• Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.13

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.

Upon his graduation with a degree in music from Valdosta State College, Bill Smith, big brother of Down Home Band's drummer, John Randall Smith, was on the musical market again. This didn't bode well for the DHB because, even though we were band brothers unto ourselves, the bond between family is much stronger.

Fauxpas in WACL radio station. L-R: William Rowell, Bill Smith, John Randall Smith, Bill Farris, Jimmy Sistar, DJ Jack Brinkley.

John and Bill put together their first band in 1964—Mother's Little Helpers—after their daddy, Judge Ben Smith, Jr., rolled up into Setzer's Grocery Store parking lot, where the two boys were doing some political campaigning, suprising them with a car full of musical equipment he had purchased from Billy Harrell's Music Store—a red Hagstrom I guitar for John and a white Hagstrom II for Bill, along with a Gibson Hawk amplifier.

Joined on drums by Charles Lee, son of Sheriff Robert E. Lee, Bill Farris, and Jimmy Sistar, the group changed their name to the Fauxpas, adding Dewayne Scurry on lead vocals briefly, and William Rowell on rhythm guitar. Charles Lee soon left; and, John switched over to drums. The young band was very popular locally and went on to win regional “Battle of the Bands” contests

Monnie Carden, 1978.

John Randall gave notice in December 1977 that he would be moving on to form a new band, Shadowfax, with brother Bill. Down Home keyboardist Ricky Alderman left soon after to join up with the Smith brothers and Bill Farris in Shadowfax, who, by this time had changed their name to Homeward Angel.

We replaced John Randall Smith with former Sweetbriar drummer, Monnie Carden; and, in Ricky Alderman's place, we added a new keyboard player, Joe Millen, from Jacksonville, Florida. We plodded along; but, the hometown chemistry we had enjoyed for a year and a half was missing.

Down Home Band in Savannah, 1978. L-R: Joe Millen, bar manager, Wayne Scarborough.

Most of our gigs with this revised edition of Down Home were played out at the King of the Road in Valdosta, Georgia, our home away from home, and another club over in Savannah on Abercorn Street, where I learned to play Backgammon on our breaks. Sex, drugs, and rock & roll? Yeah, it existed—but not as much as we would like to think.

Smiling near the end, King of the Road, Valdosta, 1978. L-R: Joe Millen, Paula, Wayne Scarborough, Angie Carter Carden.

Joe Millen didn't like being told much of anything—what to wear, when to rehearse, or all the other important trivialities in the day to day workings of a touring band. He began to undermine the system, building support from the others with the objective to oust our leader and bass player, T. Wayne Scarborough.

They came to me last with their poisoned proposal. I weren't havin' nothin' to do with it. After everything Wayne had done for me—ensuring my spot in the band following a lay off due to hernia surgery—there was no way I would turn against him.

So, the inevitable came to pass—our final gig as Down Home Band happened in late October 1978—exactly three years from the time I first pointed my VW van toward Valdosta.

Simply put, Joe Millen thought he could do a better job managing the band. The ill-fated group changed their name, added a bass player, and lasted about a month maybe. What Joe Millen didn't realize is that people like Wayne Scarborough are a necessity to a well-oiled, well-groomed musical outfit.

Fortunate for me, about a year prior, I had begun to seriously save my weekly musician stipend, and had built up a formidable nest egg, which I would use to buy a small, chocolate- colored Mercury Capri that would get me back to Lowndes County, where I would set up life as a non-musician—for a while.

The joys and the memories of those three years in Down Home Band are some of the best a man can have. Having a mentor like Eddie Middleton, who I learned much from about entertaining and stage presence. Learning the basics of band business from a truly savvy and professional T. Wayne Scarborough.

Sharing a lifetime of laughs, loves, and lyrics with my brothers of the road—John Randall Smith, Ricky Alderman, Joe Shear, Lee “Pine Room” Newell, Mark Yarbrough, and Bruce Wood. Being fortunate enough to have a couple of little road mothers—Anne Scarborough and Cathy Shear—to lend levity and sweetness to the otherwise male atmosphere we created around ourselves.

Looking back, the one sure thing I could always count on in an ever changing world of music was that my unemployed status as a musician would never cross the threshold of a year.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns

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Phone interview with John Randall Smith

Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

#DownHomeBand #ValdostaStateCollege #KingoftheRoad #EddieMiddleton

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