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.
It's that fantastic phenomenon of the universe—that moment in space and time—of which Leon Russell was the master—when you're magically transported way back to the exact place where you heard a certain song for the first time. As sure as my name is Uncle Dave Griffin, it happens with frequent regularity with me.
Scientists that have studied it and know what they're talking about call it 'Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories' or MEAMs—not to be confused with MEMEs like the one above—and they've used it to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease and brain-related injuries.
The area of the brain discovered to be activated by music is located in the medial prefrontal cortex region—right behind the forehead—which must be especially busy for headbanging fans of heavy metal music and mosh pits.
My relationship with this neural phenomenon is much more innocent, yet still nostalgically pleasing. The following are some of my musical revelations, recollections, and remembrances.
“Volare”—a 1958 radio hit by Domenico Modugno that was quickly covered by everyone from Dean Martin to Bobby Rydell—is a flashback to the apartment living room in Tripoli, Libya, where Daddy was stationed at Wheelus Air Force Base.
My memory of Tommy Roe's “Sheila” took place on Prescott Road—formerly known as County Road 10—formerly known as the dirt road that cradled my Granddaddy and Grandma Carter's farm just west of Hoboken, Georgia in 1962. Daddy had the Ford station wagon radio dialed in to WAPE out of Jacksonville, Florida and I recall lunging forward—we didn't have seat belts in those days—as
the opening drumbeat spilled out of the dashboard speaker.
Three years later—sitting in the very back of the station wagon as Daddy wound through the rain-soaked streets of Tampa on the way to MacDill Air Force Base—I first heard the We Five singing “You Were on My Mind”, originally written by Sylvia Fricker of the folk duo, Ian and Sylvia.
I would tune in religiously to Tampa's premier AM radio station, WLCY, which featured the Swingin' Gentlemen—disc jockey personalities: Swingin' Sweeney, Tedd Webb, Mike Scott, Billy J., Dr. Chuck Stevens, and Rick Randall.
I have vivid memories of three songs that stirred my 12-year-old soul—Bob Lind's “Elusive Butterfly” (with Leon Russell on piano), “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas, and Lou Christie's “Lightnin' Strikes”—while sitting on the
air conditioner unit behind our Kenwere Loop apartment building, listening to my transistor radio.
Granddaddy Griffin had a home in Starke, Florida that we visited as often as time allowed. Following a visit in late 1966, we were heading northbound on US 1 when I heard the melodic genius of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson's symphonic, pop masterpiece, “Good Vibrations”.
By '69, I was licensed to drive; and, it was on Mary Street in downtown Waycross, Georgia—directly in front of S.H. Kress department store that I first heard Creedence Clearwater's “Bad Moon Rising”, a song penned by John Fogerty after watching the 1941 film, The Devil and Daniel Webster. Exactly one year later—at precisely the same location—I heard Chicago's “Make Me Smile”, sung by the soulful and sorely-missed Terry Kath.
Spring of 1970, as I sat in my car outside the Gator Den at Ware County High School—waiting on tennis practice to commence—“Love or Let Me Be Lonely” by The Friends of Distinction hit me like a crosscourt, backhand smash. Two of the group's members—Floyd Butler and Harry Elston—had worked together in The Hi-Fi's, Ray Charles's backing band during the mid-Sixties.
My Doghill neighbor and lifelong friend, Greg Griffin, returned from his job with Southern Bell in Atlanta for a visit in the summer of 1972. In his brown Ford Pinto, I was introduced to Mott the Hoople's “All the Young Dudes”—the glam rock anthem written by David Bowie—as we drove out Central Avenue rolling and burning. Exactly. Rolling down the road and burning gas.
All of those scientific explanations involving neural transmitters, cortex and limbic regions of the brain, and autobiographical memories are enough to make my old head hurt. I simply love the nostalgic rush of the music and the memory. I think I'll just call it—Cosmic Glue.
22nd Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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