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 a growing trend—at least in my neck of the woods—in musicians-turned-wedding officiators, spurred on by nothing more than the simple wishes of friends, fans, or family of certain artists. Their wish is for that special artist to perform the ceremonial nuptials on their special day.
I started hearing about this phenomenon about eight years ago, when my singer-songwriter buddy and Pine Box Dweller feller, Sean Clark, was handpicked to officiate Brandon Doty and Lindsay Cox's wedding at the Atlanta Botanical Garden on June 17, 2010.
On June 9, 2012, Tyrus J. Manning III, current Slawdog Biscuit and former Bearfoot Hooker, joined the ranks of the reverends, performing his first ceremony for Christy Hanchey's wedding in Hancheyville, just outside of Hoboken, Georgia—complete with a Jim Beam toast; and, in lieu of rice or birdseed, the newlyweds were showered with pork rinds.
My wife had been after me for awhile to have a vow renewal ceremony—time or place was not so important—she just wanted it to happen. So, I finally agreed that we would do it—in between acts at the 3rd Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival, one of two outdoor music festivals I host in Waycross, Georgia. We chose our dear musician friend and wedding officiant, Ty Manning, to do the honors.
It was a beautiful and heartfelt occasion; and, when it was over, Ty pulled me to the side and asked if I would return the favor at his wedding, planned to be held later that year at the Georgia Theater in Athens. I told him I would love to; but, there was one problem—I didn't have the credentials.
“No problem at all,” said the veteran musician-minister, “you just go to Universal Life Church dot com on your computer, pay 'em $58.63, and you're in!” It was as simple as that. I didn't treat it lightly at all, though—being raised in a Christian family and spending nigh every Sunday and Wednesday at Calvary Baptist Church during my youth—I knew that I was duty-bound to be as serious as a waterlogged preacher in a baptismal pool if I were going to go through with it.
The day of the wedding came; so, Lynne and I motored up Highway 441, allowing plenty of time to get us there with no worries. We were cruising along in our son Connor's little black Honda Accord, when somewhere just the other side of Milledgeville, a big log truck pulled lazily into our path, forcing me to peel dangerously over to the shoulder of the road.
Without losing speed, I eased past the unconcerned driver to my left, hanging halfway out the window, horn blaring, with my middle finger hung defiantly in his direction. From that moment on, my wife dubbed me the “Irreverent Reverend”; and, I've been praying for forgiveness ever since.
I've married several couples since that first one—Bess and Sean (in my living room)—Sherry and Chris Davidson (holding an umbrella in the Mershon rain) —Kelsie and Caleb Barnard (in a hospital room)—Kaitlyn and Dwayne Hamlin (two warm hearts outside in the cold)—Charly and Jordan Bell (under a gazebo on a Waresboro pond)—and Audrey and Brandon Jones. They are all memorable; but, the Jones wedding was most-memorable.
It was held on a beautiful April afternoon, outside of the historic Jekyll Island Club Resort hotel and overlooking the waters of Fancy Bluff Creek, with many friends, loved ones, and sand gnats in attendance. Surrounded by such loveliness and perfection, just before the vows were recited, I was reading a special passage I had written, comparing the marriage couple to the great loves in country music history.
“It happened for June and Johnny—Gram and Emmylou—Uncle Dave and Aunt Lynne”—and, lifting my eyes from the script, I uttered, “and, it happened for Brandon and Ashley”. I sensed something was wrong when I saw the bride-to-be, Audrey, looking nervously at me—waiting on a punch line or some explanation for my errant name-calling.
Even wedding ministers are human—especially this one. Audrey was so very gracious, lightening the mood with a quick smile, and saying, “Whoever Ashley is, she's too late!” We carried on, Brandon and Audrey Jones are still happily married, and the young couple are expecting their first child.
If it's a girl, I suspect that “Ashley” is definitely not on the list of considered names.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin