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Tribute to a Local Radio Legend 

State of the Arts

click to enlarge G. G. Griggs
  • G. G. Griggs

“Why is it the good people that make your life full of joy are always the first ones to go?”

A MySpace user who identified himself as “Cody F” posed that query about Gerald “G.G.” Griggs two days after Griggs, a popular on-air personality at St. Albans’ WLFE country radio, died in a car crash. He was 50.

Griggs — also a singer-songwriter and poet — was traveling north on Bushey Road in Swanton at about 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 13 when he veered sharply off a lefthand curve and struck a large tree. His car burst into flames. Rescue workers extricated Griggs, but he succumbed to his injuries at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

Vermont country radio fans are in mourning; Griggs was a lovable guy with an infectious on-air demeanor and a singing voice recalling that of Don Williams.

Griggs worked at WLFE as host of the Saturday morning show “North Country Trading Post” and then became host of “North Country Friday Nights,” which showcased local talent. Often, he slept on the studio couch on Friday so he’d be ready for his Saturday show, even though he lived just a short walk away.

WLFE listeners woke daily to Griggs, and he wowed them with his vast knowledge of and passion for country music. He wanted to meet Merle Haggard, George Jones or Tanya Tucker, but he never did. Of his own songwriting skills, he said on his MySpace page: “I put a pen to paper, a melody to lyrics and play my guitar as I sing a song.”

Griggs was born in Morrisville and grew up in Craftsbury. He was playing guitar by age 13 and writing country music before high school graduation. He also wrote — and lived — gospel music. His songs have titles such as “Happiest Years,” “Prettiest Peach on the Tree” and “Uncrossed Ts and Open As,” a song he wrote for his son-in-law, Alex, while the latter served in Iraq.

After Griggs died, online tributes popped up quickly on his MySpace page. Keeghan Nolan, a fast-rising 15-year-old country singer from Fairfield, wrote: “You have inspired me and have helped me develop into the songwriter and singer I am today. I will continue on with my work, and you will always be a huge part of my career. Thank you for all you have done for me.”

Though Griggs earned his fans, he inherited heart disease. After two bypass surgeries and heart attacks, he underwent a heart transplant at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, in June 2000. He subsequently devoted much of his time to organ-donor awareness, and twice participated in the U.S. Transplant Games — once as a singer during closing ceremonies.

On his MySpace page, Griggs listed two heroes: Steven Giangrosso, his 18-year-old heart donor — whose parents he met — and “anyone who may give of their flesh before or after death so another may continue to live.”

Despite his physical challenges, Griggs’ enthusiasm for life was clearly heartfelt. “You touched so many lives with your music, whether it be on the radio or through your writing, [or] your coaching of softball and soccer,” wrote his daughter Jolene Griggs, 25, on MySpace. “So many lives were touched by you, but mine especially . . . You were a great teacher, father, friend.”

Griggs leaves behind another daughter and son, as well as two grandchildren.

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