Tail of the Weak 3.15
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.
Like I said, when I found myself unemployed as a musician, the down time didn't last for long. Sweetbriar, my first band, went from mid-1974 until early 1975, when we morphed into Homegrown, then joined up with Eddie Middleton for a three-year run as Down Home Band.
After DHB folded in October 1978, Joe Shear and Wayne Scarborough moved back home to Waycross. I packed my bags and moved to Valdosta, Georgia and took a job at Wilbro's Catalog Showroom. In the summer of '79, the good folks at Wilbro's offered me a pay raise and position as Warehouse Manager down in Tallahassee, Florida.
It wasn't long before I hooked up with a local singer, Ed Thompson, and began to play at a little ABC Liquor bar in Tallahassee. We added several more players and started booking as Down Home Band—the country version—in and around Leon County.
By August of 1980, Ed had suffered a nervous breakdown, the band was on hiatus, and I found myself unemployed and sharing a lonely bachelor's apartment with the bass player, Dave Mignano. Physically and emotionally whipped, I welcomed the drive back to Waycross to attend my sister's wedding. I was home to stay.
My first job back in Waycross was as a DJ, spinning records nightly in the Holiday Inn Lounge. People got out a lot more often back in the early Eighties; and, I began to build up a following of faithful listeners.
Most nights, I would have to adhere to a fairly strict playlist, including “I Love a Rainy Night” and “Drivin' My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbit—Nashville songwriter who wrote the big Elvis hit, “Kentucky Rain”—and “One in a Million” (cue the mirrored disco ball with shimmering lights) by Larry Graham, former bass player for Sly and the Family Stone, who is credited with inventing the slapping technique of bass playing that Paul Lee uses when he ain't tour managing Blackberry Smoke. Back at the Holiday Inn Lounge, I thought if I had to spin that “One in a Million” record one more time, I might end up slapping the bar manager.
The whole while I was galavanting around northwest Florida, Joe Shear had put together a band in Waycross called Spellbound with younger musicians Jim Hopkins, Phillip Walker, George Farr, and Tony Tatum. They were breaking up about the time I got back home; so, we started to rekindle the idea of a Down Home Band reunion.
We began rehearsals in 1981 with the original nucleus—Wayne Scarborough on bass, Joe Shear on lead guitar, and myself on guitar and keyboards. While living in Tallahassee, I had purchased a pretty little Wurlitzer 61-key electric piano; and, though I was nowhere close to being a Ricky Alderman, I was adept enough at chords and simple arpeggios. Adding Jim Hopkins on drums, along with a saxophone section comprised of Chuck Gerbing and Joey Smith, we were set.
Recapturing some of our old DHB repertoire from the King of the Road days, we added a Beach Music medley and some of the current country, harmony-laden hits from Alabama and The Gatlin Brothers, along with former-Eagle Randy Meisner's “Hearts On Fire”, Kool and the Gang's “Celebration”, and Stevie Wonder's “I Ain't Gonna Stand for It”, until we had enough material to get back on the stage.
Henry Wynn, a successful Waycross bar owner with the Midas touch, booked us often at the Expresso, formerly called the Foxtrap Lounge. He soon opened up his signature club, Sir Henry's, a combination restaurant, front lounge with a horseshoe-shaped bar, and a big room in the rear that housed a stage, dance floor, bar, and plenty of people.
Not only did we play there regularly; but, Henry hired me as a doorman to card folks as they entered and to make sure no glasses of alcohol exited. I never considered myself to be a bouncer—I'm a lover...not a fighter—but one night, I kindly asked a big, red-headed dude to leave his glass at the door.
He looked at me with a half-smile on his drunken face, wobbled two or three times, and lunged for my throat, when two of my buddies, regulars at Burch Brothers Gym, appeared out of nowhere, picked him up by the arms, and escorted him out the front door.
Thanks guys—my nose, my teeth, and my credibility as a doorman appreciate you.
The 80s version of Down Home Band played clubs all around the southeast; but, some of our most-popular gigs were our self-sponsored BYOB parties, held at the Waycross National Guard Armory, including the annual Halloween bash where drunks and devils danced hand in hand.
A glorious moment for University of Georgia football was when Herschel Walker joined the team, carrying them to a national championship in 1980. A glorious moment for Down Home Band was when Bobby Joiner, former bandmate of Eddie Middleton in The Seros, a Sixties Albany, Georgia band, wrote a song called “Give Herschel Walker the Ball”, booked time in Roy Crosby's Alma, Georgia studio, and asked Down Home Band to play and sing on the record.
We didn't get rich off that record—we most certainly didn't get rich playing music over the years—but, we still have each other's friendship that always reminds us of the days we shared the stage together.
I watched the Georgia-Alabama national championship playoff game this past January at former Down Home Band drummer, Jim Hopkins's backyard Tiki Hut—a haven, resplendently decorated with Bulldog memorabilia and Uga statues—home for Bulldog fans every football season.
We always reminisce about our band days and talk about that little 45 rpm on the Silver Britches record label. Mine's somewhere in a box. A few short feet from the Tiki Hut, just inside his house, Jim Hopkins has his copy framed and hangin' on the kitchen wall.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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