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.
It's the dream of every parent for their children to have more and better opportunities for success in life than they themselves had. My son, Connor, 25 years ago today, came into our lives as a preemie baby, guided by angels on a wing and a prayer.
Weighing in at 2 pounds .06 ounces, he spent the first 16 weeks of his life in the amazing neonatal intensive care unit of Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. It was an emotional nightmare for me and especially his mama, Lynne, knowing that he was an hour and a half away, even though he was being cared for in the best and only possible way.
I had my day job at the Post Office during the week; and, we had other children at home requiring our attention. But, between Lynne's mama and both my parents, they managed to get down there as often as they could during the week. Connor had the undivided adoration of the NICU nurses, especially Nurse Sharon, who devoted her love, time and energy to making sure our boy was comfortably nurtured.
It was a glorious October morning when Lynne and I were able to bring our son home to Waycross. As we crossed over the St. Marys River between Florida and Georgia, his namesake, Gram Parsons, was singing “Hickory Wind” on the CD player.
Growing up, Connor was surrounded by the sounds of The Beatles, The Rebelaires, and Led Zeppelin. He had all of the great, music-filled Disney animated movie classics on VHS and a little keyboard synthesizer in his bedroom. I knew he was gonna be a musician the day I heard him on his keyboard, picking out the notes to “Hakuna Matata”.
During my freshman year, I was a beginning drummer in the high school band, learning the fundamentals of the snare drum. It was a big moment for me when I accomplished the double-stroke roll. I was amazed and elated the day Connor, at two-years-old, played a double-stroke roll on the little plastic Fisher-Price drum his Uncle Gary had bought him for Christmas.
By the time he hit the sixth grade at Waycross Middle School, he was intent on joining the band. The instrument he chose was the same one I chose to learn in my first year of high school. During his tenure in the Ware County Golden Gator Band, under the fine tutelage of Daniel Byrd, Albert Bussey, Jr., and Michael Leeth, he played everything from crash cymbals to quads—a five-drum apparatus strapped over his small frame that he beat mercilessly.
I was bitten by the rock and roll bug in my senior year of high school, opting for the bass guitar—I could play the hell out of one drum; but, unapologetically, I sounded like a baby splashing around in a tub when it came to a full set of drums. Connor has excelled at rock and roll drumming, since his first band in high school, The Other Guys, to the Pine Box Dwellers, Ty Manning and the Slawdog Biscuits, and Big C and the Moonshynes.
His flair for the dramatic—since his early days in the NICU when he found a myriad of surprising ways to regurgitate his feeding tube—had him acting in high school dramas, Beauty and the Beast and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, along with local community theater productions, Annie, Get Your Gun, Willy Wonka, Rocky Horror Show, and Dracula.
His portrayal of the demented Renfield in Dracula was so convincing that I slept with my bedroom door locked for the next three weeks.
Connor's passion for acting has taken him to the University of Georgia, where he is fast approaching his final studies as a major in Theater Arts. Since arriving in Athens in January of 2017, he has acted in several productions, is interning as a lighting assistant at the Morton Theater, and is writing a screenplay based on The Newfanglers' dark, Americana classic concept album, Blood in the Pines: The Story of Hollis Sheppard.
Connor's mama has often said that he is a walking combination of the best parts of her and the best parts of me. I will go a step further and say that he has superseded our best qualities in every way.
To say we're not proud of him would be like saying Luciano Pavarotti was tone-deaf—or Clint Eastwood wears women's underclothes—or Jeffrey Dahmer was a vegetarian—or...well, you know what I'm sayin'.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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