Tail of the Weak 3.46
Updated: Jan 28
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.
Jim Lauderdale, the King of the Americana Troubadours, strummed an Epiphone copy of Gibson's Dove acoustic guitar in the corner of my living room. Patty Pfister, fiddle player for Tampa's Crabgrass Cowboys, was sawing away in a frenzy right next to him as he sang “It's a Trap” from his 2002 release, The Hummingbirds.
The song has an ol' time, jazz feel reminiscent of the early decades of the last millenium. I stood transfixed watching them from a distance; and, I swear I saw the walls heaving in and out with the beat—like in one of them vintage black and white cartoons of animals playing in a jive bar in the middle of a corn field. Don't ask what I'd been smokin' or drinkin' up to that point.
It was a golden night—one of many that had transpired during an Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull. This one happened to be the after party following the 2007 event, held Friday and Saturday, November 16-17, at Little Knights honky tonk and Waycross Middle School's auditorium.
My fascination and respect for Jim Lauderdale's music stems from a 1991 Nashville Now episode on The Nashville Network that featured guest host Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, and himself. Missing that evening was the show's regular host, Ralph Emery, who has done much for the country music establishment, but was very unaccepting of the Gram Parsonses, Chris Hillmans, and Roger McGuinns when The Byrds and other young, long-hairs made their play on Nashville and Bakersfield's hallowed sound.
Parsons's song, “Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man”, directly referenced the snide haughtiness of Ralph Emery in its verses.
Well, he's been like a father to me
He's the only deejay you can hear after three
I'm an all night musician in a rock and roll band
And why he don't like me I can't understand
That same year, I bought Lauderdale's debut, Planet of Love, at James Blount's CD store in Satilla Square. The music was firmly rooted in the sound of 1950s country—full of blues, rockabilly, and swing—and co-produced by John Leventhal and Rodney Crowell, another fine songwriter following in the footsteps of Gram Parsons, with impressive backing vocals by Emmylou Harris.
The 10th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull was packed with a lot of music that weekend in 2007; but, the most-colorful non-musician celebrity in attendance that evening was Phil Kaufman, famous road mangler for The Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons. Kaufman was the fellow who made good on the pact he and Gram made dictating that whichever one of them died first, the other was to take their remains to Joshua Tree Desert outside Los Angeles for a ceremonial cremation.
Kaufman spent most of the night in the front lounge at Little Knight's, engaging anyone he met with intoxicating tales of his past, selling and autographing copies of his biography, Road Mangler Deluxe, and taking pictures with fans. At one point, I heard him say he had a cock that hung below his knee. Insisting on proving the point, he rolled his britches up to reveal a rooster with a noose around his limp neck, tattooed on his shin.
In the big back room of the club, Jim Lauderdale was bringing the house down with an all-star sing-along of “Wild Horses”, with as many of us as could crowding up on the Little Knight stage. When it was over, Kaufman slid on back to his motel room, while many of the artists made their way to the grand after party at my house on Central Avenue.
A lot of the fans came too. Winner of the Epiphone Dove guitar that night, Mike Merrill, and his wife, Janet, were there, passing the acoustic from one artist to another to be signed and christened with an original song. Looking like a white dove herself, Abby Owens gently cradled it in the dining room, singing beautifully like she always does. I got hold of it for a rendition of my Hank, Sr. tribute, “Lonesome”, before passing it over to Jim Lauderdale.
To me, one of Lauderdale's most-endearing traits is his willingness and openness to make himself available to his fans and audiences. I have watched him in action from the first time we met at Suwannee Springfest down in Live Oak, Florida in 2003, up to the second time he performed in Waycross at the 2012 Guitar Pull. He is as genuine and as real as the songs that he writes and the music he plays.
To send that point home, he scribbled his name with a Sharpie on my wife's body in the foyer of our home in 2007. When she ran into him at Suwannee Roots Revival last year, he let her lick his face and jested, “Your husband'll never have me back!” Not so, Jim. Not so.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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