Tail of the Weak 4.31
Updated: Jan 26, 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.
Back in the day—when my generation of club-hoppers used to hop—there were a number of places where young men and women could meet, mingle, dance, and drink. Your Night Out, out the Jacksonville Highway; Little Knights on Knight Avenue; Steve's Pine Room just over the Pierce County-Ware County line; Hub's, where Hatcher Point Mall now sits; and the Steak House Lounge on Memorial Drive—were my first taste of such venues.
In the mid-Seventies, Baynard Jacobson opened the Foxtrap—formerly a dry cleaning establishment—in downtown Waycross, Georgia. Around the same time, the legendary Green Frog Restaurant debuted their outdoor liquor and beer garden, calling it the Lily Pad. The Pass Track and the NuBar—two of the early bars I played in—were scenes for a short while.
The venues came and went—just like the bands in Waycross, Blackshear, and Alma—but, there were some that kept changing and keeping up with the times. The Foxtrap—a disco club in its heyday—changed its name to The Expresso and brought in dance and show bands traveling the nightclub circuit from around the country. Homeward Angel—featuring locals John Randall Smith, Ricky Alderman, and Bill Farris—played there regularly.
The King Midas of club owners, Sir Henry Wynn, managed the place for a while; and, like all the clubs he managed in Waycross, he managed to make a success of it before gettin' out right when the gettin' was good.
After Henry left the Expresso, the club lay dormant until1994, when Marvin Foster—a Brunswick native with a pile of money to invest—bought the nightspot and named it after a talented local country band, calling it Alibi's.
When George Farr, keyboard player in a diverse lineup of Waycross groups—Gold Dust, Spellbound, and Waycross Express—moved home from Jacksonville, Florida in the early Nineties, he formed a songwriting duo with Bob Tanner—former bass player with the Seldom Blues Band and High Jinx.
In 1991, the name Alibi was being used by a high school classmate of mine—Mr. Ricky McDaniel—a fine guitar player, known around town for his ability to play Santana's “Black Magic Woman” flawlessly, note for note. Alibi's drummer was another of my classmates and former Sweetbriar bandmate—Danny Altman. They added George Farr and Bob Tanner to their group and started picking up gigs.
Following the departure of Ricky McDaniel and Danny Altman, Alibi added the talents of vocalist Stevie Young; drummer Thomas Gibson; and lead guitarist Tony Cason. In July of '92, the five-piece group defeated local band, Borderline, in a 'Battle of the Bands' contest, sponsored by the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce—winning $500 cash and the opportunity to open up for Suzy Boggus and Restless Heart at the annual, countywide Pogofest celebration on October 17 that year.
Lead singer-guitarist Skip Sasser—son of Nona Griffin McCloud and my third cousin—sought out the up and coming country music group. Once Skip joined—and local promoter, Cookie D'Amico, started managing and publicizing—all of the pieces were in place for what was to become a remarkable run for Alibi.
Alibi competed on Charlie Daniel's Talent Roundup, broadcast on The Nashville Network, and on July 8, 1995 were announced as the big prize winners—to the tune of $25,000. Things really started ramping up for the guys after that. Ron Simpson, of Atlanta's RCS Productions, signed them to a managerial contract and got them on stage with the major country acts of the time—Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Jr., Alabama, Tanya Tucker, Diamond Rio, and Sawyer Brown.
From fairs and festivals—Countryfest '96 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway—to clubs and concerts—Atlanta Olympic Concert with Tracy Lawrence—the endless gigs were steady. But, it was the Nashville record label showcases that would hopefully provide Alibi with their most sought-after dream—a major label recording contract.
The group featured three songwriters—Farr, Tanner, and Sasser—so it was inevitable that they put out a CD of their original songs. Their debut effort was produced—utilizing former Waycross musician, Jim “Bubba” Bickerstaff's mobile recording van—and offered ten originals, including Bob Tanner's “Put It Down”, a song about substance abuse that inspired a listener in Dublin, Georgia to write a special letter to Alibi.
Within her heartfelt testimonial, the Alibi fan wrote, “I just wanted everyone there to know that your music has made a big difference in my life; and, I thank God I heard it at a time I needed it most”. As a songwriter, that's about the loftiest praise you'll ever find.
Following two years of constant performing and promotion, a booking agency approached Alibi with a lucrative, but nonstop touring package. Without the hoped-for record deal—and missing wives and children at home—the group hesitantly decided to ease back from the busy road life their success had brought them.
Skip Sasser left the group and headed up to Nashville seeking out songwriting opportunities in the City That Cash Built. The remaining members of Alibi, not ready to give the band up entirely, found a new lead singer-guitarist in local Scott Nickell—and in 1998, with a female vocalist, Katie Stephens, of Blackshear, Georgia. Eventually, the successful group played their final gig.
An emotional reunion took place in June of this year—seeing all six members of the award-winning Alibi gather together to play at a benefit for Skip Sasser, who is currently battling a life-threatening illness. Friends, family, and musicians united in generosity at L L Creek Bar and Grill raising over six-thousand dollars for a dear friend.
What came across most to me that evening was the love that those six band members of Alibi still held for one another. It's hard enough just to put a band together and keep it going—through successes and failures—from juke joints to concert stages—in 15-passenger vans, rental buses, and airplanes.
Alibi did it all—and did it well.
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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