Sure, we often talk about how the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s defined our baby boomer generation… but not all of us. Definitely not Marsh Rose of Cloverdale, California, north of San Francisco. Marsh’s short stories have been published in a number of places, and in this one, for BoomerCafé, she tells how her disinterest in our generation’s music caused her biggest bloomer blunder.
I committed an unforgivable omission in my 20s. Unforgivable because of where I lived, San Francisco, and because it left me with a pale anecdote to tell instead of what could have been the coolest story of my life. The omission? I am a baby boomer and I did not listen to the music of my generation when it was “happening” until it was too late. Music simply wasn’t on my radar until one pivotal day.
It was the late 1970s. “The San Francisco Sound” was in its heyday and everyone was here, all the big names in music who would define our generation. The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane. The remaining members of Big Brother and the Holding Company were still here too although sadly Janis was gone. The rock-and-rollers who didn’t live in town sometimes spontaneously showed up to jam with the ones who did. Merle Saunders, Boz Scaggs, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott all took the stage at The Matrix.
And did I care? No I did not. Paul Kantner and Grace Slick could have performed Sunfighter outside my bedroom window and I probably would have asked them to keep the noise down.
And then it happened.
My old Chevy Nova station wagon had finally died and I needed a vehicle. I wanted a van, with windows of course, but most vans had stick shifts in the 1970s and I didn’t know how to drive a stick. So there I was, in the office of a car lot near the Height-Ashbury with the salesman and another customer, bemoaning my lack of driving skill.
The customer was a big guy. Everything about him was big. He had a big voice and a big beard and big hair and he was buying a big car— a white Bentley. He overheard my conversation and boomed, “Hey, I’ll teach you how to drive a stick. C’mon!” He tilted his shaggy head toward a racy orange 240 Z parked outside. I politely declined and said I was needed elsewhere. I thought it sounded more polite than, “No way am I getting in a car with you!” I was aware of the salesman’s eyes getting bigger.
After the big, loud customer left, the salesman gave me the awful news. I had just turned down a driving lesson from Jerry Garcia. To my credit, I did recognize the name and was appropriately mournful.
After that incident, I became a huge fan of the music of my generation. With each record album I bought— CDs still were far in the future— I looked very carefully at every band member on the cover, just in case. You never know when you might be offered a driving lesson.