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"Dad! You rock!"

Four local musicians talking dadness and tunes



Fatherhood doesn't get the best rap: The best-known song about a father-and-son relationship, after all, is the Shel Silverstein-penned, Johnny Cash-owned "A Boy Named Sue"—or, as it's known clinically, manufactured gender confusion as absentee-parenting technique. Not very realistic or kind, eh?

Still, there are plenty of real fathers writing about their very real relationships with their children. In an old Silos tune, Walter Salas-Humara sang: "Margaret goes to bed around 8, I got to bed around 1/ Margaret gets up at 6, I get up at 6." Now that's more like it.

The Independent Weekly tracked down four local musicians—with their Dad Club memberships ranging from 10 years to just short of 10 weeks—for conversations about the realities and joys of being a music-making dad. As it turns out, all six progeny in question are boys. And none of them are named Sue.

The Roby family: Charlie, Kenny and Ray - PHOTO BY KENNY ROBY
  • Photo by Kenny Roby
  • The Roby family: Charlie, Kenny and Ray

Kenny Roby (former Six String Drag frontman, Kenny Roby & The Mercy Filter), father of Ray (10 years old) and Charlie (7 years old)

On balancing music and family

Having newborn children and early fatherhood, and the new balance between them and music, seems like such a long time ago. Back then I still played more shows and did more touring. I was involved in making records and playing live, and there was less conflict. Six String Drag and then the first attempt at solo-hood kept me away a lot.

Then three to four years into fatherhood, I started to feel more of the push and pull between music and the home life. Then five to seven years into it was toughest. I would be fully into the family life for a while and then fully into the music world. Back and forth all the time.

In the last two to three years, I've been so much more involved in family and in the lives of my kids and have had a lot less energy to put toward music. I don't feel that much conflict. I still love performing, writing and playing. I just don't feel like I have to do it as often.

On his sons as music fans

They both love The Beatles. You don't have to steer anyone towards The Beatles. Just put it on the stereo. They are pretty normal kids when it comes to what they like. Ray is at the age where he likes all kinds of artists that don't match up. He'll listen to one song that is Top 40 and the next is Flaming Lips and the next is Gorillaz and then some modern rap. Charlie is 7. He likes what Ray likes.

On his favorite music-related stories involving his kids

I took Ray to see Green Day a few years ago. The excitement he had during the show really rubbed off on me. It was inspiring. It made me remember what that used to feel like. We also went to see The Flaming Lips a few months ago—him, my wife and I—and that was a blast. When all the streamers and madness erupted, he had to have been thinking "Whoa!" That was a cool look on his face. He acts real jaded for a 10-year-old sometimes, but you can still surprise him. I think the level of energy at the last Six String Drag reunion surprised him. He had only seen me play acoustic and not with a full rock band. After the show, he walked up to me real bug-eyed and said, "Dad! You rock!"

The Howie family: Allie, Dario Ingram and John Jr. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HOWIE JR.
  • Photo courtesy of John Howie Jr.
  • The Howie family: Allie, Dario Ingram and John Jr.

John Howie Jr. (Two Dollar Pistols, Snatches of Pink), father of Dario (9 weeks old)

On Dario listening to Dad play and sing

I haven't had a whole lot of time to do that, although I must say that I remember the first time I did it around my dog, he screamed. [Howls.] Dario was totally cool with it. He didn't seem to mind at all.

On whom Dario's been listening to

When I was a kid, I loved Roger Miller. And Dario loves Roger Miller. That's one of the ways I've been able to really get him to calm down, by singing "Walkin' in the Sunshine" and things like that.... Allie [John's wife] has really been into trying to play a lot of different kinds of music around him, and she likes all kinds of stuff, everything from Miles Davis to Roxy Music. A friend of mine sent me a Bee Gees video compilation—a bunch of TV appearances, most of them kinda cool pre-Saturday Night Fever stuff. He was a little wired before I put that on. We sat down and I put that in, and he was all about it.

