Tail of the Weak 3.52
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.
Spent the New Year in the van—40 father had no plan
Held the boychild in my hand—Love I've come to understand
—“High I Was” by Uncle Dave Griffin
Back when Aunt Lynne and I were dating in the early 90s, we spent some very memorable New Year's Eve nights in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1991, I bought a package deal for a night out at a Jacksonville comedy club.
The December 31st deal included a romantic supper and comedy show, party hats, horns, noisemakers, and a couple glasses of champagne about midnight. The most-memorable part of the evening came as we were navigating US 1 North back to Waycross, Georgia. I was driving and she was sitting in my lap—watching behind us to see where we'd been.
One year later, we headed back to Duval County to welcome in 1993. In between Hilliard and Callahan, the fog was so thick, it was impossible to drive—even without a good looking blonde sitting in the seat with me. We had no New Year reservations anywhere, so we both agreed it would be best to turn around and try our luck back home.
On the outskirts of Hilliard, on the right hand side of US 1 stood The Pines Bar, its neon lights beckoning through the fog like a haven for New Year's Eve revelers. We pulled up, strolled inside, and there in the side room was a stage—occupied by an old friend and musician, Ferrell Howell, former lead singer for the Seldom Blues Band of Waycross.
Ferrell, now a retired police chief living in Thomasville, Georgia, was the lead vocalist in several Waycross bands between 1980 and 2001. He rounded up Leroy Cason, Jake Lee, Jerry Mercer, and Robin Rudd to form Papa's Pride, one of his earliest groups.
His most-enduring group was Seldom Blues Band, first consisting of Bo Osteen on keyboards—George Bessonette on lead guitar and vocals—Jake Lee on drums—Bob Tanner on bass guitar and vocals—and Ferrell on lead vocals.
Through the years, the popular band seldom had the same members, going through several personnel changes. At some point or another, Jake Lee's position behind the drums was filled by Tony Beck, Tony Tatum replaced George Bessonette, who later attended law school and became a south Georgia guitar-playing lawyer, and still other members came and went, including Leslie Batesman, Rudy Gordon, Donnie Minix, Chuck Reddick, and Jamie Thornton.
In the late 80s, Seldom Blues went into Hickory Wind Studios, owned by local songwriter, Billy Ray Herrin, to record a couple of publishing demos of Herrin's songs, “Georgia's My Home” and “Special Friend”. The band was good, the songs were good, and the demos were good—good enough to land Billy Ray a publishing contract with the Lowery Music Group in Atlanta.
I went on to co-write and produce demos with Billy Ray in 1990. Among the 14 or so songs we co-wrote, half of them were published, and Bill Lowery offered us a recording deal on two of them.
At Lowery's Southern Tracks Studio with a top-notch group of session players, we cut “The Love in You” and “You”, the first ever CD release to radio on Southern Tracks Records. Ferrell borrowed the instrumental mix of “You” and performed the song at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Jacksonville, beating out future country star, Tim McGraw, in two consecutive talent contests. That should tell you a couple of things:
(1) The song, “You”, was well-produced; and (2) Ferrell Howell can sing his ass off. After losing twice to Ferrell, McGraw hightailed it out of Jacksonville, made it big in Nashville, and married Faith Hill. Ferrell opened up a truck stop in Fargo, Georgia and continued to play music all around south Georgia and north Florida. Always a good-natured soul, Ferrell jokes about the turn of events involving Tim McGraw, “Yeah, he got Faith—and I got Fargo!”
That New Year's Eve, Ferrell introduced me as one of the writers of “You” and sang it one more time, giving Aunt Lynne and me a rare chance to dance together. We saw 1993 in along with a lot of nice folks that night, including a Dewberry fellow from Waycross. After Pines Bar closed down, he invited us back to his upstairs apartment in what used to be a hotel in downtown Hilliard.
Our hosts partied themselves to sleep; so—not as to wear out our welcome—we felt it best to spend the rest of the night in my van outside. It was a mighty good New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. For it was on that January morning, our mighty good son, Connor Griffin, was conceived—in the back seat of my Ford Econoline van outside an old hotel in Hilliard.
Tails of the Weak: From Doghill to Tripoli and Back https://www.amazon.com/Tails-Weak-Doghill-Tripoli-Back/dp/1938436636
Bill Rose at www.recapturist.com
Far-reaching remembrances of Ferrell Howell and Billy Ray Herrin
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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