Dad Rock

 Posted by
Dec 262013


Dad Rock.

“Dad Rock” is a term for all that old ’60s and ’70s music that today’s dads listen to. I’ve seen references to it online, heard my kids mention it, and I’ve even tuned into a radio show called Dad Rock. Understanding the demographic of this site, I think it’s fair to say many of us have Dads that are from the pre-rock era. That’s the case for me, too, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have any rock(ish) records in the family record collection when I was a kid.

My parents were in college when rock and roll emerged, and were graduates when it was only a couple of years old. To them, rock and roll was teen music, utterly beneath them. In the 1950s, the median age for getting married was 20 for women and 23 for men; if you were in your 20s, it’s safe to say you identified as a grown-up.

My dad was an amateur musician and was in charge of entertainment on his army base in Germany, but he never ran into Elvis (who was there at roughly the same time). In 1977, he and my mom were dragged by another couple to go see Elvis on what would be his last tour; they attended ironically and the performance simply confirmed their long-held biases.

But they had been liberal young parents in the ’60s. We had a Pete Seeger record stuck in among the jazz, classical, light opera, and show tunes albums. And they were not completely closed off from the pop culture. Indeed, I think they tried to like rock at some point in the late ’60s or early ’70s, but didn’t get too far.

What rock or pop-rock records did your parents have? Here’s about all we had:

  • Simon and Garfunkel – the one with Mrs. Robinson (Bookends?)
  • The Hair soundtrack
  • Tommy by the Who

I think my dad, despite not really getting rock (I remember one conversation I had with him where he had no clue who Chuck Berry was) respected the Who’s crack at making an opera. He never listened to the album much, but he liked owning it and I believe he went to see the movie version, and possibly the stage show.

Dad turned 80 the other day. We got him tickets to Madame Butterfly.


  17 Responses to “Dad Rock”

  1. Suburban kid

    Correction: Madame Butterfly. /opera dumbass

  2. Funny, I read it as you intended! Sorry I didn’t catch that for you.

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    Hey, if there can be an opera around the Life and Times of Anna Nicole Smith, why not Madame Bovary?

  4. 2000 Man

    My mom had a couple of Rock ‘N Roll albums. She was a teenager during the Rock ‘N Roll era. Dad was in college then and hated Rock ‘N Roll. He didn’t like Big Band, either. He said it was too fuddy duddy. He liked Classical, Show Tunes and Jazz (especially Dave Brubeck). But he was the kind of guy who liked his music on the radio. He knew when they were going to play his favorite version of Peer Gynt and would get up early or stay up late as required.

    Mom had a bunch of 50’s collections. The one I remember most was the 1220 WGAR Oldies double album that I kept in my room. It had Get a Job, Blue Moon, Yakkity Yak – all those old hits. I loved that record and played it until I moved out and she apparently lost it or tossed it.

  5. diskojoe

    Along w/seeing trips to Hanoi, Vietnam being offered as prizes @ game shows, I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that in interviews w/musicians, I read that they were influenced by the Beatles/Stones/even the Clash records in their parents’ record collections.

    My parents were Polish immigrants who were in their late 30s when they came here in the late 50s. Rock ‘n Roll was never in their taste. The records that I remember them having growing up was Polish pop music, polkas (there is a difference between the two), & waltz music (my father was a big fan). They also enjoyed watching Lawrence Welk on the telly. The only slight concession to modern music was that they also had albums by Herb Albert & The Tiajana Brass, who were quite popular in the ’60s. I got my taste in music from my sister, who was a Beatles fan in her youth. I think I belong to the last generation who has any memories of the Beatles being together.

    Finally, in 1989, I got the short stick & had to take my parents to a 50th Anniversary reunion concert by the stars of the Lawrence Welk show. I got throught be by imagining it was the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

  6. My Dad at least seemed extremely open minded about whatever music I wanted to listen to as a kid, but as far as I could tell he only liked 2 records: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife.” I’m going to share an excerpt of a long piece I’ve been working on later today or tomorrow. It’s cool to explore the musical influences of our family members. I always welcome hearing people talk about this stuff.

  7. Hank Fan

    I am a first generation rock fan in my family. My parents were both born in the 1930s. As teens, mom liked Johnny Ray and Dad liked Frank Sinatra and the Four Freshman. They were a few years too old for Buddy Holly/Elvis.

    The closest thing they had to a “rock” album in their collection, and this is a real stretch, was the Graduate soundtrack, featuring a few songs from Simon and Garfunkel. I discovered rock on my own through hearing the Beatles, the Who, and the Doors on rock radio as a kid in the late 1970s.

    But that being said, mom and dad still played a ton of music in my house and exposed me to many great genres like classical, opera, bluegrass, and folk/singer-songwriter. We always had something playing in our house.

