My older cousin was in a heavy metal band that opened for a lot of big named bands in the 80s and 90s. I remember when he would come home from being on tour in his Porsche 911; we would all sit in his bedroom and ask him to play his guitar for us. He would sit on his oversized Peavey amp with his legs crossed at the knee; his long brown hair cascading down onto a cut off Guns N Roses t-shirt while his boney fingers flowed across the strings of his white Fender guitar. It was from him that I fell in love with rock music but he wasn’t my only musical influence. I grew up surrounded by all forms of music.
I lived in a house with a Motown loving father and I remember the nights, laying on his bed with him while we listened to The Temptations and The Four Tops. I also remember riding with mother to garage sales and flea markets; along our way, who despite being a renowned Southern Gospel singer, she made sure that I was introduced to Elvis, the Righteous Brothers, and Simon & Garfunkel. I spent my summer days with my grandparents and my grandpa introduced me to Country Western greats like George Jones and Merle Haggard; along with concreting a passion for Bluegrass music.
My grandpa had a wooden rocking chair with a green cushion and a big Record player console in the back bedroom of his house. I would spend most rainy days or lazy afternoons sitting in that rocking chair listening to old records. I would listen to his classic George Jones, Buck Owens or bluegrass albums but occasionally I would bring some of my records from home. I would bring my favorite rock albums and play them quietly on his vintage machine, while rhythmically rocking in the cushioned wooden rocking chair. I went through a period of time in my childhood where I was obsessed with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (an obsession that has carried itself into my adulthood) and I would listen to my Led Zeppelin IV album at my grandfather’s house on that old vintage machine. I remember one time in particular when I was listening to Stairway to Heaven and my ‘Papa’, as we called him, came in and asked, “What in the world are you listening to?” Not sure how he would respond, I told him that I was listening to a song called “Stairway to Heaven”, so he sat down on the bed that sat at the other end of the room and asked me what the song was about. I explained the premise of the song and being the religious man he was says, “well thats not really how going to Heaven works but it does sound like a nice song.” He smiled at me and walked away.
I think about him every time I hear that song now-a-days. Despite the amazing singing and playing ability of the members of Led Zeppelin, I am reminded of the sweet disposition of my grandpa and despite his disapproval of the type of music that I listened to, he always supported and loved my individuality. I wish for that day that my Stairway to Heaven comes, so that I can see that sweet man once again.
The Led Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catching fire on May 6, 1937 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey image by Gus Pasquerella – http://www.lakehurst.navy.mil/nlweb/images/1213d.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=632191
Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin by and accredited to Dina Regine – http://www.flickr.com/photos/divadivadina/465006376/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8005350
Aguhla Record Player image by and licensed under the Creative Commons Attibution 2.0 Generic License, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52890
Led Zeppelin IV album cover image by and accredited to Atlantic Records, http://www.ledzeppelin.com/photos/memorabilia/45s-7-sleeves?page=1
Full resolution macro shot of vinyl record image by and accredited to Project-128 – BEOGRAM 1202, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46688419