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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.8

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.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains, the best time to catch Mother Nature's colorful fall foliage on display is mid to late-October. Most folks living in south Georgia simply don't have the time or the money to motor up the country just to see the pretty leaves. Of course, it helps if you're a musician—and the band you're in get's booked at a Holiday Inn in Fredericksburg.

Since our frontman, Eddie Middleton, was spending more and more time away after his record deal, Down Home Band had to pick up the slack and start booking ourselves. Wayne Scarborough, our bass player and older brother figure, was quite good at handling all of the responsibilities of a touring band.

We were doing very well. Guitarist Joe Shear owned a Ford Econoline. Drummer John Randall Smith had bought a new van in '77. I bought and sold several during my three-year tenure with the group.

Maiden voyage of the 1977 Ford 1/2-ton equipment truck.  Fredericksburg VA, Oct 1977
Maiden voyage of the 1977 Ford 1/2-ton equipment truck. Fredericksburg VA, Oct 1977

Wayne drove a pickup truck with a cover on the back; but road wear and tear from miles of traveling was not kind to our vehicles—which led us to purchase a new, half-ton equipment truck just before we set out to Fredericksburg, Virginia

in late October of 1977.

Our two-week gig at the Holiday Inn was more like a vacation than it was work—but, when you're 24, single, and playing music on the road, it's always a vacation. The October display of changing leaves was breathtaking, along with the historical, geographical, and cultural landmarks surrounding us—Civil War battlefields, the Rappahannock River, and home of guitar power chord pioneer, Link Wray, best known for his heavily distorted 1958 instrumental, “Rumble”.

It was business as usual Monday through Saturday at the Holiday Inn Lounge, as we offered up the hits of the day—“Union Man” by The Cate Brothers, Marvin Gaye's “Got to Give It Up”, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” by Pablo Cruise, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash's “Just a Song Before I Go”.

Uncle Dave pickin' and T. Wayne Scarborough grinnin' in the motel room after hours.  Fredericksburg VA, Oct 1977.
Uncle Dave pickin' and T. Wayne Scarborough grinnin' in the motel room after hours. Fredericksburg VA, Oct 1977.

Back at the motel after the show, it was party central on most nights, with a stray cast of characters—jolly, inebriated bar manager, local musicians, and we, ourselves—pushing the hours toward sunrise with insane humor, reverent and irreverent speculation on life, and original song sharing.

On Thursday, October 20, between supper and showtime, we got the devastating news of a plane crash in Gillsburg, Mississippi—the Convair CV-240 carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd ran out of fuel and went down in a heavily-wooded swamp, killing band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and the two pilots, Walter McCreary and William Gray.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, before the devastating plane crash.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, before the devastating plane crash.

You can't grow up in south Georgia without knowin' a little bit about north Florida. Them Skynyrd boys from Jacksonville lived right across the state line from Waycross; and, while we weren't at their level professionally, it was a tragic reminder that life and death on the road coexist as one.

We had a day off on the following Sunday, so we all piled into John Randall's Econoline van and drove an hour north to Washington, D.C., where our Georgia cousin, Jimmy Carter, sat ceremoniously in the White House.

We piddled the hours away at the Smithsonian Institute, marveled at the Hope Diamond, and took in about 132 of the otherwise 156,000,000 artworks, artifacts, and specimens before having to head back to Fredericksburg for week two at the Holiday Inn.

Driving down I-95 through the darkness, Ronnie Van Zant's voice came out of the radio speakers just as it started pouring down rain.

“If I leave here tomorrow — Would you still remember me”

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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