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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 2.19

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.

In the spring of 1976, the Down Home Band with Eddie Middleton had just finished a 13-week run, Monday through Saturday, at Valdosta, Georgia's premier lounge, the Red Room, at the King of the Road Motor Inn. As much as we loved the place, we were burned out and ready for a change of scenery.

That change of scenery came soon enough as Middleton, our front man, booking agent, and employer, informed us that we'd be playing in the Swinger's Tent at the Greater Jacksonville Open (GJO) Golf Tournament, located just yards away from the 18th hole of the Deerwood Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida.

Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Ben Crenshaw, Gary Player, Hubert Green
Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Ben Crenshaw, Gary Player, Hubert Green

This was the PGA, baby! In 1976, the cast of hopefuls included Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Ben Crenshaw, and Gary Player. Hubert Green, of Birmingham, Alabama, went on to claim the victory that weekend, beating out Miller Barber by two strokes.

The Swinger's Tent was our home for the next few days. The tent was about half the length of a football field with a fully-stocked bar all the way down one side and tables scattered throughout. From Thursday through Saturday, on a makeshift stage hovering over a huge, wood parquet dance floor, Down Home entertained the golfers, politicians, fans, and employees of Deerwood until the wee hours of every morning.

They had a signalman set up on the 18th hole; and, just as soon as the last putt of the day dropped, he pointed to a second signalman peering out the flaps of the Swinger's Tent, who then signaled for the band to get with it. Our former drummer, Bruce Wood, was watching live TV coverage on WJXT back home in Waycross and saw us kick into K.C. and the Sunshine Band's “That's the Way I Like It”—uh-huh, uh-huh.

Yvonne Cory, a 17-year volunteer for the GJO and later the Tournament of Players Championship (TPC) said, “It was an awful lot of fun. Everyone danced and had a good time. There was a lot more interaction between the players and fans; and a lot of men would even ask a player to dance with his wife to give his wife a big thrill.”

The powers that be loved Down Home with Eddie Middleton; and though, we were the last band to play the GJO, as it was renamed the TPC in 1977 and relocated to Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, we were invited back to play.

On our second go-round, they put us up in the high-rise Howard Johnson's right on the beach. The Swinger's Tent was staked down in the asphalt parking lot of a hotel just a mile south of us. This was mid-March; so the winds were predictably boisterous.

After our first night of entertaining the “Swingers”, we were awakened by a frantic phone call at 10 am—way too early to be up and about for working musicians—telling us that the Swinger's Tent was lifting up and blowing away; and, if we did not want our equipment to do the same, we'd better get down there fast.

Well, everything eventually worked itself out. We lost a little bit of sleep, and partied on the rest of the weekend in grand Down Home style. I suppose the worst that happened that weekend was one of two things. A seagull flew in through our 16th floor balcony door and twittered on John Randall Smith's clean band outfit he had laid out on his bed right before show time.

Then, on Saturday night, a group of Kentucky girls from the Swinger's Tent followed us back to our Ho-Jo's scaffold and we ordered up room service at three in the morning. One of the ladies proceeded to humiliate and antagonize our drummer; and when I saw his cheeks flush red, I knew the party was about to end.

He hurled her Howard Johnson's club sandwich across the room and against the wall, lettuce and tomatoes dripping. She sat stunned for a second and said, “Here, you might as well throw this too!” A large styrofoam cup full of Coke and ice spattered right next to what was left of the club sandwich and the girls from Kentucky said something that sounded like goodbye.

But, hey, this was the PGA, baby!

20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:

REFERENCES Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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