Local musician and songwriter Doug Walters (of FunHouse, Torture Town, The Problems) recently put some words together about the albums that had the most profound effect on him and changed his life. This is the part seven of the ongoing series:
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Mentor
When you are young, you have passion. You have the hunger for whatever you trip is and the energy and the space and the time to feed it. With the vitality that comes with youth, your desire really has a chance to manifest. In most cases, this is only time in life this kind of thing happens. Life takes its toll. It takes your time and slowly burns up your vitality. We get one chance to really burn. But when you are young, you are so distracted that many times you miss that chance. That’s probably why they say youth is wasted on the young.
For me, the passion was always music. In a way, I was lucky, because with music I could see that through. On my own. I didn’t need much. Just ears and a heart. And a little bit of yard-raking money. But there was one other element that was crucial, not so much for the passion as much as the development and manifestation of it: Direction.
You are young and you love music and you have the fire and the drive and the hunger to eat it up, but you don’t know where to even start. It’s such an endless sea of music out there, and all you’ve heard is what happened to be around in your tiny little bubble, which isn’t much, but is enough to at least cause a spark. But you can’t drive and you don’t have any records and you aren’t hip to anything yet. But, as the old Eastern saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Enter the rock and roll mentor.
As life changing as music or as any album can be, so is the cat that hipped you to it. The one who planted the seed. Almost every serious music lover or musician had at least one person in their life that got the ball rolling for them. I have had several in my life, starting with my dad, who planted the blues seed, cranking the Allman Brothers and Clapton all the time. My older brother, Dickie, started the Kiss craze. And my uncle, who turned me on to ZZ Top. And then I met Kelley McLeod a little later, who turn me on to Hendrix and Rush. My best friend, Jeff Caldwell (and his older brother, Kurt) hipped me to so many, many things, such as AC/DC and Van Halen and Skynyrd, and then Queensryche and Yngwie Malmsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, a little later Bowie and Iggy, and then The White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age, and then Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic, and Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathaway, and a bit later, James Hall, and, lately, Martin Sexton. (He’s been planting Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan seeds forever but they haven’t quite taken root all the way yet …).
I had two rocker bro’s in middle school —Chad Baltzegar and Jimmy Hilton — who got me in to Maiden and Priest and Ozzy and Motörhead and The Scorpions and Pink Floyd. Tony Ippolito opened my mind up in high school. He started my love affair with The Cult and Zeppelin. My man Billy Lide got me into The Doors and Tom Waits. My good buddy and sometimes bandmate, John Kennedy, turned me on to Jaco and Zappa. My old girlfriend, Brooke Scaggs, even though she is younger (and a girl!), turned me on to Nick Drake. Chauncey Jordan, one of my best friends I’ve known for over 20 years, keeps my stone age ass hip to current stuff. Like Secret Machines and Arcade Fire.
But nowadays, technology has taken all the work out of it. Everything that exists is at the click of a button. You don’t even have to leave your room. But back then, you had to work for it. You had to really want it. Earn it. You had to do the homework. And the legwork. Really search and seek things out. The hard way. It took two or three weeks to make things happen. Sometimes more. Back then you had to rake a couple of yards and score a ride to the mall or ride your bike 10 miles to the record store and really hustle to get your music. If you had an album or a t-shirt or a poster, it’s because you busted your ass for it. There were no iPods or iTunes or internet. You had a rake and some Glad lawn and leaf bags and you the radio (which used to really be legit), and you had your rock and roll guru. And the connection you had with him was life-changing.
This was the super hip cat that lived next door or down the street or a couple of streets over. Maybe, if you were so lucky, he was your older brother. Or he was your good buddy’s older brother, or the friend of your buddy’s older brother. He was usually always at least a few years older, and usually either went to reform school or didn’t fuck with school at all. A lot of times, you were just as scared of him as you revered him.
