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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 2.30

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.

On a Friday night during the summer of 1998, my wife, Lynne, and I rode to downtown Waycross and Whitfield's, a three-story bar, where you could be sure to run into a bunch of old friends. I did run into one fine musician, the late Charles McClellan, who, upon leaving our conversation said, “We need to get together and pick sometime.”

I heard that sentiment, echoed over and over, each time we ventured out for a night on the town—problem was, we musicians never got together and picked. So, Lynne and I hatched a plan. We would manufacture an event; and it would take place at our house on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

I drew up a flyer titled “1st Annual Griffin Guitar Pull”—thinking if I'm gonna do this once, I'm gonna do it again—not dreaming it would still be going on 19 years later. That '98 gathering was something special. About 20 folks showed up with guitars, food, alcohol, and lawn chairs.

The Doghill Gang.  L-R: Sharky Cocke, Tick Griffin, Bird Legs Ray, Uncle Dave, Slick Griffin, 1998
The Doghill Gang. L-R: Sharky Cocke, Tick Griffin, Bird Legs Ray, Uncle Dave, Slick Griffin, 1998

The Doghill Gang reunited, with brothers Gary “Tick” Griffin, James “Sharky” Cocke, Greg “Slick” Griffin, Billy Ray “Bird Legs” Herrin, and myself, along with a multitude of close friends—Pam and Mike Johnson, Coy Crews, Joey Jacobs, Deb and Andy Thigpen—and musicians, Gerald Dukes, Sean Clark, Gram Griffin, and band—marking the beginning of something big.

The Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, honoring the musical legacy of Waycross, Georgia's homeboy, has gone through a metamorphosis of evolution through the years, as we sit on the threshold of the 20th annual event, taking place at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds, September 29-30.

We have seen magical performances by Leon Russell, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Charlie Louvin, Walter Egan, Jim Lauderdale, Jay Farrar, and Ian Dunlop. We've been graced by the presence of Stanley Booth, author of Rythm Oil and Dance with the Devil: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, and GP's road manager and part-time coffin snatcher, Phil Kaufman.

GPGP crowd, courtesy Bill Davis, local artist-photographer
GPGP crowd, courtesy Bill Davis, local artist-photographer

Our audiences have been kind and gentle, music-loving souls, who return year after year, forging memorable friendships along the way. The small, tireless staff, composed of Michael James, April Herndon, Jim Halasa, and Kipp Dorminey, are among the finest in the business, along with the large crew of loyal volunteers, dedicated to making the event wholesome and friendly.

Headliners for this year's event are the Grammy Award-winning Kentucky Headhunters and Firefall. A total of 30 local, regional, and national artists will perform non-stop on two stages throughout the weekend.

The Kentucky Headhunters.  L-R:  Doug Phelps, Greg Martin, Fred Young, Richard Young
The Kentucky Headhunters. L-R: Doug Phelps, Greg Martin, Fred Young, Richard Young

In 1968, long before they became the Kentucky Headhunters, brothers Richard and Fred Young, Greg Martin, and Anthony Kenney, started a band in a psychedelic shack on the Young brothers' farm, and called it Itchy Brother.

In '89, after adding brothers Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps, they named themselves the Kentucky Headhunters, releasing a debut album, Pickin' on Nashville, which yielded four consecutive Top 40 singles—“Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine”, “Dumas Walker”, “Oh, Lonesome Me”, and “Rock 'n' Roll Angel”, earning them a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The Grammy Award-winning Kentucky Headhunters will perform at the Guitar Pull at 9:35 p.m., Saturday, September 30.

To promote his first solo album, GP, Gram Parsons assembled a touring group in 1973, calling them the Fallen Angels, consisting of Emmylou Harris, N. D. Smart II, Kyle Tullis, Neil Flanz, and Gerry Mule. By the third night of the tour, Gram replaced Gerry Mule with Boulder, Colorado lead guitarist, Jock Bartley, who would remain a Fallen Angel through the end of the tour.

Firefall.  L-R:  Jock Bartley, David Muse, Mark Andes, Gary Jones, Sandy Ficca
Firefall. L-R: Jock Bartley, David Muse, Mark Andes, Gary Jones, Sandy Ficca

During the tour, Bartley crossed paths with singer-songwriter Rick Roberts, who was a Flying Burrito Brother following Gram's departure. The two Coloradans reunited in 1974 and formed the group Firefall, along with Mark Andes (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne), Larry Burnett, and Michael Clarke (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers). By late '75, the band was complete with the addition of Roberts's Bradenton, Florida high school friend, David Muse.

