Tail of the Weak 4.9
Updated: Jan 27
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.
To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
-Pete Seeger, Adapted from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 Verse 1-8 They say bad things come in threes. If I was to trust in such, then the week of February 13-20, 2019 would certainly have given me cause for belief. Within the scope of eight days, three of my friends—Larry Keller, Monnie Carden, and Bud McCleskey—shuffled off this mortal coil.
I met William Clinton “Bud” McCleskey when I started working in the Waycross Journal-Herald advertising department in 1970, the summer following my junior year of high school. Bud, a good year older than I, helped me settle in to my new position—at the bottom of the totem pole.
Looking back, he was probably grateful he wouldn't have to run tear sheets around town and fill nasty jars of reconstituted horse glue anymore once I was hired on. We lost touch following high school graduation; but, through the online, social Book of Faces known as Facebook, we were able to catch up.
Bud graduated from the University of Georgia in 1975, began a career with CSX in '81, and eventually moved to Jacksonville, Florida with the railroad organization, retiring as a Claims Manager. He also worked as a referee in the Arena Football League, World Football League, and Jacksonville Jaguars Practice Team. Living in Jacksonville, Florida, surrounded by Orange and Blue Florida Gators, Bud's devotion to his beloved Georgia Bulldogs was not deterred. For over 30 years, he was a member of the Jacksonville Bulldog Club, serving as President in 1997. On October 29, 2016, through Bud's diligent efforts, my band, Rhythm Oil, was booked to perform during the Georgia-Florida Tailgate Party in Jacksonville. I'd like to think that it wasn't because of our musicianship that the Bulldogs fell that day 24-10.
The Henchmen, just one of many mid-Sixties garage bands in and around Waycross and Blackshear, Georgia, featured Harry Monroe “Monnie” Carden on drums, Clyde “Tooker” Dell on bass, Jerry Clark on guitar, and Carey “Flukie” Dell on guitar. Decked out in ruffled shirts, Edwardian capes, and Beatle boots, the popular group was booked by Waycross deejay Johnny “Bee” Mosses and Judy Seymour, future wife of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant. In 1974, Billy Ray Herrin and I formed Sweetbriar, the first country-rock band in Waycross. By early '75, we found ourselves in need of a new drummer. After several auditions, Monnie Carden joined the group, bringing with him a soulful
singing voice that was put to good use on “Ramblin' Man”, “Listen to the Music”, and “Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues”. After several months, he left Sweetbriar and wound up playing behind SSgt. Barry Sadler of “The Ballad of the Green Berets” fame. Sweetbriar changed personnel a few times over the next couple years, becoming Home Grown, then Down Home with Eddie Middleton, touring around the southeast and midwest U.S. Following drummer John Randall Smith's departure in December 1977, we called on Monnie once again to round out the group until we disbanded in October of '78.
The first time I met Captain James Lawrence “Larry” Keller and his beautiful Ohio bride, Leigh, was in 2011, upon their arrival to Waycross from Fernandina Beach, Florida—the town where they met, fell in love, and were married in 1983. Such an incredibly cosmic couple, with wonderful life stories to tell—such as... They bought and restored a sailboat—a blue, 30-foot Catalina sloop, naming her Now Voyager, after lines in the Walt Whitman poem, The Untold Want—then, sailed off from Fernandina in '97—up and down the south Atlantic coast, island hopping in the Bahamas, taking in the Keys, and settling briefly in Melbourne, Florida over the next 12 years. Giving up the sailboat in 2009, they decided to move inland from Fernandina Beach to Waycross, Georgia in 2011. What a blessing for Waycross. What a blessing for me and my wife—and all the other kindred spirits who came to know Laurie Leigh and Larry Keller, lovers of life, love, art, and music. These three men—Bud, Monnie, and Larry—as far as I can tell, never knew one another. But all three grew up sharing the common bonds of culture, region, and age.
And as much as losing them leaves a void in the hearts and the worlds of those dearest to them, they will always be remembered—on a crisp Autumn Saturday in Sanford Stadium—in a lonesome song by Danny O'Keefe—in the loving eyes of an Ohio girl—and in the heart of a friend who writes words on a page.
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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