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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 2.14

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.

Uncle Dave and nephew David Gram Griffin, 1976.
Uncle Dave and nephew David Gram Griffin, 1976.

There's a reason I am Uncle Dave.

He was born on this day in 1977 with a name that honored both myself and one of his daddy's favorite musicians, Gram Parsons.

David Gram Griffin, my first and only nephew, was a very exciting addition into the Griffin up-line and, through the years, has inspired me to be as good a songwriter as I can be.

My older brother, Gary, fresh from a stint in Cornwall, England with the U. S. Air Force, settled down with his young wife, Debbie, in the college town of Athens, Georgia, to make good use of his military-provided G. I. Bill education benefit.

As he followed his muse—that of a newspaper journalist—from school editor of Ware County High's Gator Gabb, then editor of University of Georgia's Red and Black, on to graduating and joining the local Waycross Journal-Herald, where he is now Managing Editor, Gary has been a role model for me my entire life.

Blues Magoos, Moody Blues, and Spirit

From a young age, his intellectual taste in music led me into directions and discoveries that left an enduring love of groups like Blues Magoos—that little 45 rpm record with the red Mercury label blasting out “We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet”; virtually everything The Moody Blues had to offer through full-length long-playing albums; and the magnificent Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, a 1970 Epic release from California psychedelic rock group, Spirit.

By the time he was fully ensconced as a family man in his little apartment in Athens, I was touring on the road in Down Home Band with Eddie Middleton, and quite fancied myself as an independent music appreciator on my own. Several visits with my brother made me realize that he was not finished molding and infusing my appetite for great taste.

In the spring of 1976, I had more flexible income as a working musician and promptly laid down several hundred dollars for a state-of-the-art Akai reel-to-reel multi-track tape recorder. I had a lovely relationship with that 70-pound piece of wood, wires, and capacitors.

As soon as a song came from heart and soul to pen and paper, I could put it down for all time by simply mashing RECORD. I carried that machine with me everywhere I went—to every road motel in every town we played in—laying down my innermost thoughts on love, loss, and enlightenment in song.

But, before I left Athens that weekend, brother Gary handed me a cassette tape that he had recorded off UGA's college radio station. It was the first time I had ever heard of Barefoot Jerry, a Southern country-rock band out of Nashville, Tennessee. The recording was their fourth release, You Can't Get Off with Your Shoes On, a stunning blend of vocal harmony, pedal steel flourishes, intuitive lyrics, and intricate guitar solos, wound up tighter than a G-string on a Gibson and wrapped up loosely in a sonic package of rock and roll, country, soul, and funk.

The late, great Gamble Rogers
The late, great Gamble Rogers

A year later, my nephew, Gram, was born; and, as if that weren't enough of a gift, Gary then proceeded to introduce me to another musical treasure of the South—Gamble Rogers.

James Gamble Rogers IV, born in Winter Park, Florida on January 31, 1937, was the namesake of two prominent architects in the family—his father James Gamble Rogers II and great-uncle James Gamble Rogers.

Turning his back on the family legacy, he became a musician instead. After a brief stay in the folk group, The Serendipity Singers, who had a Top Ten hit in '65 with “Don't Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)”, Gamble started playing solo gigs around Florida.

By the 70s, he was headlining the Florida Folk Festival, making waves nationwide for his folk fingerpicking and humorously imaginative storytelling style, and influencing the music of Jimmy Buffett and David Bromberg.

His style of creating characters from a fictional place called Oklawaha County, Florida is reminiscent of the literary genius of William Faulkner. Gamble's fictional characters—with names like Still Bill, Agamemnon Abromovitz Jones, or Miss Eulalah Singleterry—were not near as distraught and forlorn as Faulkner's creations.

Instead, they were so often placed in fabulous predicaments that the titles of Rogers's songs bore out—“Bovine Midwifery”, “Airstream Trailer Orgy”, or “The Honeydipper”, a hilarious tale of some poor soul, sittin' in a Portalet®, when the pickup crane came along and gave him the ride of his life. I'm quite certain he twittered several times during that scatalogical loop-de-loop and probably didn't go for a month after. Talk about porcelain withdrawal!

A very humble and self-sacrificing man, Gamble Rogers died on October 10, 1991, attempting to save the life of a man who was drowning in the rough surf off Flagler Beach. Compromised since childhood by spinal arthritis, Gamble was not a good swimmer; but chose to head into the ocean nonetheless.

In honor of his heroism, the Florida Legislature renamed that stretch of beach Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. In St. Augustine, a middle school is named after the self-described “modern troubador” and The Annual Gamble Rogers Music Festival is held in his honor there each May. He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1998.

Gamble Rogers was quite a man—humble as the day was long—a talented and gifted writer of words—and an appreciator of life and music.

Kinda sounds like Gary Griffin if you ask me.

L-R: Marietta, 1953; Carter Farm, 1956; Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, 2001
L-R: Marietta, 1953; Carter Farm, 1956; Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, 2001

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy



Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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