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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.11

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.

After a week at the underground Checkmate club, the Down Home with Eddie Middleton entourage pulled out of Little Rock, Arkansas late Sunday afternoon with our Bumble Bee shades strategically placed as we headed east to Music City USA and the Cockpit Lounge.

We didn't need the sunglasses by the time we rolled over the mighty Mississippi, right outside of Memphis in the dark. I recalled the ol' childhood spelling mechanism my daddy bestowed to me as a youngun.

M - I - crooked letter - crooked letter - I - crooked letter - crooked letter - I - humpback - humpback - I”. It came in handy in the third grade; and, yes, I just used it again one sentence ago.

The Cockpit Lounge, located in close proximity to the airport in Nashville, booked their bands from Tuesday through Sunday, allowing us the opportunity to check out the club and the band who preceded us on their last night. Once arrived, we heard about their wet T-shirt contest, which made Little Rock's look like a fashion parade at a church picnic.

Just a week earlier, a Metro Vice Squad officer had raided the lounge during a wet T-shirt contest and later testified that the audience egged on a contestant, who proceeded to remove her T-shirt and pull down her front of the audience. Always a day late and a dollar short. It seemed my water-spritzing-in-wet-T-shirt-contest-days were over before they really had a chance.

Monday evening, John Randall Smith, Ricky Alderman, and I took our Arkansas earnings and hit downtown Nashville and Printers Alley, finally landing at Mario's, legendary Italian restaurant owned by Mario Ferrari and frequented by famous country singers, politicians, and movie stars.

George Jones, Mario Ferrari, and Tammy Wynette at Mario's Restaurant, Nashville TN.
George Jones, Mario Ferrari, and Tammy Wynette at Mario's Restaurant, Nashville TN.

We were met at the door by a maître d', the spittin' image of Lurch in the Addams Family, who showed us to our table, up the stairs and past photos, lining the walls—of celebrities like George Jones and Tammy Wynette—who dined at Mario's frequently.

Starting off with before-dinner drinks, we then ordered the most-expensive fare from the menu—because we belonged there—along with more drinks, following up with an after-dinner round from the bar. It reminds me of a quote from a W. C. Fields poster that used to hang at the home of party band, Homeward Angel, at 601 E. Moore Street in Valdosta, Georgia:

Nobody minds a man having a morning eye-opener and it's OK to have a bracer about 10 A.M. and a couple of drinks before lunch. A few beers on a hot afternoon keeps a man healthy, or at least happy. And, of course everyone drinks at a cocktail hour. A man can't be criticized for having wine with his dinner, a liqueur afterwards, and a highball or two during the evening. But this business of sip, sip, sip, all day long has got to stop!

As the week wore on, so did the debauchery. By Wednesday night, after the Cockpit closed for the evening and the regular customers had gone, the owner locked us all inside, including the waitresses and bartenders, turned on the taps and the turntable—playing “A Real Mother For Ya” by Johnny “Guitar” Watson—until we drank, smoked, and partied ourselves face-first into the dance floor. The morning after, John Randall Smith had a powerful spiritual experience that would put a halt to his drinking, and to this day, is as sober as his daddy, Judge Ben.

R. C. Bannon's first release on Capitol Records, 1977.
R. C. Bannon's first release on Capitol Records, 1977.

Capitol Records singer-songwriter, R. C. Bannon made an appearance one night, playing a song or two during one of our breaks. In 1979, R. C. would be married to Louise, good-lookin' and talented sister of good-lookin' and talented Barbara Mandrell.

By week's end, I had a full-blown chest cold, which made it extemely hard to sing the lead vocal on The Commodores's “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)”. A dude in the audience, who claimed to have played autoharp with The Eagles—a statement as unfounded as his claim to be able to sing “Easy”—jumped up on stage and laid waste to Lionel Ritchie's beautiful melody, causing our agitated drummer, John Randall, to yell over to me, “Sing, damn you! Sing!”.

On early Monday morning, following our final Sunday night performance, we loaded up the vehicles again, and pointed them towards Georgia, where we were to perform that night without front man, Eddie Middleton, at Domino's Lounge, a low-slung bar and pool hall on Abercorn Street in Savannah.

Minus Eddie, our song list was somewhat lacking, forcing us to play Tavares's “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel”—much to our keyboard player, Ricky Alderman's dismay—at least five times in one night.

Wayne Scarborough and John Randall Smith. Burned out at the Cockpit Lounge, Nashville TN, Nov. 1977
Wayne Scarborough and John Randall Smith. Burned out at the Cockpit Lounge, Nashville TN, Nov. 1977

We were burned out after all the partyin' in Tennessee, worn out after drivin' all day from Nashville to Savannah, and bummed out, playin' to a small, female audience with dirty feet. To quote Johnny “Guitar” Watson—“Haha...ain't that cold?”

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns

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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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