Somehow, this guy knew everything about music. Everything. Particularly rock and roll. He was the guy who had the Japanese imports. And the live bootlegs. And the rare pictures. And the singer’s band’s album before he joined the band you were digging. The guy who could get not only tickets, but floor seats (cue angels singing…). He had long hair and perhaps a bit of a mustache (or the hint of one on the way). He was the first guy you know to smoke weed. You bought the sears version of the leather bracelet he had. You thought it was the coolest thing you’d ever seen in your life when you saw him de-seed some weed on a Sabbath record and roll up and joint and start puffing. He drove a Camaro. Dangerously. There was a roach clip hanging from the mirror that casually asked JohnnyLaw to go fuck himself. He had a bad ass woman named Nadine or Stella. Who had cool, feathered hair. She never said a word, but goddamn was she a stone cold fox! You could only dream of one day having a babe half that hot. And the day you went to Van Halen with him and Nadine, or the day he gave you a live Sabbath from Tokyo was the greatest day on earth. And no day before or since would ever even remotely compare to that day.
He planted the seed. He started the fire. He’s the reason you rocked balls back then. He’s the reason you rock balls today. He’s the reason you play the shit out of the guitar or burn on the skins. He’s the reason you were such a cool motherfucker back then. When you hit your little scene, you went in like you were running shit. Because you went in with all the shit he hipped you to. And you were the hip cat on the fast track in your crew.
Maybe you even turned into that guy. To your little brother and his would-be wayward ass whipper snapper friends that’d be all up in the wrong shit if it weren’t for your tutelage. But chances are, you’d never be cool enough to be that guy. You might have fool some of the idiots on your block, but you always knew you were no Kelley McLeod. Or Troy Tague. Or Kurt Caldwell. Or Danny Potter. And you never would be. Those shoes would always be way too big to fill.
You wonder whatever happened to that dude. He was always a very rare breed. Practically endangered right from the start. But then one day, he just disappeared. Just like that, he was gone. There were cats back then (and even now) standing in for him like a surrogate or a sub, but the real guy is no longer. Somewhere between 1980 and 1983, the world got so fucking lame and plastic and so full of complete bullshit, that guy split the scene. For good. Right about the time the synthesizer somehow eased in the backdoor and started stealing the guitar’s spot while we just sat there and watched it happen. Somewhere between Diver Down and 1984. Somewhere between Moving Pictures and Signals. Somewhere between Presence and In Through the Out Door. Somewhere between El Loco and Eliminator. Somewhere between For Those About to Rock and Fly on the Wall. Somewhere between Powerslave and Somewhere in Time. Somewhere between Defenders of the Faith and Turbo. Somewhere between Blackout and Love at First Sting. Somewhere between Sabotage and Never Say Die.
Right about the time Lynyrd Skynyrd died in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Right about the time Kiss unmasked. When Areosmith stopped rocking. Right when the video killed the radio. When the cassette tape replaced the long-play record album. When the Honda express replaced the CR 125. When the Rubic’s cube replaced the throwing star. When the parachute pants replaced the bell bottoms. When the flip-flop replaced the boot. When The Breakfast Club replaced The Outsiders. When the roller skate replaced the power chord. When jams replace Birdwell Beach Britches. When the popped collar replaced the bandanna. When the sling head replaced the pot head. When the down the middle part disappeared. When bangs hit the scene. When neon-green replaced solid-black. When the yuppie replaced the hippie. When Coke became New Coke. When cocaine replaced weed.
When we traded art for commerce. When we traded our balls for technology. When we traded our hearts for fashion. When rock and roll moved to Wall Street. When we traded our souls for the almighty dollar. When we drained every last drop of blood out of the record machine. Right when planet earth completely sold out is when this guy packed up all his records and he and Nadine road off into the sunset. And all that’s left are the memories.
That guy and those days are gone forever. Green Day on YouTube is about as close as you’re gonna get these days. But we still have the memories. And the leather bracelet is somewhere in a box in a closet in your mom’s house. And we will always have the music. The music that reminds us that we were beautiful once. God bless those days. Wherever they went. And God bless that dude. Wherever he is.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.