Stars And Cars: John Thomas Griffith
Cowboy Mouth guitarist talks about his favorite rides.
Web2Carz Staff Writer
Published: July 31st, 2012
irst and foremost, John Thomas Griffith is a rock-n-roll guitarist. He’s played with the Red Rockers and, along with Fred LeBlanc, founded Cowboy Mouth. He’s toured with bands like U2, the Go-Go’s, Hootie and the Blowfish, Bare Naked Ladies, Sister Hazel and Better Then Ezra, and he was inducted into the Texas Guitar Players' Hall of Fame. But Griffith is also a car guy, and despite his brushes with rock stardom, he hasn’t let his love and memories of cars fall by the wayside.
“My dad was an avid fixer-upper,” Griffith said. “Really on anything. If you can change the oil yourself, why should you pay someone to do it?”
Griffith has owned a number of vehicles over the years but a couple of them really stand out.
“We had a ’64 Plymouth Valiant that was pretty cool. It was a four-door with a slant six,” he said. “It was white with an aqua interior. In 1978, as a senior in high school, that was my first car.”
Life on the road in the late ‘90s, provided for some interesting experiences with automobiles.
But that Valiant wasn’t his only love. After driving a little Volkswagen and a Subaru, he bought a 1967 Firebird.
“Great car—a convertible with a white top. It had an inline sprint pack with overhead cams and a four-barrel carburetor,” he said. “But I wasn’t happy with the four-barrel, so I switched it out for a two-barrel.”
And that’s when the story turns tragic for the car and its proud owner.
“I wasn’t happy with how it was running, something with the compression. So I took it to a GM mechanic to have it fixed,” he said. “They screwed it up, started a fire, and burned the whole front end of my car. And it was gone.”
And although insurance money would never be as good as the Firebird, it would have helped replace the car, or at least help with the pain. But a slight error in judgment stopped that from happening.
“Since I wasn’t driving it I took the insurance off of it, so…there you go.”
Life on the road, when Cowboy Mouth was starting out in the late ‘90s, provided for some interesting experiences with automobiles.
“We had a red, boxy Nissan we used to travel in when we were starting out. It had the dipstick between the seats, like in the center console.”
And that car met an early end when that dipstick wasn’t actually used.
“When it finally died, Fred was driving it, and it was bone-dry. There was nothing liquid on the dipstick.
“But that was a fun car. We used to have the guitars stacked right behind us and when Fred would slam on the brakes the guitars would hit us in the back of the head.”
The band also toured in a vehicle similar to an airport shuttle bus.
“We bought it from like a Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic school. We only had that one for like a year or so.”
But with the band playing about 150 shows a year and still recording, including their latest album This Train, Griffith doesn’t get a lot of time with his cars.
“When I’m back home I have a 2000 Discovery 2 Land Rover,” he said. “But the fun one is the ’86 Mercedes 560 SL convertible.”
And he still owns a piece of his childhood, where his love for cars began.
“I have a pretty big collection of Hot Wheels,” he said. “There’s about 60 or 70 of them still in the box.”