Published on December 20th, 2016 | by Brittain Thompson1
Will Griffith: Oxford’s Favorite Bartender and Guitarist
Will Griffith is, at this point, a staple of Proud Larrys’ and Oxford Music. When you step through the doors, the long beard and ever-worn glasses are there to greet you. His current project, The Great Dying, has been steadily playing around town and will soon record an album. We met Griffith for a drink at The Blind Pig and chatted about how he got here.
“I grew up listening to country and nothing but country,” said Griffith. “Then I discovered punk rock and heavy metal and immediately wanted to play drums. My parents wouldn’t let me play drums, so instead I played bass.”
After picking up the bass guitar, Griffith played in a metal cover band ranging from The Misfits to Slayer and Metallica.
“It was perfectly terrible, but it was so good,” said Griffith. “Playing for five people felt like an arena.”
That sensation of stepping off the stage after a great show has stuck with him.
“I was stoned on that feeling,” said Griffith. “I’m still high on it, and I’ll always have that with me. You can do all the drugs you want, but if you play a good show you’ll ride that buzz for weeks.”
His time with the cover band continued until a friend started writing songs on an acoustic guitar.
“Alt-Country was really popping at the time,” said Griffith. “It was this movement that really grabbed a hold of me and I just haven’t stopped. I’ve been immersed and enthralled by that since.”
Griffith comes from a bit of a music background. His father played in the band Joe Frank and The Knights.
“I came from a musical family, so that was always there,” said Griffith.
In Oxford, he is now best known for his newest project, The Great Dying. The act is typically Griffith with vocals and guitar accompanied by Kell Kellum on slide guitar.
“I don’t know what to call it man,” said Griffith. “People keep calling it country. It’s kind of songwriter, but I think Americana would be the best way to put it.”
Starting New Year’s Day The Great Dying will be going into Dial Back Studio to record an album with Matt Patton of Dexateens and Drive-By Truckers
“Half of it is gonna be garage rock and half of it is what you’re used to hearing when you see Kell and I,” said Griffith. “We’re gonna try to marry these things…so that there’s a balance. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing one side as garage rock punk and the other side as the sound that Kell and I do.”
He is tentatively titling the album Bloody Noses and Roses.
“I haven’t told anyone yet,” said Griffith. “But I think I want to call it Bloody Noses and Roses. It’s got a little bit of violence and a little bit of romance.”
Griffith’s time in the service industry is less so the family tradition that his musical gifts are.
“When I was 21 I was working at a real estate office in my hometown, Cleveland, Mississippi,” said Griffith. “It was my family’s real estate office and I hated it.”
The clerical work ultimately proved too monotonous for Griffith.
“On a lunch break on a Tuesday I decided I was gonna pack my truck up with as much stuff as I could fit in it and drive to Colorado.”
Griffith was living with his friend, John Lewis. After a time Lewis decided to move back home.
“He had to go back to Mississippi so for a while I was homeless there, but homeless in the most beautiful place,” said Griffith “It was the happiest time of my life.”
This left Griffith in a real need for a job.
“I’d never worked at a restaurant in my life and I got hired on the spot,” said Griffin. “I was a busser then became head host. I didn’t even serve or bartend there.”
Eventually Griffith came back to his home in the Delta where he began waiting tables and bartending. Along the way he cooked in grill houses and white cloth restaurants.
“When I was looking for a job [in Oxford], it was Proud Larrys’ or nowhere,” said Griffith. “I knew that was where I wanted to work.”
From his time in Colorado to pouring drinks at Oxford’s favorite Venue, the people he’s met are what make the job for him.
“I’ve done it all man and I love it. The characters you meet in Restaurants are not unlike the characters you meet in bands,” said Griffith. “Everyone is an artist, even if you’re not painting or singing or writing. They’re artists because they’re dealing with people…they’re observing the world from a different perspective.”