• Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.42

Updated: Jan 25, 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.

Throughout my musical years, people have constantly reminded me who I remind them of. Back in the 70s, it was Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees—I'll take that. In 1976, I strolled into Hoagie's Bistro, across from Valdosta State College; and the owner, Mickey Gilbert, told me, “Man, you look like Al Pacino!”—only time I heard that one; but, I'm alright with Serpico.

By the Eighties, I had become to some the look-alike of Lee Greenwood or Joe Bonsall, the tenor singer for The Oak Ridge Boys—I'd just as soon not look like either one of them but I guess I do. It wasn't until the Nineties that people began connecting me to Tom Petty—now there's a doppelgänger I can be proud of.

The real Tom Petty. 2014

Musically, Thomas Earl Petty is a hero of mine, much admired for his songwriting talent, production, and musical sensibility over his career. The comparisons are many. We grew up in southern towns only two hours apart—he in Gainesville, Florida and me in Waycross, Georgia.

Like my natural brother, he was born in 1950—three years later, I came along. As a musician and songwriter, I'm no Tom Petty—in musical tastes, we both loved Elvis, The Beatles, The Byrds, and Gram Parsons.

It was my daughter, Megan, a fan from the age of 10, after I gave her his Greatest Hits CD for Christmas in 1993, who proclaimed, “Daddy, you look like Tom Petty!” and was intent on convincing me to attend a Halloween costume party dressed as him. She was right. So was my fellow postal worker, Karen “Sunshine” Woodard, who often said the same.

In the image of Tom Petty, I have won several contests—paid tribute in song on the stage of King's Bar and Treehouse Lounge in Hilliard, Florida—and most recently portrayed him playing sitar while straddling the back of a black and purple spider in a soon-to-be-released music video by my songwriting buddy, Ty Manning of The Slawdog Biscuits.

Uncle Dave as Tom Petty. Anna Nelson as Dorothy. Oct 15, 2016

About two weeks ago, my son and Slawdog Biscuit drummer, inquired if his mom and I could drive him north to Buckhead/Madison, Georgia and take part in the video version of Ty's original, “Tom Petty Song”.

We enthusiastically agreed and come Sunday, October 14, loaded the car with Connor's drums and hardware, colorful wigs and costumes, and Aunt Lynne's hula hoop creations, setting out on Highway 441 for a leisurely stroll to Buckhead.

Ty Manning, Slawdog Biscuit and Morgan County art teacher. Feb 2018

When Ty Manning is not playing music or writing songs, he is a celebrated art teacher, loved by his students at Morgan County High School in Madison, Georgia, who returned from Fall Break to brand new learning facilities on Monday, October 16.

The “Tom Petty Song” video shoot was scheduled for the same evening amid the black and red polka-dotted walls of Ty's old art classroom located in the former high school building.

Tom White, videographer and digital media instructor for Morgan County High, began setting up his gear around 7:15 that evening as Connor unpacked and stationed his drumset and Aunt Lynne worked feverishly with a hot glue gun doctoring a rip in my vintage, 1800s-period frock coat, just one piece of my prized Tom Petty outfit.

Ty, Connor, and Tom "Not Petty" White discuss the angle of the dangle.

The velour top hat and blond wig came from Walmart, courtesy of my sweet daughter. Completing the getup is my old, mid-Seventies Down Home Band with Eddie Middleton tux shirt, festooned with black ruffles down the front—a reproduction of the original Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels tee I procured from Peggy Hanson of Cypress Cowboy T-shirts several years ago—a knock-off pair of black Chuck Taylor Converse tennis shoes—and some far-out sunglasses complete with cornea scratches.

Mr. Manning had a former student lined up to play the part of Alice in Wonderland; but, she came down with a mysterious ailment, went down a rabbit hole, and couldn't make it, forcing Ty to call on a couple of his current art students, Anna Nelson—who played the part of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz—and Skylar Sewell—who Aunt Lynne fashioned into a trippy, hippie à la Woodstock.

Ty Manning, Anna Nelson, Skylar Sewell, and Uncle "Tom"

The fog machines were set off and “Tom Petty Song” blared out of a small set of P. A. speakers as Tom White trained his cameras on closeups of Connor drumming away to the music. I got the video treatment next, aboard the back of Charlotte the spider, cradling an authentic Indian-made sitar.

The rest of the band arrived—Adam Poulin on fiddle or violin, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you hail from; Derek Warren, son of Vicki Wallace, on bass guitar; and guitarist-keyboardist Scotty “The Correct Effect” Nicholson, pride of Warner Robins—and the next thirty minutes was spent taking full band shots, along with individual Slawdog Biscuit closeups and more footage of Anna and Skylar cavorting and dancing around the room, as Aunt Lynne hula hooped to the music.

L-R: Adam Poulin, Ty Manning, Derek Warren, Connor Griffin, Scotty Nicholson, Uncle Dave, Aunt Lynne. Anna Nelson and Skylar Sewell down below.

Right now, the footage is in Tom White's able hands; and I cannot wait to see the finished product. With visions of Tom Petty's Don't Come Around Here No More video in my head, I hope I did my musical hero justice.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part.

Another hero of mine, John Lennon, said that the best songs were written in the shortest amount of time. I don't know if that holds true for music videos; but, the entire session was wrapped by 10 pm and all good things come to an end—kinda like the Mad Tea Party ride at Walt Disney World and live Tom Petty concerts.

Rest in peace, Brother Earl, as we celebrate the day you were born.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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