Tail of the Weak 3.4
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.
I glanced over and saw Steve Popovich, pinned in the corner of the motel room by Eddie Middleton, who was selling himself as hard as he could. Before the night was over, Middleton was the new artist Popovich ended up signing to his new label.
– Tail of the Weak 2.23
Steve Popovich, respected A&R man for Cleveland International, a brand new subsidiary of Epic Records, had come to Macon, Georgia in 1977, intent upon signing Dickey Betts and Great Southern to a recording contract. By the time he left, he had discovered a tall, white man with Brook Benton's voice.
Following the successful industry model that had made big stars out of white soul singers Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, Cleveland International set out to do the same with Eddie Middleton. The first step would be to record the tracks for his debut album, Midnight Train to Georgia.
The album—a collection of country, R&B, and beach music standards—was produced in Atlanta by Sonny Limbo and Mickey Buckins and recorded at Lowery Studio, home of the late, great Bill Lowery, a giant of a man in Georgia's music industry. Lowery had this to say about Eddie:
“The first time I had the good fortune to hear Eddie Middleton was when he recorded a demonstration record in one of our studios. I was impressed by the warmth and genuineness of his performance, and I had the feeling that, once again, a Southern gentleman was on his way to becoming a top recording star.”
Written by Jim Weatherly and recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia”, the title track of the album, was the first release to radio stations across the country, followed by The Tams's “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)” and “Endlessly”, originally recorded by Brook Benton.
Well on his way, Eddie was performing less and less with Down Home, giving our band the opportunity to branch out, pad our song list, and begin booking ourselves—at places like the Holiday Inn lounge in Fredericksburg, Virginia—where a drunk man dancing fell from one side of the parquet dance floor all the way to the other, finally grabbing hold of Ricky Alderman's ELKA string machine as a last ditch effort for stability, and pulling it to the floor with him.
Colorful characters, local yokels, and wanton waitresses defined much of our life out on the road—with and without Eddie Middleton. With each subsequent single from Midnight Train to Georgia going higher and higher up the charts, Eddie was growing less and less comfortable with his time spent away from home and loved ones, and becoming increasingly wary of the corporate underbelly of the music business.
I'm not sure what Eddie was lookin' for; but, I do know that he found it, in late '77, while attending revival services at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia. Once he had fulfilled his obligations with Cleveland International, he turned his attention to contemporary Christian music, founding a group called NewSong, with original members Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin, and Bobby Apon.
NewSong went on to garner eight Dove Award nominations and founded the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, the biggest annual Christian music tour in the U.S. In 1993, Eddie left the group to pursue his calling as a musical evangelist.
Along about 1996, as I was scrolling through the channels of my television set, I ended up on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and immediately recognized the soulful vocals of Eddie Middleton.
It was the same presentation, the same high energy performance as all of those nights I played behind him and beside him, on stages and in nightclubs, from Sonny's Lake Forest Lounge in Jacksonville, Florida to the Cockpit Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee.
The song he was singing, I quickly identified as the music of The Four Tops—the lyrics, cleverly rearranged and sung back to the audience as “Jesus, I Need Your Lovin'”. The only thing missing was a tumbler of Grand Marnier and a thick haze of cigarette smoke.
Instead of sellin' sin, Eddie was savin' souls.
8th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival
March 9-10, 2018
Okefenokee Fairgrounds : Waycross, Georgia Advance Weekend Passes:
YouTube Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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