Tail of the Weak 3.12
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 doin' a bang-up job for Herbert Gilstrap, manager of the Man O' War in Augusta, we were booked to play the “Grand Opening” of a second Man O' War in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during the winter months of 1977.
The huge supper club, formerly called Pajamas, had a giant foyer that led to a wide ramp, descending down into the middle of the room. Upon our arrival for the “Big Grand Opening”, we strolled down that ramp in awe of the crowd thinking, “Shoo-daddies! This is gonna be a fun two weeks!”
There were businessmen, locals, and lots of women—all decked out in the disco fashion of the day—hovering around a long table, spread wide with roast beef au jus, French bread, and just about anything else you could imagine, except potted meat and animal crackers.
Man O' War waitresses scurryied to and fro with trays full of “Grand Opening Specials” as we headed back stage to the dressing room to tune up for the first set of the evening. We took the stage and were doin' our best to do our best as we watched the food disappear with the crowd not far behind.
As the days of our Chattanooga engagement wore down, so too did our hopes that, at some point, we would regain that “Grand Opening” crowd of hungry folks from Day One. It was not to be.
But the show went on. One night, the bartenders and waitresses—it was basically just us and them—started sending up shots of “Flaming Jelly Beans”, consisting of 1 oz. 151 proof rum, 1 oz. blackberry brandy, and 1 oz. ouzo anise liqueur. I do believe that was the night we stripped down to our underwear for the final few songs—long before the Red Hot Chili Peppers made their fashion statement.
We made the best of it; and, every afternoon found us down at the Man O' War rehearsing and learning new material like “I Don't Love You Anymore” by Teddy Pendergrass, a disco-funk song written by the indefatigable Philadelphia songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
One afternoon during rehearsal, we noticed some goings-on up in the front foyer, set our instruments aside, and went to check it out. There, an ensemble of black musicians told us, “We are professionals ourselves. Y'all harnomies be real close for white boys.” It was moments like this that kept us going.
Another surprise lay ahead when the weekend arrived, bringing with it several dear friends and acquaintances from Waycross, Georgia. Miriam Peagler, James “Bubba” Bickerstaff, and Holly Young brought their friendly, familiar faces to the Man O' War for a much-needed spiritual lift ala Wild Turkey and Cokes.
Down Home Band did very little sight-seeing while in Chattanooga, opting to spend most of the cold, wintry days piled up in the motel rooms. We just weren't all that inclined to ride on the Incline Railway; but, we did manage to stop into a local sex shop, where I thumbed through a few titles—like “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and “Every Good Dog Has His Day”.
Despite a few escapades along the way, we were all good and decent Waycross, Georgia boys, joined together by the bonds of music, playin' up and down the country. Most times it was in crowded barrooms, clubs and lounges, full of smiling faces and dancing fools.
Every now and then, it might be in a gigantic supper club—with an enthusiastic audience of two bartenders and four waitresses.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin