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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 4.3

Updated: Jan 28, 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.

The Eagles Glenn Frey.
The Eagles Glenn Frey.

It was the evening of January 18, 2016 when I got the news that Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, had passed away. I was just walking out the door, heading to play the Annual Lee-Jackson Banquet for the Waycross, Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter.

On the way to the restaurant, I got a call from an old guitar-playing buddy, Mike Johnson—the Mike Johnson from Blackshear, Georgia who sells insurance. Next to me, he's quite probably the biggest Eagles fan in south Georgia.

When I started learning to play the guitar in 1972, The Eagles had just burst onto the scene with their laid-back country-rock—music that Mike and I latched hold of immediately. We used to sit around the Sandy Creek apartments laundry room in Waycross, strumming our acoustics and singing the songs that made our heroes famous.

Mike was in as much a state of disbelief as I was to hear the news. At the SCV banquet that night, drummer John Randall Smith—another bona fide Eagles lover—and I rendered “Peaceful Easy Feeling” in Frey's honor. When I got home that evening, I put on the albums and let them take me back to 1972.

Glenn Lewis Frey was born November 6, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, he learned to play piano and guitar and, by high school, was in and out of several bands. In '67, he met fellow Detroit musician, Bob Seger, who secured Glenn a management and recording contract on Hideout Records.

The next year, Frey was invited to play acoustic guitar and to sing background vocals on Seger's song, “Ramblin' Gamblin' Man”, which went to No. 17 on the national charts. Over the years, they remained close friends and writing partners, with Frey contributing vocals on Seger's later songs, “Fire Lake” and “Against the Wind”.

J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey's album on Amos Records.  1969
J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey's album on Amos Records. 1969

Frey's next move was to Los Angeles, where he formed a duo with J. D. Souther called Longbranch Pennywhistle. He and Souther lived in the same apartment building as another budding superstar, Jackson Browne. Together, Frey and Browne wrote what would become The Eagles first hit song, “Take It Easy”.

In the early 70s, Frey met future Eagles drummer, Don Henley. The two were chosen for Linda Ronstadt's backing group, along with former Flying Burrito Brother Bernie Leadon on guitar and banjo and former Poco bassist Randy Meisner. It wasn't long before the four musicians found their sound, signed with Asylum Records as The Eagles, and the rest is music history.

The Eagles, 1974.  L-R: Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey
The Eagles, 1974. L-R: Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey

Frey wrote, co-wrote, and sang on some of the band's most-memorable songs—“Tequila Sunrise”, “Already Gone”, “Lyin' Eyes”, and “New Kid in Town”. I recall—back in 1973, spending many a dollar at the local Pizza Hut, drinking draft beer and listening to “Tequila Sunrise” on the jukebox.

In the interim between the first breakup of The Eagles in 1980 and their much-publicized 'Hell Freezes Over' reunion in '94, Frey enjoyed a successful solo career in music and as an actor.

He appeared on several episodes of Miami Vice, composing two songs that were used in the TV series—“Smuggler's Blues” and “You Belong to the City”. He also starred on the big screen in Cameron Crowe's 1996 film, Jerry Maguire.

From 2000 on, Frey began a battle with rheumatoid arthritis, taking medication whose side effects eventually led to colitis and pneumonia. In 2015, he underwent gastrointestinal surgery and while in recovery, was placed in a medically-induced coma until his passing.

As each year passes by, my heroes—along with me and you—grow a little older. It's not peaceful and it ain't easy to see a new headline jumping back at you about another good one passing away.

Since 2015, we've lost Percy Sledge, B.B. King, Lemmy, David Bowie, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Butch Trucks, Chris Cornell, Chuck Berry, Col. Bruce Hampton, Gregg Allman, Glen Campbell, Fats Domino, Tom Petty, Malcolm Young, Scott Boyer, Aretha Franklin, Ed King, and Tony Joe White—to name a few.

Well, if that ain't enough to make you tear up. And if you did tear up just a little—then they did their job. Several of them, I knew personally. A few of them played in Waycross at my two homegrown music festivals—Swamptown Getdown and the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull.

A couple of them—Percy Sledge and Leon Russell—I shared the stage with. All of them were admired and cherished. Some of them went naturally—some tragically—some before their time—like one of my old turntable heroes, whose life-sized statue is standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

Tails of the Weak: From Doghill to Tripoli and Back



Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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