What would Dad think of the bling bling?

I grew up in a house full of music. Granted, it was a trailer house with way too many kids and a whole lot of chaos. But there was also music.

My dad, Mel, was a rock n’ roller. On Friday nights, he and his band would head for Harold’s Club in Oakdale where they would rock the house – or so I was told. They were no longer dairy farmers or cement truck drivers or construction workers or mechanics wearing jeans and coveralls and work boots.

At that moment, they were different people – dressed in flashy silver jackets, black shirts and black pants. They held electric guitars and drumsticks, instead of hammers and milkers and shovels.

Granted, their fingernails were still stained from oil, dirt and God only knows what else. But those flashy silver jackets transformed them into something else.

I remember as kids, we’d beg for the opportunity to open Dad’s closet and try on the show jackets. If he was around, it was unthinkable. You didn’t touch the jackets. Ever.

But every once in a while, Mom would say we could put them on for a second – “but don’t get anything on them, don’t run around in them and don’t tear anything.”

So we’d take the silver jackets off the hangers and carefully put them on. Oh, the scratchy material – it was like heaven. You could almost cut your finger off by running your hand down the outside of the sleeves due to so many sequins and a flashy, sharp thread made of synthetic something.

We’d look in the mirror and grab the microphone stands – they kept them in their bedroom because there was nowhere else to store them. We’d pretend to sing “Pretty Woman” and “I Walk the Line” and “Hound Dog.”

And then it was time to put the jackets back.

When the band came over to practice, the little tin house just shook – how do you put a lead guitar, bass guitar, trap set, synthesizer and three guys singing on microphones through amplifiers, in a trailer house, without creating noise? The rivets probably popped out of the aluminum as they gyrated and jumped and swung their guitars in unison.

Sometimes they’d practice in the jackets. My dad always said “a good band has to feel like they’re good. They have to look good.”

And they had to be flashy, with all members dressed alike. The more flash, the more exciting they were. I guess this was the early 70s version of “bling bling.”

So with the furniture moved into the hallway, they would set up the stage. There was very little room for dancing – the band was only about two feet from filling the entire width of the trailer house. So, we had to move the table and chairs into the tiny kitchen, if we wanted to dance.

And dance we did. Sometimes Dad (who was the lead singer and lead guitar player) would ask us to come up to the microphone and sing along. That was great. This wasn’t some sort of cheesy karaoke machine – this was the real deal.

And we sang songs from Glen Campbell, John Denver, of course tons of Elvis, and a song about “Whispering Pines” which made my mother cry.

Then the trend in music began to change – the Beatles were getting pretty hippieish and they threw away their matching suits. That was an outrage, my father said.

Sure, Elvis still had flashy outfits – but they were now flamboyant and his band was wearing mix and match.

The trend of music in America included longer hair, more “sloppy” outfits and bell bottoms covered up what had once been shiny, shiny black shoes. Ripped clothes and tattoos and head bands replaced the part of musical performance my father loved so much.

Dad ranted and raved how we needed that old style – we needed old time rock n’ roll back. And he argued musicians needed a little flash.

Decades have passed since that time and wow, the music world is different. Or is it?

Recently, I was rolling my eyes at some rap music on television thinking how genres have evolved and what some have become. I also wondered why they were all wearing flashy garb. What made them put on matching sweatsuits adored in sequins and diamonds?

And then it hit me. This was the modern version of all my dad held so dear. They were doing exactly what he said – “wear matching outfits, have a little flash, silver is always best and the old music is always in style.”

Well, there they were – remaking an old song by rapping it, wearing silver, definitely promoting their flashiness and they all matched.

I wonder what Dad would think of the bling. I don’t think this is what he had in mind. Especially the giant diamond necklaces bearing words like “dogg” and “whatup.”

As I turned the channel, I ran smack dab into Country Music Television where they were showing old clips from yesteryear. The documentary about Johnny Cash and other musicians prompted a look back at the music my father held so dear.

There, I saw the greasy hair and the all-too-predictable dance moves. But what I also saw were flashy jackets and shiny shoes and music that had real lyrics. They sang about cowboys and wanting to go home. There was mention of sunsets, mountains, getting out of jail and starting over. Of course, everyone wanted “to get their baby back” and there was still “a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on.” That’s when they weren’t in the “burning ring of fire” or in Blue Hawaii or Heartbreak Hotel.

Suddenly, I went back in time and I could imagine myself dancing on that awful green and orange carpet, watching my dairy farmer dad play his beautiful, red electric guitar that cost more than the ugly blue pickup outside.

At that moment, he wasn’t just my dad, he was a superstar.

I guess “The First Mel” had his own sort of bling bling – but I bet he wouldn’t like the modern version. After all, he liked his old time rock n’ roll.

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