Tail of the Weak 2.41
Updated: Jan 25
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.
After the breakup of the Down Home Band in October 1978, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I had spent the last four years playing music for a living; and the prospect of finding a real job wasn't near as exciting. Yet, I buckled down, moved to Valdosta, Georgia, and found work in the stockroom at Wilbro's Catalog Showroom.
Located in Castle Park Shopping Center, Wilbro's was a chain store formed by Steve and George Wilson, descendants of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Wilson Brothers Catalog Showroom family. The main store was located in Dothan, Alabama with another facility in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
I started during the '78 Christmas rush and quickly ascended to the position of Warehouse Manager. Wilbro's sold everything from fine jewelry, kitchenware, and household goods to electronics, sporting goods, and toys. The store was managed by Jon Nijem, along with assistant manager, Warren Johnson.
In the spring of '79, a new employee by the name of Akhtar Sattar (Ahk'-ter Sa-tar') was hired as a manager trainee—course, everybody in south Georgia just pronounced it Ackter, as in actor.
Son of a well-to-do Karachi, Pakistan banker, Akhtar had come to the University of Alabama on a business scholarship. He became close friends with the Wilson boys, who sponsored him for his Green Card, allowing him permanent residency in the U.S.
In July, Akhtar returned to Karachi for his prearranged wedding to a beautiful Pakistani woman named Samina, a recent graduate of Cambridge University in England. Newlyweds, they flew back and took up residence in a quaint, Valdosta apartment.
In September, plans for a new outlet in Tallahassee, Florida were announced and new job positions were offered. Mr. Johnson would be the store manager, Akhtar assistant manager, and I would carry on as Warehouse Manager with a raise in salary.
We inherited an empty Sear's store in a shopping center on Apalachee Parkway and built it up from the ground floor. I found a nice apartment right up the road and furnished it with an old bedroom suite bought in '74 when I worked for Jordan's Furnishings in Waycross, my Kenwood stereo system, Bose speakers, and album collection, and a newly-purchased paisley-patterned love seat.
Akhtar and Samina set up house in a two-story apartment right behind Burger King just minutes away from Wilbro's. With the news that they were to be parents, it was decided that I would give up my apartment and move in with the Sattars, sharing expenses and sleeping in the living room downstairs.
Baby boy, Haroon, was born; and, Akhtar started seeking higher paying jobs through his father's banking connections. He had secured an interview with a bank in Luxembourg and told our store manager, Mr. Johnson—not a very worldly man from southwest Georgia— about it.
Akhtar, excitedly: “Mr. Johnson, I got a call from a bank in Luxembourg!”
Mr. Johnson: “Great! Kentucky?”
Akhtar: “No, Mr. Johnson. Luxembourg!”
Mr. Johnson: “Oh, oh, Tennessee.”
Akhtar: “No, no, Mr. Johnson. Luxembourg. Belgium!”
Mr. Johnson: “Oh, they got one there too?”
Lexington...Luxembourg...so easy to get them confused. They're only 4,300 miles apart.
The Sattar family and I got along excellently; and after X number of Whoppers, I settled into eating their Middle Eastern cuisine. My favorite dish, which I still have the recipe, was ground beef and spinach, spiced with curry and chili powder, naan bread, radishes, and a big dollop of yogurt to cut the heat.
Eventually, we both left Wilbro's—Akhtar hiring on as an insurance agent and taking the customer-friendly name of “Al”; and, I started up a new country band with the old name of Down Home, with Tallahassee natives, Ed Thompson, Dave Mignano, Scott Sheevy, and a short drummer named Steve. Sorry, Steve, my memory is as short as you were.
We played hunting clubs, fish frys, and a shore 'nuff honky-tonk out Highway 319 called the Tallahassee Opry House, where we became the house band, working every weekend. It was there that our lead singer, Ed Thompson, told us he would need two weeks off to have some nodes removed from his vocal cords. That didn't bode well with the rest of the band; but we had no alternative it seemed...until.
Until some friends told us of an old man, a drifter, who floated into town, sat in at a local open-mic contest in a Tallahassee bar, borrowed a guitar, and proceeded to win first place—enough money to buy him a motel room for a few days.
We found the motel where Monty Price was staying, listened to him sing “Pistol Packin' Mama” and several more old country songs, and offered him a job for two weeks. He was most gracious and appreciative.
The band soon folded; and, I moved back home to Waycross just in time for my sister's wedding—with fond memories of Tallahassee—a recipe for ground beef and spinach—and a paisley-patterned love seat that smelled deliciously like Pakistani food.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin