Tail of the Weak 2.34
Updated: Jan 24
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.
She drip like honey on the Miracle Mile
Dressed in sepia clothing antebellum-style
Then she came to the beach house with a Leon Russell record
And we laid on the floor playin' Chinese Checkers
– “Take It With You” by Uncle Dave Griffin
It was this week, 41 years ago, that the Down Home Band with Eddie Middleton rolled back into the Sheraton On the Beach in Panama City Beach, Florida —paradise for south Georgia boys. It was our second trip in three months, the first visit being back in June.
That June gig was my introduction to PCB, having spent most of my childhood vacations on the Atlantic coast in popular Waycross getaway, Fernandina Beach. John Randall Smith and I wheeled into the hotel parking lot, shirtless in cut-off jeans and several six-packs in the wind, laid eyes on the sugar sand, and immediately fell into the blue-green Gulf water.
The club inside the Sheraton was decorated in a serious nautical motif with nets, buoys, ship beams, and driftwood. The bar itself was shaped like the hull of a boat; and on any given night, was lined with beautiful local “gulls”. There are several reasons a young man is drawn to playing guitar: the love of music, the camaraderie of like-minded band members, and the appeal to impress members of the opposite sex.
One Panama City beauty queen strolled in on the last night of our June gig, sweet-talked me during the break, and politely vowed to see me the next day before we pulled out of town. Like a good, Southern girl, she was true to her word, and came to our beach house bearing gifts—two brand new record albums, Highway A1A by Jimmy Buffett and Leon and Mary Russell's Wedding Album.
We laid on the floor playing Chinese Checkers while the rest of the guys loaded up and left me behind, promising to be in Valdosta the next night for our King of the Road gig. I'll not go into any further details because my lovely wife is reading.
During the weeks following our Panama City Beach gig, I became increasingly aware of a personal anatomical anomaly. I began to see an odd protrusion in my lower abdomen; but I dismissed it and carried on.
Days went by and fairly soon, I was experiencing sharp pain in the vicinity, especially when I would belt out a particularly high-range vocal onstage. The band was constantly touring; so, I accepted the intermittent pangs and played on.
Upon our return to Panama City in August, while unloading equipment from my Ford van, I picked up a heavy cabinet and immediately set it down, doubling over in pain. Whatever it was, was not going away, and was getting worse.
That day, I went to the local beach clinic, where a cheeky doctor thumped me like a watermelon on my protrusion. After I cussed and screamed at him, he told me, “You have a full-blown hernia. You'll be alright to finish your two-week gig if you baby it; but, you need to call your personal doctor and schedule surgery immediately.”
An inguinal hernia is the result of a tear in the abdominal muscle, allowing a portion of the intestines to bulge out and drop down into other discrete areas. My family physician, Floyd Davis, a beautiful soul but not much of a hernia surgeon, took it upon himself to perform the delicate operation.
The band had a couple weeks off in early September; so, I went under the blade thinking things would be back to normal by then. My ideas were much more positive than my post-surgical rehabilitation. Dr. Davis left me with an ugly 12-inch scar angling from the top of my groin up to my lower abdomen and weeks of painful recovery.
Down Home carried on, handing off my vocal parts to other members of the band. By the time I had fully recovered, I was greeted with a cool reception, figuring out quickly that, in my absence, Middleton was able to give the other band members a bit of a pay raise. My once-proud position in the band was becoming a memory as reality set in. I was heartbroken.
I owe it to my dear friend and bass player, T. Wayne Scarborough, for standing up for me and making the guys realize that friendship was more important than a few extra dollars. I reentered the group; and things fell quickly back into place.
Eddie Middleton, T. Wayne Scarborough, Ricky Alderman, John Randall Smith, and Joe Shear—we're all still good friends to this day—but, I still carry a one-foot scar that reminds me of a wonderful time of my life that almost ended too soon.
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival
Advance Weekend Passes:
REFERENCES Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin