—and Arabs riding camels—shouting “Ji-had” instead of “Yee-haw”.

Yep—I reckon so.

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REFERENCES Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin


#TripoliLibya #MediterraneanSea #SaharaDesert #MartyRobbins #ElPaso #GradyMartin #Cowboys #Arabs

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