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.
I reckon I always knew, deep down inside, what I was gonna do with my life. I just had to cull through the chaff to get to the wheat. So, upon high school graduation, I lit out to Statesboro, home of Georgia Southern College, in September of 1971.
I aced my 2:30 pm Algebra course, suffered through several weeks of Biology with Dr. Cornelia Hyde who, when she spoke, little pockets of white spittle formed on the corners of her lips—biology, up close and personal—slept through Art in Life in a big auditorium, and passed PhysEd with flying colors, even though I couldn't get up to make the 8:00 am class.
My high school buddy, Robbin King, shared a room with me in Oxford Hall, located just off the main campus—a long walk to what felt like the countryside, with a fenced-in clover pasture where I sat and got high one night with a bespectacled, afro-haired, Jewish kid whose name I've forgotten, right in front of the dormitory.
Several more of my Ware County High classmates—Becky Cavender, Eulin Gibbs, Alan Dryden—made their way to Georgia Southern; but, I hardly ever ran into any of them unless we carpooled to and from Waycross on a weekend. College opened the door to new friendships with students from across the state. Spud, Duck, and Stan were Oxford Hall dormmates from Newnan, Georgia. Characters as colorful as their names, they loved drinkin', smokin', and cussin'—all the finer aspects of college life.
Bob Smith, graduate of Oconee County High in Watkinsville, became a good friend for a few months, driving home with me one weekend to take in a Friday night Ware County Gator football game and a Saturday night Chicago concert in the old Jacksonville Coliseum.
We lost track of one another until about a month ago when I was visiting my son, Connor, a student at the University of Georgia, in Athens. Connor, a fine musician and songwriter, had invited me and his mama to a daytime recording session at Full Moon Studios in Watkinsville, where he was laying down tracks for his upcoming album.
I started reminiscing with studio owner, Jay Rodgers, about an old, local college friend who, after all these years, all I could remember was his first name, Bob—and I think I thought I had heard or read somewhere that he was in real estate. Jay said, “There's a Robert Smith at Oconee Properties, right across the street from the studio.” Really, now?
I remembered Bob being quite a conversationalist back in the day; and I have to say, 46 years later, he's still good at it. We talked about grandkids, life, and politics—for about 15 years, he was a state legislator in the Georgia House of Representatives—Bob Smith, a good, kind 64-year old humanitarian.
While avoiding academics during my Fall Quarter at GSC, I continued to study my passion for music. The college hosted several concerts at Hanner Field House, the building where I didn't show up for P. E. class. There, I saw Wet Willie; Mountain; the J. Geils Band, and Eric Quincy Tate, which featured a drummer who sat in a ladder-back chair and played in pointed- toe cowboy boots.
His name was Donnie McCormick; and, years later, he would perform with Ross Pead at several of my Gram Parsons Guitar Pull festivals in Waycross, beating and kicking on a funky, home-made chicken coop, adorned with ram horns, animal bones, and cowbell. He lost his battle with cancer and passed away in January, 2009.
The night Wet Willie played, I was early to arrive and found a tall, long-haired dude in a black duster, carrying a bass guitar case, looking like he was lost. I pointed him to the right door; and minutes later, saw him onstage with Wet Willie. Turns out, he was Jack Hall, the brother of Jimmy Hall, lead singer, harmonica blower, and saxophonist who wound up at the Guitar Pull in 2006, playing with the Capricorn Rhythm Section.
Some people end up with proud diplomas hanging from their wall, degrees to be admired, and alumni memberships that gain them discount entrance to Georgia Southern Eagle football games. I reckon I always knew, deep down inside, that wouldn't be me.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin