Tail of the Weak 2.36
Updated: Jan 25, 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.
By the time I entered my senior year of high school in 1970-71, I had become a full-fledged audiophile. I had yet to pick up a guitar; but I was forking out my job earnings left and right, building up quite a handsome collection of record albums.
In the summer of 1970, when I was hired on for an after-school job with the advertising department at the Waycross Journal-Herald, I immediately took some of my paycheck and laid down a deposit on a Magnavox component stereo system at Herrin Brothers Furniture. Then every week, I would go around to J. C. Penney's Home and Auto Center, where the lovely Susan Collins with the long black hair would sell me two Beatles albums until I had their entire catalog. Some of my other early purchases were Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Neil Young's After the Goldrush, Grand Funk Railroad's Closer to Home, and Chicago Transit Authority.
Several weeks before high school graduation, our senior class from Ware County High descended upon Laura S. Walker Lake, just east of Waycross, for one final outdoor hoo-rah. It was there that I sat in William Rowell's Ford Mustang as he played for me Rides Again, the second album by the James Gang, on his 8-track tape player. From the psychedelic, syncopated, opening guitar slur of “Funk 49”, I was unswerving in my dedication to this newfound discovery.
I ran out and grabbed me a copy of the album. About a week later, our journalism class rode the bus to Athens, home of the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism, for an end-of-year awards ceremony. I managed to nip around the corner to a record store, where I grabbed James Gang's first release, Yer' Album.
A newly-purchased record album was magic waiting to happen. Once I could get it home and rip the cellophane off the cover, the first thing that hit me was the smell of printed card-board and vinyl lacquer. Astride the turntable, the needle was carefully placed on the outer groove—hissing and popping preceding the music that followed.
The album sleeve itself was where I garnered so much of an education—who wrote what songs, who sang harmonies and played what instruments, where and when it was recorded, and by the early 70s, words to all the songs were included. I sniffed, listened, and read until I had it all memorized. I was a big fan.
In 1965, Cleveland, Ohio drummer Jim Fox first played with The Outsiders, a local band who scored a national hit with “Time Won't Let Me”. A year later, he formed his own band, The James Gang, a 4-piece group, consisting of drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards.
By '68, following several additions and subtractions, Joe Walsh, formerly of The Measles, knocked on Fox's door and asked to audition as lead guitarist. He was accepted to the group which now included drummer Fox, bassist Tom Kriss, and guitarist Ronnie Silverman.
On the 9th of June, they would open for Cream at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit minus Silverman. Liking their sound as a trio, they remained that way until Walsh left in December 1971 to form Barnstorm in the mountains of Colorado.
Joseph Fidler Walsh, excellent guitarist and keyboardist, wrote and sang the majority of James Gang's material. He went on to great fame as a solo artist, well known for his talking guitar solo in “Rocky Mountain Way”, preceding Peter Frampton's tube-lipping effort, “Do You Feel Like We Do”, by three years.
Everybody on the planet knows that he went on to join The Eagles in '75 and is still with them. What you may not know is he is married to Marjorie Bach, sister of actress Barbara Bach, who is the wife of Ringo Starr. When you manage to wind up the brother-in-law to a Beatle; well, life's been good to you so far.
Graduation came and went; and I spent the summer of '71, before heading off to Georgia Southern College, working as a grocery bagger for Pic N' Save department store just around the corner from home. There I added a few more albums to my growing record collection—Deja Vu from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Carole King's Tapestry, Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart, Graham Nash's Songs for Beginners, and the magnificent rock opera, Tommy, by The Who.
My high school buddy, coworker, and soon-to-be college roommate, Robbin King, and I allowed ourselves one last indulgence before hitting the books in Statesboro. So on Tuesday, August 17, 1971, we headed north for our first concert experience at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, where we bought tickets to see James Gang, Mylon Lefevre, and Smoo's Barn Dance.
We were as straight as Pentecostal preachers; but I felt higher than a psychedelic cloud as I stood on the seat of that auditorium chair and witnessed Joe Walsh, Jim Fox, and Dale Peters breathe life into this young man's head as I dreamed of what I might do with my future.
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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