When I was 15, I voluntarily slept in the garage of our home in California’s Mojave Desert. I hung blankets to form a makeshift bedroom. Other than the occasional snake and/or scorpion, it was just me, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.
Note: Stevie Ray Vaughan was only 14 then and Joe Bonamassa hadn’t been born yet.
It might seem like my garage bedroom was crowded but it wasn’t. It was simply the only place I could listen to my musical “roommates” at an hour and volume that wouldn’t drive the Old Man to gunfire.
However, I remember pushing the boundaries of his patience one night (morning, actually) when I was air-guitaring to “Badge.” He bashed into my room and said the dishes vibrating in the cupboards woke up Mom.
“Who the hell is that?” he wanted to know, pointing at my stereo. “And why does he have to be so loud.”
“Eric Clapton,” I replied, still frozen in a pretend riff. “He’s popular. And I had him turned down.”
“Clapton,” he said. “Sounds like a venereal disease.”
He leaned over and twisted the volume knob down to almost zero, telling me that if I woke up Mom again, he’d return and do the same thing to my head.
I sulked. Eric Clapton an STD? Anyone with a brain knew Clapton was godlike. The Old Man was the most out of touch human on the planet. How could anyone not know who Clapton was?
Then again, what could be expected of someone whose favorite song was “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” (Patti Page, January 1953). I’d watched the song on TV once. If any music looked influenced by drug use, this was it.
The Old Man was 36 when we clashed about Clapton. Not exactly ancient, but not necessarily “with it” either. Compared to me now, he was just a kid himself then.
Exactly how out of touch my father was continued through the next dozen years or so. He failed to recognize The Doors, Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater and, to my everlasting family shame, B.B. King.
I’m 65 and more than familiar with how he must have felt that night in the garage. I have no idea — and don’t care — who Lil Wayne is. The same goes for Bruno Mars, Post Malone, Khalid and Kid Rock. The name Maroon Five sounds like Coast Guard radio code.
The grandkids think I’m ancient because one of my favorite songs is Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning,” which they can hear coming from my office downstairs. It makes the floor vibrate. It was popular, they say, when Moses led the Israelites out of bondage.
They may be right. My pop music interest probably stopped somewhere in my 30s, when I ceased paying attention to anything that wasn’t directly related to the blues.
Today, I know Robert Cray, Tab Benoit, Michael Burks and Joe Bonamassa but couldn’t tell you who has the No. 1 single now. I am definitely no longer with it.
On the bright side, there’s a legitimate reason now for cranking up the volume all the way. I wouldn’t be able to hear it if I didn’t.
More important, maybe my grandkids will gain an appreciation for real music even if they have to listen to it with their feet.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.