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.
During the Summer of Sam, folks in New York really had something to worry about. I suppose whether or not to go disco dancing with a killer on the prowl was a pretty weighty decision to make. Down in Valdosta, Georgia at the King of the Road, the motel where Down Home Band played, ate, slept, and drank, we didn't have a care in the world.
The folks that owned and managed the motel loved us and treated us like family because we used to pack the place and made them a ton of money every week. Mitch Ray ran the place, with Wilmont Pierce in charge of the motel, and Nan Fielding, a big, brassy redhead, over the entertainment.
The King bestowed a motel room to each member of the band; and, we made good use of them. Our work, if you could call it that, was from 8:30 pm to 1:30 am, Monday through Saturday; so, we spent a goodly portion of our young, carefree lives within the walls of those rooms.
Double beds, private bath, maid service, and access to Atlantan Ted Turner's fledgling all-night TV station, TBS. What more could a 23-year old ask for? In what contributed to the cause of my inguinal hernia of 1976, I would haul my Magnavox stereo system and a hefty collection of albums up three flights of stairs to my enclave since we were there quite often.
On July 4, 1976, Down Home drummer John Randall Smith, keyboardist Ricky Alderman, and I took off to Florida, for the “4th of July Jubilation”, an outdoor music festival held in Tampa Stadium, to see The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Loggins and Messina.
We set out in my old, yellow Ford cargo van, which had nothing comfortable to sit on, outside of the driver and passenger seats up front. Before we left, we hauled a mattress from my King of the Road motel room into the back of the van, so we could travel the five-hour drive in comfort.
When we loped back into the King of the Road the following day, we found a disgruntled Wilmont Pierce, waiting out front with a befuddled maid, “Missa Wilmot, I cain't make up de bed—dey ain't no bed”! A slap on the wrist and it was back to business as usual.
By 1977, my inguinal hernia had been repaired by my childhood doctor, Floyd Davis, who left a scar as long as a ruler to remind me not to haul stereos up staircases. So, on Sunday, May 29, Ricky, John, and I headed south once again, to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida, for “Rock Super Bowl I” featuring Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Kenny Loggins, and Chick Corea with Stanley Clarke and Return to Forever.
The first in a series of outdoor rock music festivals, it was scheduled on a Sunday, our day off; and, the ticket price was only $10. It was perfect—all but the weather. It rained during the day, turning the stadium field into a mud-mucked mush and forcing us into the stands, where John ceremoniously crowned me with his fine, white Panama hat, saying, “Dave, I bequeath this hat to you in hopes that you'll wear it honorably; besides, it looks better on you than it does me”. We were drunk.
Of course, the bands were fantastic; and, we headed back to Valdosta the next day with the news of “Rock Super Bowl II”, coming up on July 3. Featuring Andrew Gold, The Eagles, Hall and Oates, and Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band, that one was one we weren't about to miss.
So, we rounded up more folks. Our lead guitarist, Joe Shear, along with his wife, Cathy, Krystal Krafton, along with John's younger sister, Evelyn Smith, John, Ricky and I piled in Joe's van and left in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
There were about 46,000 like-minded music lovers in attendance that day; and, we got right out there amongst 'em. It was a show for the ages, with a cast of our current favorites, at a price that was downright ridiculous—better than anything Walt Disney had going on a few miles away.
These were the first outdoor music festivals I attended. I hardly had anything like that in mind when I opened up my backyard for an informal gathering of music in 1998, calling it the 1st Annual Griffin Guitar Pull. Held the weekend following Thanksgiving, it continued to grow in popularity until I was forced to open it to the public.
Through the years, it became known as the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, and has seen some major artists cross the stage—Leon Russell, Charlie Louvin, Dr. Ralph Stanley, former Eagle Bernie Leadon, Jay Farrar, Kevn Kinney, Walter Egan, and Jim Lauderdale, just to name a few.
The Pull publicly began in 2002 at local honky tonk Little Knights and has graduated to the Okefenokee Fairgrounds, a vast expanse with a huge stage and plenty of room for tent and RV camping. After the 2010 Guitar Pull, some of the local musicians and music lovers talked me into offering a second festival in the Spring.
With the forward-thinking assistance of a fine festival staff, the Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival was born in 2011. Offering some of the most-eclectic, original music out of Georgia and Florida, STGD stands as one of the best little music festivals you've never been to, featuring past performances by Colonel Bruce Hampton, Grandpa's Cough Medicine, Rollin' in the Hay, The Corbitt Brothers, Zach Deputy, Parker Urban Band, and Roosevelt Collier.
Next weekend, March 17-18, the 7th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival will commence once again and will feature Athens, Georgia rockers, Bloodkin, along with a young blues guitarist, Ben Sparaco, from Nashville, Tennessee.
Rounding out the entertainment will be local, regional, and statewide artists featuring Bonnie Blue, Copperhead South, dangfly!, De Lions of Jah, Jamie Renee and the Walkers, Laney Strickland and the Swamptown Ringers, Lazy Lightning, Matt Brantley Band, Milltown Road, Pine Box Dwellers, Rider, Space Kittenz, Thunderbird, and Traveling Riverside Band.
Back in the Summer of '77, at the Rock Super Bowl in Orlando, I would've never dreamed that some day I would be promoting music festivals in my hometown of Waycross, Georgia.
There must've been some magic in that ol' straw Panama hat belonging to John Randall Smith.
7th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival
March 17-18, 2017
Waycross, Georgia Advance Weekend Passes: https://events.ticketprinting.com/event/21700
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin with help from John Randall Smith
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