On a musical memory involving his father

One of my favorite punk bands, TSOL, was playing at The Brewery. They had their Sunday hardcore shows on Sunday afternoon. This was '85. I really wanted to go to that show, and it was Father's Day, and my Mom said, "I'm not going to let you go down there. This is your Dad's day." So we all got up and had our fun, and I gave him a present I'd bought. And finally he said, "Didn't I hear you talking with one of your friends about a show you were going to go see today?" And I said, "Yeah, but it's Father's Day, I want to spend the time with you." He looked at me and said, "Your mother told you not to go, didn't she?" [Laughs.] He said, "I tell you what. I've got some errands to run, and some of them are down there by Hillsborough Street. You can help me with that stuff." The upshot is that he ended up dropping me off there for the show and picking me back up, which I thought was pretty cool.

Phonte Coleman on tour for Little Brother's 2005 album The Minstrel Show, with Claudia (background, facing), then pregnant with Andrew - PHOTO BY LISSA GOTWALS
  • Photo by Lissa Gotwals
  • Phonte Coleman on tour for Little Brother's 2005 album The Minstrel Show, with Claudia (background, facing), then pregnant with Andrew

Phonte Coleman (Little Brother), father of Dylan (6 years old) and Andrew (18 months old)

On how his music changed when Dylan arrived

It gives you something else to write about, you know what I'm saying? Just more depth, I guess. Well, I don't want to say it gives you more depth because there are plenty of cats who have kids but don't do it. For me, at least, it was an experience where I could reach into myself and I had more to rhyme about. That's what it did for me, just opened me up a lot more. Instead of going for the typical rap topics, go for something else.

On both kids as music fans

They both hit it. My son Andrew, he's 18 months, so he's getting to the point where he's getting into it. I put on some music, and he'll nod his head to it. He'll dance to it. They're learning, you know what I'm saying? They've been with it since they was in the womb, so they know the music.

On Dylan's favorite artists

Man, his favorite musician is Kev Brown, a producer out of Maryland, a producer cat who's a friend of mine. Dylan loves Kev Brown. He just loves that dude. He'll listen to instrumentals. He's a big Kev Brown fan. He's a big DJ Premier fan, too. He likes Dilla. I gave him a bunch of old Dilla instrumentals. I'm just trying to expose him to good music. He goes out in the world, I mean, he's going to be exposed to all the commercial stuff.

On music-related stories about his sons

Well, my 6-year-old, he's actually rapping on a Kev Brown album. [Laughs.] He's doing a little skit and rapping on that. My 18-month-old, he took a strange liking to the new R. Kelly album. He danced to the whole album. I couldn't believe it.

Daddy plays guitar: Rick Miller of Southern Culture on the Skids with son Jack - PHOTO COURTESY OF YEP ROC RECORDS

Rick Miller (Southern Culture on the Skids), father of Jack (16 months old)

On Jack's effect on SCOTS' music

I actually worked up a bunch of older songs that Jack really seems to like that have more of a kiddie twist to them. Like I have one called "Fly that Rode from Buffalo," and that's one of his favorites. And I wrote some songs for him just for fun. One of 'em was "Baby don't you cry, your mama's done gone dry/ Daddy's gone away, but he'll be back some day/ We're gonna rocka, rocka, rocka, rock and roll." [Laughs.] He likes that one a lot. Oh, and we did a cover for him, and we actually have him laugh on it, "Happy Jack."

And on songwriting in general

In a way, having kids around opens your brain up a little bit. Everything they do is so instinctual and on some sort of other plane, so I find myself kind of thinking the same way. Things will come out of my mouth that I never thought would.

On a musical memory involving his father

We had a Naugahyde La-Z-Boy that had an 8-track Lear Jet Stereo built in. It was so secret agent that you pressed a button, and it slowly came out of the side, and then you put your 8-track cassette in it. It had stereo speakers back behind your head. I remember my Dad leaning back and listening to, like, Jim Reeves crooning in his ear. Smooooth country. Oh, and I remember him saying, "So you want to write songs? If you can write a song as good as Ray Stevens, then you'll get someplace."

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