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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.7

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

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.

The summer of 1977 was in full swing. Eddie Middleton, Down Home Band's front man and booking agent, was keeping us moving up and down the state of Georgia—Columbus's Callaway Gardens, Bananas in Macon, and the Man O' War Lounge in Augusta.

Augusta, Georgia, a city rich in cultural heritage, spawned the likes of baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb—actor Laurence Fishburne, who, to me, will forever be Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse in the mid-Eighties—professional wrestler Hulk Hogan—singer Amy Grant, wife of recently-Eagleized Vince Gill—Gone With the Wind actress Butterfly McQueen.

The man who put Augusta on the map though was, as everybody knows, the Godfather of Soul, the incomparable—and, at times, insufferable—James Joseph Brown. A tireless and energetic performer, James Brown reached the #1 spot on Billboard's R&B chart 17 times.

He became known for his social commentary songs (“Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud”); and, his style was heavily influential in the development of funk music.

I recall, as an 11-year-old seated among all my cousins at the Ritz Theatre in downtown Waycross, watching James Brown and the Famous Flames tear up the screen in the T.A.M.I. Show concert movie. So, to play funk music, 12 years later, in his hometown of Augusta, was pretty funky for me.

The Man O' War Lounge, tucked away in the corner of a suburban shopping center, was managed by former Augusta Eagles semi-pro football player, Herbert Gilstrap. He put us up out the Gordon Highway at the Alamo Plaza Hotel Court, with its distinctive Mission Style architecture, where I had dreams of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and a tall blonde from Donalsonville, Georgia.

Herbert Gilstrap, former manager of the Man O' War Lounge, Augusta GA.
Herbert Gilstrap, former manager of the Man O' War Lounge, Augusta GA.

In most places we played, the crowds were plentiful and friendly; and, the Man O' War was no exception. One night, after we finished playing, I was invited to ride off—with a hospitable Augusta girl and another couple—over the state line into North Augusta, South Carolina. After rolling and smoking a couple joints, we rolled up to a late-night juke joint called Tarzan Swings.

Strollin' into the place, my newfound buddy promptly challenged a billiard roomful of enthusiasts to a wager—me and him against any takers. Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I am not a pool shootist—no, I am not even an observer of pool shootists. The extent of my expertise was pretty much no expertise at all; but, fear be damned, we racked 'em up and I proceeded to play.

I don't know if it was the joints I had smoked—the lovely Augusta girls watching—or the money that I stood to lose—but, that night, at Tarzan Swings, by God, I was a skinny, south Georgia boy channeling Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi, as every shot I made fell perfectly. We strutted out of there, a little bit richer; and, nobody was any the wiser that I didn't know what in hell I was doing.

Alamo Plaza Hotel Court, Augusta GA, 1959.
Alamo Plaza Hotel Court, Augusta GA, 1959.

Chalk one up for Lady Luck, for it was nights like these that I found myself in strange towns, with strangers I met just a few hours earlier, frequenting strange bars and pool halls. Certainly, divine guidance must have been at work because I always made it back—to the Alamo Plaza or wherever it was we were staying—in one piece.

8th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival

March 9-10, 2018

Okefenokee Fairgrounds : Waycross, Georgia




Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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