The First Rock n’ Rollers

Young long-haired man holding a guitar.


I loathe being considered a member of the “Baby Boomer” generation. It is a stupid, vapid, obnoxious label. The epithet should have been laid to rest decades ago. In addition, it has become a term of derision for the millennials and their cohorts. What we actually are is the first rock n’ rollers, or FRRs.

Baby Boomers describes our parents, not us. We were the boomed, they were the boomers. Thus, Baby Boomer is a tag better suited to them acknowledging the surge of births as servicemen and women returned home after World War II. The “Greatest Warrior” generation became the greatest baby makers, and they deserve the credit for both of these gargantuan accomplishments. It is time to award them the double title.

Others have said I am being picky about this. If you actually think that you are obviously not one of us. Baby Boomer ranks right up there with being called “The Cabbage Patch Kid” generation.

Rock ‘n roll and my generation grew up together, that is part of why we loved it so intensely. We were there at the beginning with Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Elvis, of course, was the original “King” but once he stopped shaking his hips and strayed into Las Vegas, he became a mere shadow of past royalty. We survived “The Day the Music Died” when we lost The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens in one plane crash. And we keep on “Rockin’ in The Free World” into our old age. In the beginning, it was just us and rock. This music became the equivalent of Native American drumming and chanting forming us into a tribe. For any newly emerging teenager in the 1950s, membership in the tribe required love of rock. We created each other. My childhood interest in baseball cards and plastic model cars dissolved Christmas morning in the fifth grade when I received a new hi-fi record player and two 45 RPM records by Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee. I was quite impressed that my parents even knew what to buy until a cousin revealed they had consulted him.

Rock n’ roll defined us. Every change in recording stars or music styles reverberated with likes and dislikes, allies and opponents, new tribes and old. But rock was ours, only ours. Adults were in charge of school, homework, food, chores, clothing, and all the other boring stuff. Rock was the only thing they did not control. When they loudly complained they could not understand the words, we considered that a good thing.

One Saturday afternoon I came home after hanging out with friends and found my father playing his new Perry Como album on my hi-fi. OMG, the sappiest of the sappy, the most old-fashioned of all, a sacrilege was being perpetrated. The words were perfectly understandable and utterly gross. I contained my horror, but was so afraid it would corrupt the sound that I washed the player with bleach as soon as he wasn’t looking.

Most of us have remained loyal to our music, especially Classic Rock, and expect to remain so no matter what succeeding generations create. We ignored disco as it came and went. Rap mostly revolted us before any of us listened. I explained to one of my sons who was partial to rap that Dylan’s, “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” was really the first rap song. He just rolled his eyes like I did when my father tried to get me to listen to Perry Como. The older generation could have their music and the younger generation can have theirs. Rock, real rock, is ours. My favorite invention of the later part of the 1990s were earbuds and headphones so my kids could listen in private and stop annoying me with it.

It seemed, briefly, that there was hope for a younger generation. Almost 10 years ago I was driving with my granddaughter who asked me if I’d ever heard of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, who she had listened to with a friend’s father and thought they were great. I almost drove off the road as I expressed my love for both musicians and her. For a long time, we had a relationship that revolved around music. Unfortunately, her favorites became something called dubstep or EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Both of which I hated. But that sort of makes the point. Rock is ours. If you like the music your grandfather listens to, it is a betrayal of your tribe. The
Gen-whatevers are mostly fine people and can enjoy their music as they please. But ROCK IS OURS. We were the first rock n’ rollers. We still are. I bet our BFF Keith Richards would agree.

C. Graham Campbell, PhD, is a 75-year-old late-blooming author. He has explored the human psyche and soul as a psychologist for more than 40 years in central Massachusetts. Now retired, he spends most of his time meditating, writing, and as a nature photographer. He freely admits that his work can get a tad snarky. 

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