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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.22

Updated: Jan 25, 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.

Between September 1980 and September 1985, I managed to leave Tallahassee and its version of Down Home Band—move back home to Waycross—start up the original Down Home Band, with T. Wayne Scarborough and Joe Shear—get married—father a beautiful daughter—take a break from music—go through a divorce—and hire on with the Postal Service.

Clockwise from top left: John Randall Smith, Uncle Dave, Phillip Walker, Joe Shear
Clockwise from top left: John Randall Smith, Uncle Dave, Phillip Walker, Joe Shear

Three months into my mail-sorting career, I formed a new band with Joe, John Randall Smith, Phillip Walker, and soundman, Ricky Taylor. Calling it The Keepers, we formulated our song list based on the concept that “anything lasting for 20 to 25 years is qualified as nostalgic”. The music of the 60s certainly qualified.

It was music that we grew up listening to as kids—“Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, who, back in the Sixties, played the Waycross City Auditorium, snubbed the audience by cutting short their performance, only to find that the tires on their traveling vehicle had been cut as well—The Temptations' “I Can't Get Next to You”, “My Girl”, and an a capella version of “The Way You Do the Things You Do”.

“Groovin'” and “I Been Lonely Too Long” by The Young Rascals—Tommy James and the Shondells' “Crystal Blue Persuasion”—The Outsiders' “Time Won't Let Me”, featuring the lead vocals of Sonny Geraci, whose biggest hit came in 1972 with “Precious and Few” by Climax—and a show-stopping medley of Four Tops' songs—

“I Can't Help Myself”—“Standin' in the Shadows of Love”—“It's the Same Old Song” —“Reach Out (I'll Be There)” and “Baby, I Need Your Loving”.

Before we could begin rehearsing properly, we needed to pick up a PA system and all that goes with it; so, we headed out before sunrise one Saturday, to Atlanta's Buckhead district and Rhythm City Music Store, where our old Valdosta musician buddy, Roger Brainard, was employed.

As it was decided that I would also play keyboards, I bought a small KORG synthesizer that so aptly reproduced horn-organ-string-and piano sounds that even I sounded like I knew what I was doing—along with a Peavey T-60 electric guitar, so heavy that, I'm confident, my wearing it in the Eighties resulted in my current condition of left shoulder bursitis.

Our first paying gig as The Keepers was for the local Alcoholics Anonymous Christmas party. “Y'all sound really good!”, coming out of the mouth of a sober person carries a lot more weight than that of somebody who's been drinking Peppermint Schnapps Liqueur for two hours straight—that guy would be impressed if you simply broke a guitar string or sang a little sharp on “Sharp Dressed Man”.

L-R: Uncle Dave, John Smith, Joe Shear, Napoleon Williams
L-R: Uncle Dave, John Smith, Joe Shear, Napoleon Williams

As in all the bands I've ever played in, we had to go through several personnel changes, the first being the loss of our bass player, Phillip Walker. We quickly found a replacement in a local Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman, Napoleon Williams, who was not quite the singer Phillip was; but, we turned him loose once a night on Jackie Wilson's “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”.

We qualified as nostalgic ourselves by the mid-Eighties, having played in a lot of places, sometimes with famous or near-famous people. Napoleon's credentials were as tight as a tutu on a 200-pound ballerina—his earlier work was with the touring version of Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, a popular early-70s vocal group from Dania Beach, Florida with a couple of big hits—“Treat Her Like a Lady” and “Too Late to Turn Back Now”.

Eventually, Napoleon's superb vacuum cleaner salesmanship led him to Valdosta; so, we called up Wayne Scarborough once again—and, once again, he had our gigs comin' in fast and frequently.

My daddy, as a boy, used to live in a big, wooden two-story house on the corner of Lee Avenue and Hicks Street in Waycross. Years later, it became a Dodge dealership; and, even more years later, it was known as Christopher's, a nightclub run by Jerry Saunders.

The Keepers, again with our old, familiar bass player, were the first band to play the new club. The crowds were steady and supportive; so, with a crowbar and a sledgehammer, Jerry knocked down a dividing wall, opening the place up into a Sixties replica bar room, with a black and white tile dance floor and surrounding booths sculpted in red Naugahyde.

L-R: Joe Shear, Gary Brown, Wayne Scarborough, Uncle Dave.  Emmaline and Hessie's, 1989.
L-R: Joe Shear, Gary Brown, Wayne Scarborough, Uncle Dave. Emmaline and Hessie's, 1989.

John Randall Smith left the group soon after, paving the way for drummer and multi-instrumentalist, Gary Brown, original keyboard player for Waycross band, The Wall of Sound. The new lineup carried on—playing Emmaline and Hessie's dockside restaurant on Saint Simons Island, the Douglas Country Club, and maybe a goat-ropin' or a frog-giggin'—50 out of 52 weeks in 1989, leading me to say, “Enough is enough”.

Many a night, as the last chord fluttered into the night with the St. Simons sand gnats, I would throw my Peavey T-60 in its case and haul ass to Waycross, making it to the post office just in time to clock in for my 3:00 a.m. shift. That schedule took a huge toll on me, both physically and emotionally, as I watched my second marriage turn into my second divorce.

Clockwise from top left: Gary Brown, Rita McDaniel, Danny Altman, Jerry Boyett, Bobby Boyett
Clockwise from top left: Gary Brown, Rita McDaniel, Danny Altman, Jerry Boyett, Bobby Boyett

Terry Pinder, local keyboardist, saxophonist, and fine songwriter, took my place in The Keepers; and, adding Rita McDaniel on vocals and percussion, they went on for another 13 years. That's some pretty good longevity for a band. Damn sure lasted longer than my first two marriages put together.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy



Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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