John Carlson: From Rockers to Walkers?

Will we geezers in our rolling walkers spell the end of rock ‘n’ roll? Photo by Nancy Carlson.Will we geezers in our rolling walkers spell the end of rock ‘n’ roll? Photo by Nancy Carlson.

By John Carlson—

We were recently on a road trip with our daughter, son and daughter-in-law when I noticed something amazing, and maybe even a little disturbing.

The music my kids prefer is a lot softer than mine.

One might even call theirs “more tasteful and mature” than mine.

Like, on this trip a bunch of folky stuff, acoustic stuff, and melodic stuff was gently wafting out their car’s sound system. At the same time, I was craving a thousand-volt dose of Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression.”

The kids’ preference was music that didn’t cost the musician a perfectly good guitar, as singer John Hiatt once described so pointedly in his musicians’ protest song, um, “Perfectly Good Guitar.” In other words, once back in its case, the guitar could be removed and played over and over again. This was in stark contrast to the pile of smashed wood and sprung strings guys like Pete Townsend of The Who would pitch into the nearest trash can after battering his amplifiers with his guitars during concerts.

This simple observation on my part was no big deal. But I can see where it might become a big deal in the not too distant future. That will be when aged parents like Nancy and me are joyfully welcomed into our eternally grateful children’s homes, where we’ll live out our Golden Years free of charge, no matter how gigantic a pain in the tushy we have become.

An example?

As our endless LPs by the James Gang, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Jefferson Airplane drop one after another onto our turntable, I can just hear our kids’ appreciative response.


Now where have I heard that before?

Oh yeah, it was once or twice an hour back when I was a teenager and my own Mom and Dad, after long frustrating days spent adulting, were ready to sit back and relax with Lawrence Welk. Suddenly, between my music and theirs, the inside of our house sounded like the Grateful Dead was engaged in a battle of the bands with Welk’s Champagne Music Makers.

As I recall from those days, my response to my folks’ demand to lower the volume was usually a couple snarky comments delivered under my breath. That was unless I’d had a particularly rough day at school. You know, like I’d grown a healthy new crop of D’s and F’s that I’d have to somehow explain to my “fossils,” which is what we little jerks called our parents.

Then my emotions would take over and in my frustration I’d yell, “You guys just don’t understand me!!!”

So here’s the question: Will I be yelling that my kids don’t understand me when I’m a frustrated 80-year-old and they get on me for playing my music too loud?

Uh, maybe … and that’s not all.

They will probably resent needing to install a wall-mounted defibrillator in our bedroom. That’ll be for when Nancy and I, firmly in the throes of our second childhoods, are dancing the Mashed Potatoes to some cranked up Martha and the Vandellas tune, and I’m suddenly struck down by a pesky cardiac infarction.

Worse, say we’re both down in the basement, bent over backwards at the waist, screaming our heads off for help. Will our kids fail to promptly call us an ambulance, just because they figure their parents should have known better than to try doing the limbo at their age, especially with “Limbo Rock” cranked up so high nobody can hear our piercing screams?

Maybe …

“Honestly, doctor,” our kids will innocently explain. “We never heard a squeak out of either one of ‘em. Hey! They aren’t dead, are they? I mean … you’re absolutely sure? ‘Cause that’d be bad, even though somehow we’d manage to, you know, cope with it.”

Of course, not all the problems will be music related. Figuring out just who is boss, now that we’re living in our kids’ homes, may be something of a challenge.

“Aww, c’mon, son,” I’ll beg. “Lemme borrow your car keys!”

“Forget it, Dad! No keys for you until you prove you’re responsible enough to quit leaving your Depends scattered all over the house!”

Then there’ll be those times when I’m summoned to the living room for a stern rebuke. “Dad, can you explain to me how my brand new bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon ended up empty and hidden way back in the liquor cabinet?”

“When was this?” I’ll ask.

“About the same time we caught you wearing that lamp shade on your head while singing ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.’”

“Um, the whiskey musta evaporated.”

Then it’ll probably be just a matter of time before my daughter starts checking my breath to make sure I’m not sneaking cigarettes again, mistaking the sound of my bones clicking for the rattling of a plastic pack of Tic Tac breath mints.

So there you have it. The older we get, the more these things will weigh on aging rockers’ minds. Maybe our mellow music-loving kids will even threaten to take our turntables away, if we don’t quit playing records with labels warning that “kicking out the jams” can be fatal for Grandmas and Grandpas.

Or maybe they won’t.

Anyway, I still take some measure of comfort from Danny and the Juniors’ hit, the one stating they don’t care what people say, “Rock and Roll Is Here To stay.” One question keeps bothering me, though.

Is that really true?


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on every Friday.