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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 2.4

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.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses You been out ridin' fences for so long now Oh, you're a hard one — I know that you got your reasons These things that are pleasin' you — Can hurt you somehow

— “Desperado” by The Eagles

Don Henley had the idea and unfinished lyrics for “Desperado”, long before making his pilgrimage to southern California and putting together a high-flying band known as The Eagles. In 1972, with the help of Eagles guitar player, Glenn Frey, Henley completed the song, which became one of their most-popular.

I've seen The Eagles live through the years, from '74 forward, including solo concerts by Henley, Frey, and Joe Walsh, during their 14-year hiatus as a non-group. On almost every night, the closing song was “Desperado”.

The song was written for The Eagles' second album by the same name—a concept based on themes from the Old West, showing the analogous relationship between outlaw gangs and rock-and-roll bands.

While many love to opinionate on the meaning of the song's lyrics, Henley said it was initially inspired by one of his friends back in Texas, named Leo. By the time Henley and Frey finished writing the song, it sounds to me as if it could have been a veiled plea to one of Frey's California music heroes, Gram Parsons.

June 28, 1991, my wife, Lynne, and I took off to see Don Henley at the Orlando Arena, with friends, Leigh and Dale Tatum. Henley was touring on the strength of his latest post- Eagles solo album, The End of the Innocence.

Again, the final song of the night was the poignant “Desperado”, drawing everyone to their feet, with BIC® lighters blazing, showing love for the song and the singer, the way cell phones do nowadays.

Early the next day, we set out for Tampa, Florida, to visit Mark Holland, visionary and owner of Gram's Place, a newly-opened European-style hostel, dedicated to the memory of Gram Parsons.

Mark Holland, founder of Gram's Place
Mark Holland, founder of Gram's Place

Mark Holland, a beautiful and sometimes troubled soul, bought the property at Plymouth Street and Ola Avenue in Tampa Heights in 1977. By '90, he had also purchased the house next door, combining the two into a 10-bedroom bungalow paradise for visitors, backpackers, and musicians from around the world.

In 1980, Holland founded The Gram Parsons Foundation, dedicating himself to preserving the history and music of GP. Along with John Kravetz and Judy Katz, he wrote, produced, and directed a video documentary about Parsons, The Legend of the Grievous Angel, which aired on Tampa's public access television in April 1989.

In November of that year, he traveled to Amsterdam, where he was awarded the Dutch “Gram Parsons Award”, a tiny bust figure created by Henk Korsten. Impressed by the inns in the Netherlands, Mark Holland returned to Tampa intent on turning his property into a place where people from everywhere could gather together in the spirit of music.

Gram's Place, Tampa Florida
Gram's Place, Tampa Florida

Through the years, Gram's Place has attracted visitors and fans of GP's music. Former band mates of Parsons—Neil Flanz, N. D. Smart II, and Ian Dunlop—have played on the courtyard stage.

Sadly, on November 4, 2007, the architect and visionary of Gram's Place, Mark Holland, took his own life. He was 56 years old.

In the months after Mark's death, as Gram's Place began to fall apart, brothers Bruce and Jim Holland stepped in to save the hostel. To this day, it is in full operation and continues to perpetuate the vision and dream of its originator.

When we visited in June of 1991, Gram's Place was in its infancy, reflecting a Peter Pan-like spirit with a high wooden fence surrounding a courtyard of brick, palm trees, and a tiled Jacuzzi tub.

Inside the house, steps led down into the Gram Parsons Museum, a small room filled with pictures, magazines, artifacts, albums, and clothing, including the dress worn by Emmylou Harris on the cover of her album, Evangeline. The rest of the bungalow was a treehouse of sorts, with rooms spiraling off in all directions—up, down, and sideways.

That evening, we ordered up pizza and sat around the kitchen table, talking about Mark's dream of running off with the circus, his disdain for the painful practice of circumcision on African females, and our mutual love of Gram Parsons's music.

There were a limited number of bedrooms available; so, Lynne and I slept on the floor of the museum. Somewhere in the middle of the night, cloaked in dreams of Emmylou's dress, I heard the mournful spirit of Gram's songs, as they called out to people like me and Mark Holland, founder of Gram's Place—where time stands still and the music plays on.

7th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival

March 17-18, 2017

Okefenokee Fairgrounds

Waycross, Georgia Advance Weekend Passes:


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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