• Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.17

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.

When I was a youngun growin' up in Waycross, Georgia, we used to “visit” my Grandma and Granddaddy Carter's farm 14 miles up the road, in Hoboken, almost every Sunday after church. The excitement of the corn crib, chicken coop, and tobacco barn would keep my imagination occupied until they called me in to eat—that Sunday dinner at Grandma's was a spread to behold.

After dinner, all the grownups would retire to the cool shade of the front porch swing and rocking chairs. About every hour or so, a car would putter along the dirt road in front of the house; and, that would set 'em off—weren't that ol' what's-his-name's second cousin on the Strickland side; or, you know, didn't so-and-so used to be married to Aint Cynthie's youngest daughter's son?

I would be bored slap to death—pleading with Daddy, “When are we goin' home?” Only to hear him say, “The reckly”. The reckly? All I knew was that meant “not now”. Recently, I started musing about some of the old, southern colloquialisms and slang—like “the reckly” and “in the reckly”—and, I realized it was just lazy dialect for “directly” (from Grandma's to our house) and “indirectly” (from Grandma's to Uncle Harley's then home).

Swamp historian and genealogist Luther Thrift with you know who.

As I grew up into the grownup that my parents once were, I wished I'd paid a little better attention to all that genealogical banter. Through the tireless efforts of kinfolks up around Savannah—along with knowledge gleaned from Judge Ben Smith, Jr., WW II veteran and Waycross lawyer—and Luther Thrift, local swamp historian, genealogist, and coworker during my graveyard shift at the Post Office—I began to gain more insight into my ancestry.

My great-great-grandparents, Peter and Margaret Thrift Griffin.

My great-great-granddaddy, Peter Henry Griffin, was born on October 4, 1843 in Bulloch County, Georgia; and, as a teen, he and his family moved to the Cowhouse Island, situated in the northeast corner of the Okefenokee Swamp. In 1860, he married Margaret Thrift, Luther's great-grandfather's first cousin; and, two years later, like most southern boys, he enlisted as a soldier in the War Between the States.

In 1991, I had enlisted the aid of Judge Ben to help me through the legalities of my second divorce. When it came time to pay the bill, he simply said, “Make it out for $25—that's the cost of the annual dues for the Sons of Confederate Veterans local chapter. Welcome aboard”.

L-R: Judge Ben, Bill, unknown, Gerald, Uncle Dave, and John. Battle of Olustee, Florida, 1990s.

Judge Ben's sons, John Randall and Bill, were old musician friends of mine—John and I had been playing in bands together since 1976. The judge was the current commander of the local SCV chapter, and asked us to play a few period songs at our next get-together. He dubbed us “The Rebelaires”. We added Gerald Dukes, another old music buddy, on bass guitar, and began to play reenactments, heritage balls, and grave dedication services.

Carry the Memories On cover shoot. Barney, Georgia, 1994.

For a time, the old period songs of the 1800s were enough to fill our repertoire; but, being accomplished songwriters, we began to put forth our own songs. During the summer of 1994, The Rebelaires booked time in Barry Best's home studio, over in Barney, Georgia, to record and release our first cassette tape, Carry the Memories On, a seminal slice of southern heritage music that gained us a legion of fans—historians, reenactors, and music lovers from around the world.

Confederate Man and Judge Ben's Select Standards & Southern Spirituals

We followed that up with more recordings—For the CauseConfederate ManLet's Do It AgainBy RequestP'litically Incorrect—and Judge Ben's Select Standards and Southern Spirituals—spanning over a decade that saw us perform all around the south and at the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.

The Rebelaires carved out a unique niche in the landscape of historical, original music for 12 years; and, all of our self-penned songs were written from the heart, dictating a common theme—love of family—love of home—and honor and respect for our ancestors.

Our ancestors—my great-great-granddaddy Peter Griffin, John and Bill's great-granddaddy Benjamin Smith, and Gerald's great-great-granddaddy Needham Arnold—traveled from their beloved homes and families to Waresboro, Georgia, to enlist in the 26th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Company K. Little did they know that their direct descendants would be singing songs about them 130 years later.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns

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Thrift, J.L. (1989) The Thrifts of Okefinokee. Published by Luther Thrift.

Griffin Genealogy Records

Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

#WaycrossGeorgia #JudgeBenSmithJr #LutherThrift #PeterHenryGriffin #CowhouseIsland #OkefenokeeSwamp #WarBetweentheStates #BattleofGettysburg #RobertELee #SonsofConfederateVeterans #TheRebelaires #BarryBest

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