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Tail of the Weak 3.18

Updated: Jan 26


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.

There's an old saying—“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If not, it was never meant to be”. That's a nice, little psychological assumption meant for romantic relationships and hit songs by Sting, I suppose; but, when it comes to guitars—can I please just have mine back?

Back in 2003, I was working for Paul Lee at Crosstown Music, dealer of fine acoustic guitars, in downtown Waycross, Georgia. Just around the corner was Velvet Groove, a memorabilia store specializing in vinyl records and operated by local lawyer, Scott Crowley, and singer-songwriter, Sean Clark.

Grand Opening flyer designed by Sean Clark.

Sean's wife, at the time, was a hairdresser and was granted space in the rear of the store for her coiffure stylings and hair colorings, calling it Curl Up and Dye. The name inspired me to write a song dedicated to my lovely daughter—it weren't about perms and such.

Velvet Groove also featured glass display windows on either side of the front entrance. Once inside, there were funky artifacts everywhere—from vintage clothes and collectible figurines to dated school lunch boxes and lava lamps. A side staircase led to an upstairs loft that overlooked the storeroom floor.

Musicians tended to gather there for informal jams or songwriting sessions. For one of its many musical gatherings, the city street in front of the store was cordoned off and a big flatbed trailer was rolled in as a performance stage featuring some of Waycross's finest.

Uncle Dave with his new Takamine, King of the Road, Valdosta GA, 1977.

I was asked to sit in on a couple of songs with the local band, Grasshat, featuring Jesse Herrin, Justin Minchew, Jamey Moore, and Will Thrift. I took out my trusty, old 1977 Takamine acoustic guitar from its snug, leather case and started tuning up. Before I strolled onstage to play and sing backup on Neil Young's “Cortez the Killer” and “Poke Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White, I took a stiff poke of Jose Cuervo from the bottle in my guitar case. Living in the temperate, South Georgia climate brings on an annual assault of allergens that burdens me year-round now, thanks to my age. But, what I've found as a remedy is my go-to, pre-vocal, warm-up exercise designed to clean those pipes out—a shot of tequila (from nature's blue agave plant), preferably with salt (been around since early civilizations figured out that it was crucial to human health), and a slice of lime (a natural healer—unless you squirt it in your eye—then you get loco as a mad toro).

All the ingredients combine to aid in the elimination of that Lower Georgia Throat Crud, and alternately, to provide a warm, fuzzy feeling that greases the banter between stage and audience. I highly recommend to all aspiring singers and wannabe AA members.

My regimen was under control until the rain clouds began to unleash above us, forcing all who had gathered in the name of music to seek shelter in the upstairs loft of the Velvet Groove.

One of my standout memories of the evening was John Pope's acoustic rendition of John Lennon's beautiful “Across the Universe”, complete with all the “Jai Guru Deva oms”, the Sanskrit mantra used to lull the mind into a higher consciousness—kinda like tequila.

We carried on until late-thirty that night when five or six of us exited Velvet Groove and stood on the sidewalk out front, solving the world's problems. I had leaned my Takamine in its leather bag against the store window in the entrance alcove behind us. Half an hour later, we all strode off in different directions and made our way safely home.

Next day, at Crosstown Music, I got a call from Sean at Velvet Groove saying he needed to swing by and pick up a set of guitar strings; so, I asked him if he would mind bringing my dear Takamine with him. In my mind, I had laid it on a bench just inside the door of his store as we left the night before.

15 minutes passed by; and, a nervous Sean called back to say, “I can't find it anywhere”. Punch to the stomach—slap in the face—arrow through the brain—call it what you will—it all descended upon me as I recalled my Takamine's final resting place outside the store.

Uncle Dave and the Martin DR, 2016. Photo by Jordan Drake.

I beat myself up about it for a day or two, after my sweet wife combed every pawn shop in two counties, coming up empty-handed. I finally found some psychological comfort in that old saying about lettin' it go and it comin' back if its supposed to.

Actually, what really got me through my loss was the Martin Dreadnought Rosewood that I bought as a replacement, using my handsome employee discount from Paul Lee at Crosstown Music, dealer of fine acoustic guitars.

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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

#Sting #PaulLee #CrosstownMusic #WaycrossGeorgia #VelvetGroove #Takamine #NeilYoung #TonyJoeWhite #JoseCuervo #JohnLennon #MartinGuitars

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