    Now my kids are getting to the age where I started to care about music and rock is pretty much dead. My son has shown some interest in the Beatles and my daughter likes Francoise Hardy’s french tunes from the 1960s, but I can’t really see them becoming rock fans. So it was a one generation phenomena in my family.

  8. Well, this is a great day – and thread – to thank my dad for all the music I learned to love from him, since it’s his 83rd birthday today – happy birthday Dad!

    Dad loved Sinatra (first generation Italian-American growing up in South Philly – what are the odds? :)) and other vocalists and jazz, especially Chet Baker. He wasn’t much on rock & roll when it hit though. But thanks to him I listened to music pretty much from the womb and love much of what he loves – Sinatra, Baker, Roger Miller. And I won’t turn off others – like Herb Albert or Jack Jones – that I heard so many times as a kid.

    I still continue to find out musicians that dad saw live in little clubs in Philly – Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Monk, Ella, and on and on – back when you’d see them in a little restaurant or bar and sit and chat with them before the show or buy them a drink afterwards. And I recently learned he saw James Taylor back at the Main Point before anyone knew who he was.

    Thanks again, Dad!

  9. cliff sovinsanity

    My dad claims to have seen Fats Domino and Elvis Presley in Ottawa in 1957. I say “claims” because he has been known to embellish his stories. Regardless, he says Fats was the better of the two. If the date is correct this would put him at the age of 20. He might have been to old or just not interested in rock and roll because he never bought any of those record.
    The only records I remember him playing were French records by Charles Aznavour and Joe Dassin which were usually cranked while he cooked us dinner. In the car the radio would either be tuned to local French language CBC station or the local news/talk station which played the soft hits of the top 40.
    My rock influences came from my polar opposite older brothers. One liked Def Leppard and Foreigner while the other listened to Elvis Costello and The Clash. I’m sure you can guess which one had the greater influence.

  10. My parents were in high school in the late 50s, but neither one liked rock ‘n’ roll–especially my mom. She was a Judy Garland and showtunes type person. I remember her liking the Carpenters too. Actually, my first ever “rock” concert was the Carpenters in 1973 or 74. My dad was going to take my mom, but she got sick so he took me instead. Maybe I should be ashamed, but I thought they were pretty good at the time. Although I definitely outgrew that feeling fairly soon.

    My dad was more of a big band and jazz fan. I remember him playing “Time Out” buy Dave Brubeck, and both of my parents liked Herb Alpert. My dad did like Simon & Garfunkel a lot, so I used to sit and listen to them a lot with him, and I still like them for more than nostalgic reasons. I remember him buying Cat Stevens “Tea for the Tillerman” too, and I still think it’s a decent album even though I don’t think much of his conversion to fundamentalism.

    My biggest influence, howver, was the Mrkonich family two doors away on Carver Avenue in Duluth, Minnesota. Two girls and a boy that were all older than me but seemed to like playing their records for me. They were huge Beatles fans, so that’s where I got my introduction and they’ve never stopped being my favorite group. I remeber they had “Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby” too, which became my favorite comedy album when I was a kid. Haven’t heard it in decades, so I don’t know if it still holds up.

    I listened to Top 40 radio constantly but could feel it becoming less enjoyable as the 70s wore on. It was very lonely being an adolescent Beatles fan when the girls were into bad disco and soft rock and the boys were into bad metal. I started liking soem punk and new wave, but that kind of musc never had much of a following in Duluth.

  11. My mom and dad first met in the CYO band in the late forties. Ma played sax and clarinet and my dad played French Horn. My dad said that the French Horn ‘saved his life’ when he was held back from deployment to Korea as the Fort Leonard Wood band needed a french horn for the parades. He also played jazz piano and church organ.

    Ma liked most music, mostly classical and musicals. One of her favorites which she would sing along with was the soundtrack to ‘Porgy and Bess’.

    Dad was the record buyer in the family and was pretty ecelectic as far a music goes – he liked everything but country. He had a pretty big collection of 78 rpm ‘albums’ – I remember Stan Kenton specifically He had an acetate record cutter he had used with the jazz band that he showed us kids a few times, and also owned a wire recorder, the precursor to tape machines that recorded audio on a spool of wire. The wire was extremely fragile and apt to break. One thing that sticks in the mind (like Proust) is the smell of those machines operating – ozony and waxy and woody – unlike any other smell I can think of.

    The mainstays of his record collection were the great piano players of the forties and fifties – Oscar Peterson was his demigod – also Art Tatum, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. Also a lot of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzy – the small combo be-bop of the early fifties. He also liked some oddball things – ‘Voice of the Xtabay’ by peruvian? vocalist Yma Sumac, or ‘Shorty Rogers meets Tarzan’ which was the source of the first Afro-Cuban rhythms I had experienced.

