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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 4.7

Updated: Jan 27, 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.

My fascination with art began at an early age when I would sit on Daddy's lap in Tripoli, Libya as he sketched the face of a cowboy—I was fascinated with them too—underneath a wide-brimmed hat. Mama was talented as well with the ability to draw and create beautiful objects of art.

Re-creation of my 1961 classic.
Re-creation of my 1961 classic.

At about eight years, I unleashed my first original—'Dog with Wristwatch'—a simple line drawing with big geometric shapes. Upon high school graduation, I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do in life.

My three top choices were journalism, music, or art. I entered Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Georgia, where one of my Fall quarter courses was Art in Life,

Death by Postal Service.  1971
Death by mail. 1971

which I promptly slept through most days. My grades surely reflected my lack of initiative and I was bounced back home after one quarter. Talk about Statesboro Blues.

In early 1972, with no job prospects, I used to ride to Memorial Drive Elementary School in Waycross, Georgia, where Mama taught kindergarten. I would set up in the library with a sketch pad and draw pictures for the students as they came and went.

Later that year, I enrolled in a local art class, learning the dynamics of shades, shapes, and colors using pastel chalk as our medium. We did a still-life of a bowl of fruit—my end result having about as much life as a bowl of oatmeal. So, I went home and gathered some still-life objects around the house that meant something to me and placed them atop a green cloth on Mama's ironing board.

Family Heirlooms.  1972
Family Heirlooms. 1972

There was Granddaddy Carter's double-barrel shotgun—our aged Griffin family Bible—a vintage brass oil lamp—a planter that looked like a spinning wheel—and an antique black flat iron. Gathering up my chalks and sketch pad, then summoning the spirits of creativity, I did my best to do my best. Mama loved it—like only a mama could—so I had it matted and framed and gave it to her for Christmas.

By then, music was becoming a big part of my life as I learned to play the acoustic guitar; but, art still held a fascination with me. I bought a big, coffee table-sized book—The Best of Norman Rockwell—about the famous illustrator whose lifelike works adorned the covers of The Saturday Evening Post for nearly

five decades.

For a while there, I trusted in my own Rockwellian desires and considered applying for admission to the art program at Belmont College in Nashville. I

1978 Uncle Dave rendering of Firefall's Luna Sea album cover.
1978 Uncle Dave rendering of Firefall's Luna Sea album cover.

got pretty good at drawing or copying other objects—album covers, comic book characters, magazine ads, and music celebrities—but, to create art using my own imagination was usually a futile attempt. Still, art provided me with another creative outlet besides my guitar; and, I enjoyed it.

Music eventually won out over all; and, my artistic dabbling became just that—dabbling. I suppose the love and fascination I held for art was at least genetically

Quick sketch by Megan Griffin Stewart.  2016
Quick sketch by Megan Griffin Stewart. 2016

passed down as my daughter, Megan, is quite handy with pen and paper. She free-styled a quick sketch that I used on the front of my Uncle Dave t-shirt—sold wherever you find me picking and singing.

My wife, Lynne, is a very gifted artist. Using markers, brushes, pencils, and pens, she has rekindled her passion for illustrative art over the past five years, creating folksy paintings on canvas, paper, rocks, and boards—which she has no problem scavenging out of the depths of dumpsters and off the soft shoulders of any highway she's traveling on.

The Doghill Gang by Aunt Lynne.  2016  L-R: Uncle Dave, Brother Gary, Billy Ray, James, Greg
The Doghill Gang by Aunt Lynne. 2016 L-R: Uncle Dave, Brother Gary, Billy Ray, James, Greg

She calls her artistic creations Cosmic Rose Designs and has sold quite a few. One of her designs—'The Doghill Gang'—was inspired after hearing tales about the escapades of me and my childhood neighbors, growing up on Mt. Pleasant Road (Doghill). In her painting, she depicts me, Billy Ray Herrin, Brother Gary, James Cocke, and Greg Griffin as the animals we truly are, yet with a very colorful, cinematic flair.

Artwork by granddaughter, Hannah Johnson (7).  2018
Artwork by granddaughter, Hannah Johnson (7). 2018
Artwork by grandkids Wyatt (5) and Millie (2) Stewart.
Artwork by grandkids Wyatt (5) and Millie (2) Stewart.

We have been blessed with grandchildren who are leaning into Grama's—or Nana's—art with passion and talent. Hannah—who has lived half of her life in our home—presented us with two beautiful renderings for Christmas. My gift was her seven-year-old take on Lynne's 'Doghill Gang' while Lynne's present was a colorful and imaginative piece called 'Mice Eater Resteraunt', featuring Sir Owl in a top hat. Megan's children—nine-year-old Wyatt and four-year-old Millie—share their grandmother's and mother's artistic tendencies as well.

Just before my mother's passing in 1994—way too soon—she attended a local, weekly painting class. So many beautiful, framed pieces of Mama's art, hung proudly on the walls of my childhood home. When one of the pastors who was to present her eulogy stopped by the house, he asked me, my brother, and sister what Mama's legacy meant to us—what had she given us that we would forever remember her by.

Syveta Mae Carter Griffin
Syveta Mae Carter Griffin

Besides her love, her warmth, and her encouragement in anything we ever did—besides the sweetness and kindness she showed to anyone she ever met—besides the heart she held us in and the home she raised us in—I told him, “She taught me the love of art”.

Monday, February 18, 2019, would have marked her 91st birthday—and I'm positive she's celebrating with a brush of silver, a canvas of gold, and more love than Heaven can hold.

9th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival

March 15-16 : Okefenokee Fairgrounds : Waycross, Georgia

For Early Bird Weekend Passes:


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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