The self-titled Firefall was released in April 1976, becoming Atlantic Records quickest album to reach gold status, with hits, “Livin' Ain't Livin'” and “You Are the Woman”. Two more major hits, “Just Remember I Love You” and “Strange Way”, followed in '77 and '78. Firefall takes the fairground stage at 8:20 p.m., Friday, September 29.

Ian Dunlop backed up by Jesse Herrin, Sean Clark, and Scotty Nicholson, GPGP 2012
Ian Dunlop backed up by Jesse Herrin, Sean Clark, and Scotty Nicholson, GPGP 2012

The musical magic is not complete without the supporting acts, some from as far away as California and New York, who return each year to pay tribute to Mr. Parsons in his hometown. You won't hear any finer than these: Abby Owens, Back City Woods, Crabgrass Cowboys, Dakota Dodge, David Kraai, Deepwell, Donna Frost, Fester Hagood, Fred Kopp, Greg Henderson and the Wayouts, Hickory Wind, Hoboken Zephyrs, Kellie Parr, Lucky Mud, Marlin Brackett and His Hillbilly Bruzers. Micahlan Boney and the Pig Eye Daddies, Nancy Northrup, Pickled Holler, Pine Box Dwellers, Rider, Ross Pead and the Cypress Knees, Sundowner Motel, Susan Hall, Toni Brown and Ed Munson, and Ty Manning and the Slawdog Biscuits.

Like any good outdoor music festival, the Guitar Pull features like-minded vendors selling everything from authentic Mexican tacos, French crepes, and soul food to artwork, incense, jewelry, T-shirts, hula hoops, and handmade soap. On-site, there is a campground featuring 44 RV hookups and full bathroom facilities. A weekend RV camping fee runs $30; and, tent camping is free.

Festival layout, courtesy April Herndon
Festival layout, courtesy April Herndon

Gate prices for the weekend will be:

Friday...$30 : $5 discount for Students and Military with valid ID

Saturday...$30 : $5 discount for Students and Military with valid ID

Children 12 and under get in free.

For Advance Weekend Passes and RV Camping, look no further than the link below the GPGP artwork at the bottom of this page.

Waycross-Ware County residents may pick up $30 half-price Advance Weekend Passes at:

Breezy's Boutique : 1701 Boulevard Square Suite E

Hickory Wind Music : 504 City Boulevard, Satilla Square Shopping Center

James Engraving : 803 Knight Avenue

The same $5 discount for Students and Military applies to local residents as well. Locals wishing to purchase daily admission may do so at the Main Gate of the festival at half-price.

Our fine sponsors include: Acme Pharmacy, Homerville GA; Atlanta Vintage Guitars, Marietta GA; Atlantic Coast Bank; Brantley Printing; Dr. Craig and Sandy Kubik; Crews Forestry Services; CWC Amps; Dick's Wings; Duncan and Associates Surveying and Mapping; Fanbuzz Enterprises, Atlanta GA; Farmers and Builders ACE Hardware; Flash Foods; Folio Weekly; Frames by Mary Ann; Fred Kopp, Attorney, Alma GA; Georgia Sea Grill, St. Simons GA; Gibson Animal Clinic; Gold Key Auto; Guy's Autos; Hickory Wind Music; Hickory Wind Studios.

iHeart Media; James Engraving; Mary Halasa; The Medicine Cabinet; PrimeSouth Bank; Quality Inn; Rivers Bar; Sapp's Florist; Satilla Boardsports, Kingsland; Sikes Bottled Water Distribution; Southern Eagle Distributing; Swamp Hippie; T & T Fencing; Tapley Construction; Teresa J. Sopp, Attorney, Yulee FL; VVT Amps, Waldorf MD; Vyve Broadband; Walker-Jones Inc.; Waycross Coca-Cola; Waycross Journal-Herald; West Georgia Gastroenterology Associates, Carrollton GA; Whitaker's Golf Carts; Wong's Palace Restaurant; and Yarbrough Printing.

Well, that certainly was a mouthful! This week's Tail of the Weak took a little longer to produce than usual; but, you know, sometimes the longer it takes, the greater the reward. I've been rewarded countless times over the past 19 years with new friendships, amazing music, and pure love. You owe it to yourself to come out and get you some of the same.

20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival

Advance Weekend Passes:


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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