    He also was a J. S. Bach nut and he played Bach on record as well as on piano and later organ after he started dawn moonlighting as a 6 o clock mass church organist at Holy Rosary Irish. He also loved Russian composers – Shostakovich, Mussorgsky, Tchaicovsky, and the romantics – Debussy, Chopin, Grieg. With a heavy coating of Mahler.

    In the late fifities and early sixties there was a weekly radio show on one of the local classical music stations – ‘the Midnight Special’ that featured live and recorded performances of the first wave of the ‘folk scare’ – Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Mahalia Jackson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. The show was on pretty late but they usually let me stay up to listen to those shows.

    In the car, if it was just me and him we would listen to a low-wattage local radio station from Harvey, IL – WBEE – that played gut bucket blues and jazz. So I wound up coming into the rock era from the blues side – more Stones than Beatles at first.

    Possibly the greatest thing the old man did for me was to take me down to the first Grant Park blues festival in 1969 – the lineup included Bo Diddley, Little Milton, Hound Dog Taylor, and Muddy Waters. I remember seeing him sitting under a tree reading a book while I sat up as close as I could get to the stage. That was the first real ‘concert’ I was ever at, and I thank him for it…

  12. Awesome stuff! Awesome first concert!

  13. As usual I feel totally weird being so much younger than everyone else. My parents were born in 1967 and 1970, respectively.

    My dad has really good taste – he loves Bruce Springsteen (especially Darkness on the Edge of Town), and he also listens to some Motown, some classic rock, and some cool new wave artists like Elvis Costello and Squeeze. He’s a really big influence on my tastes, though we don’t like all the same stuff by a long shot – I think I have slightly broader taste too.

    My mom basically listens to mellow female singer-songwriters like Dar Williams. She also listens to Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor. The music she likes is mainly classical and chamber music.

  14. That’s cool. I’m glad this place can work for many ages.

  15. My parents were pre-rock. We had a lot of Broadway show albums like “Camelot,” “Sound of Music,” and “West Side Story” along with classical, vocal jazz, and some light folk — New Christy Minstrels-type stuff.

    The only thing remotely “rockish” growing up in our house was Peter, Paul, and Mary, and a “Stars Are Swinging 1970” cassette sampler that my dad got with a Panasonic top loader deck that I ended up using more than anyone. The “Stars” sampler had some Harry Nilsson on it. When I was an early teen my mom developed a Johnny Cash phase. My uncle gave me Roger Miller’s “Dang Me” when I was about six, that also included “Chug-a-lug” — which is weird. Later in life my dad admitted to liking Big Band stuff — and would listen to a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy CD that one of my brothers had left behind.

    My first concert was Al Hirt at the Minneapolis Auditorium with my dad, who took a station wagon full of nuns from our church and he let me tag along. Walking into a show with six nuns and an eight-year-old — that’s stylin’.

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s been interesting reading about other Hallers’ folks…

    My parents are both immigrants: my Mom from England, coming here in 1961; Dad from Austria, via England, and arriving here about 1940 or so. Dad’s parents were musicologists, and while my Grandfather got the fame, my Grandmother did much of his research. Grandpa, being all things Baroque/Classical music, clearly instilled an interest in my father, who continues to sing in a Bach choir. But Dad and his brother ended up going to high school at the Putney School, which we fondly refer to as his Communist Work School education. That school was instrumental in his love of folk music, and there are many, many old folk albums in my parents’ stacks. Mom also liked classical and folk music; they, like Suburban Kid, also had the (London Production) Hair Soundtrack, which I memorized early without having any idea what some of the “descriptive” language in the lyrics was referring to (!).

    So in my parents’ music collection: most things classical, especially if it was choral music; a whole lotta folk, especially Pete Seeger; some soundtracks, and here and there, other interesting things like an old Frank Sinatra album. They were also really in to the Beatles, so we have most of the early stuff on vinyl.

    My parents have been very open to me and my siblings’ taste in music (unless it got too “jangly” and then they made us turn it off). So much for REM.

  17. My parents had hundreds of records but none of them were rock and I don’t recall any of them being played except for the Christmas ones.

    The only name I can remember my mom dropping was Harry Belefonte. She listens to a lot of classical.

    Growing up, my dad either listened to news radio or ob/gyn lectures (and yes, to anticipate your next question, he is an ob/gyn). I only found out a few years ago that he really likes gospel, which is a genre that I know little about but would like to explore. I’ve gotten him cds by the Staples, the Soul Stirrers and the Blind Boys of Alabama, although I’m not certain he can discern between cool, old timey gospel and cheesy-ass church music.

    On family trips, we used to listen to the AM pop hits from the late 60’s through the mid 70’s and that stuff had a big influence on me.

    I think my mom subtly influenced me too because when I got a record player in 7th grade, I would play records for her and ask her what she thought. Her standard for liking a song was that it “had a tune”, which I suspect lead to my sweet tooth for pop hooks.

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