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.
I was used to gettin' up early in the morning—the 3:00 to 11:30 a.m. graveyard shift at the Waycross Post Office from 1985-1993 had prepared me for that. So, when tickets for Paul McCartney's “New World Tour” went on sale, I volunteered to motor up to Atlanta's Georgia Dome to buy in person.
I grew up with the music of The Beatles, but never got to see John, Paul, George, and Ringo together live in concert. From the time I watched them on the Ed Sullivan Show at the age of 10 all the way up to now “when I'm sixty-four”, they have endeared themselves to me as innovative musicians, brilliant lyricists, revolutionary artists, and masters of their craft.
The weather in Waycross that February Saturday morning was pleasant; so, carelessly unthinking about the difference in temperature 240 miles to the north, I set out in my Don Johnson-Miami Vice outfit—or as Karen “Sunshine” Woodard liked to call it: the classic Jed Clampett look...minus the hat. My plan was to situate myself in the ticket line early, increasing the odds that I would get four excellent seats for myself, Lynne, and Karen and Mike Woodard.
The ticket windows opened at nine that morning; so, I left Waycross at three. When I arrived at the Georgia Dome four and a half hours later, I was elated to find myself standing only six people behind the first in line. The elation wore off in a hurry when the bitter cold starting nipping at my sockless ankles and working its way up to the sparsely-covered bald spot on top of my head.
I was prepared to suffer through in order to hold my hallowed place when line member number nine took pity on me, bringing me coffee and a U-Haul blanket to wrap around my Jed Clampett clothes. Thankful, I hunkered down and waited on 9 o'clock to come.
The good Atlanta sunshine was just beginning to cut through the clouds when I heard the ticket windows opening for the buying frenzy. Wait...what's this? I saw a girl with a canvas bag standing by the first person in line. I heard her ask them to please reach inside and draw a number. Nooooooooooooo—it was the lotto system!
I cursed the Georgia Dome. I cursed the girl holding the bag. I cursed the cold weather. I got up early, drove four-and-a-half hours, almost froze to death for a great place in line—now, I'm fixin' to lose it by pulling out a number...three? Number 3! Hallelujah! I love the Georgia Dome! I love the girl holding the bag! I love the cold weather—well, maybe not; but, it didn't matter. I was hotter'n a fiddlin' Nero in the middle o' Rome as I moved up four places in line!
Strolling up to the window, I placed my order, and was overjoyed when they handed me four front row tickets to Paul McCartney on May 1 at the Georgia Dome. I couldn't wait to get back home with the news of our good fortune.
Karen and Mike's house was on Pebble Hill Road, the north side of Waycross; so, I stopped in to show them the tickets. “We just saw you on the Atlanta news!” they screamed. They screamed even louder when I showed 'em the front row tickets and told 'em the story of how they came to be.
The first day of May finally arrived and the four of us headed up I-75 to Atlanta. Once inside the Georgia Dome, we made our way onto the stadium floor, down the aisle, and all the way to the front of the stage.
The usher on the left side of the first row looked at our tickets—seat numbers 7-8-9-10—and said, “This end seat is number 20. You'll find your seats on down the row.” Counting down the seats, we moved to the right—ever closer to center stage where Paul would be standing—only to find a group of fans already occupying our seats.
They were steadfast and defiant until I got an usher to explain to them they had counted from the wrong end of the row. Begrudgingly, they moved and we took our pre-purchased place, all-too-happy to witness my second Beatle concert in as many years. In June of '92, Lynne and I twisted and shouted to Ringo's All-Starr Band in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The arena lights went down and the stage lights exploded as The Beatles' bass player tore into “Drive My Car”, followed by a healthy mix of Wings, Beatles, solo McCartney songs, and one cover song—Roy Brown's “Good Rocking Tonight”. Sometime during the night, a burly stage hand appeared out of the front stage shadows to remove the film from Karen's handheld camera after seeing the little red light gleaming in the dark.
Halfway through the show, Paul ran through a gauntlet of his superb songwriting classics—“Michelle”, “Here, There, and Everywhere”, “Yesterday”, “My Love”, “Lady Madonna”, “Live and Let Die”, and “Let It Be”—in that order.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better—he whistles out and his magic piano comes rocking and rolling across the front of the stage, lights flashing, as he kicks off “Magical Mystery Tour”.
“The Long and Winding Road”, “Paperback Writer”, “Fixing a Hole”, “Penny Lane”, and “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” took us up to the edge of the finale—a spectacular encore featuring “Band on the Run”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and the poignant sing-along, “Hey Jude”.
Despite a February, predawn drive to stand, shiver, and almost lose my place in a cold, Atlanta ticket line—despite engaging the rage of a few misplaced asses taking up space in our front row seats—and despite nearly getting bounced out of the Georgia Dome by a big man over a Minolta camera—I sang along with Paul five songs before the end.
“And it really doesn't matter—if I'm wrong
I'm right—where I belong, I'm right—where I belong.”
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin