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 used to be a child—a long, long time ago—living in a pink mobile home parked on Lot 48 of B&S Trailer Park in Albany, Georgia, back when Daddy was stationed at Turner Air Force Base. Many wondrous childhood memories happened over there in the city known for pecans, Ray Charles, and the muddy Flint River.
In February of '64, we watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show at the Shore's trailer right next door on Lot 46. Brian, Brenda, and Tris, children of Richard (Dick) and Theodora (Miss Teddi) Shore, shared in many of our childhood adventures in Albany.
When Christmastime rolled around, each year would find us just over the Flint River bridge, at Sears and Roebuck department store, sitting on Santa Claus's knees. My dear little sister, Debbi, fought it as hard as she could for several years until she finally accepted the big, red, woolly fella.
Our real home in Waycross was a leisurely, two-and-a-half-hour drive east from Albany—through Sylvester, Ty Ty, Tifton, Enigma, Alapaha, Willacoochie, Pearson, Axson, and Waresboro—and we used to drive it quite frequently, especially during the holidays.
Returning back from Waycross to Albany on early Sunday evenings—about the time we got between Tifton and Sylvester—Daddy would dial the radio in to an Albany station playing instrumentals on a show called “Sundown Serenade” as I would lay curled up in the backseat floorboard listening to Hugo Winterhalter's “Canadian Sunset”, “Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk, and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
Born on July 17, 1928, Vincent Anthony Dellaglio was a jazz pianist who found fame as a composer of hit songs and animated television shows. His maternal uncle was one Muzzy Marcellino, singer, musician, and very talented whistler—his melodic puckering featured on The Mickey Mouse Club, Lassie, and Hugo Montenegro's famous 1968 movie theme song, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
In 1965, television producer Lee Mendelson hired Vince Guaraldi to write the theme song for A Charlie Brown Christmas after hearing “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” during a taxi ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. The result was “Linus and Lucy”, a classic piano instrumental etched in the hearts and souls of children and grownups around the world.
Joe Walsh paid tribute to Guaraldi on the 1970 James Gang Rides Again album at the 4:53 mark in the song, "The Bomber: Closet Queen"/ "Boléro"/ "Cast Your Fate to the Wind". On February 6, 1976, Guaraldi passed away suddenly at the age of 47, leaving behind a legacy of music that lives on in jazz devotees worldwide.
We made the trip down Highway 82 from Albany to Waycross during the Christmas season every year between 1960 and 1963 in our old Ford station wagon. In hopes of subduing my seven-year-old excitement, surely and quickly followed by bored “Are-we-there-yets”, Mama came up with a backseat game for Gary and I to play—Count the Christmas Trees.
I would peer out the left window into the dark south Georgia night and Gary did the same on his side of the car, frantically scanning the scarcely-populated roadside. It was great for awhile but always ended up spiraling downward into that inevitable cry, “He's cheatin'!”, at which point, I would have to be reminded that Santy Claus was watchin' me. No wonder my little sister was scared of that man with the white beard that sneaks in the house in the middle of the night.
Back home on Doghill in Waycross, we were heartily welcomed by aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. The live tree—which always smelled like Christmas—was erected. Daddy would pull out his Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians Christmas album and put it on the Telefunken record player as we decorated the tree with lights of red, blue, green, orange, and yellow; familiar ornaments; and heavily-draped clumps of silver tinsel icicles. Finally, the brightly-colored presents were carefully placed underneath atop the fake snow tree skirt made of white felt, that attracted every stray pine needle in Waycross.
If you're within eyeshot of this writing, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, all the peace this world so desperately needs, and a Santa Claus lapful of love.
Oh, sorry, Deb! You're over that by now, ain't you?
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin