The Session # 9–Beer and Music

The SessionMusic has always been an integral part of my life, an integral part of my being. My gramps, Joe Johnston, was a professional musician back in the forties. His impact on my life goes well beyond music, but today we’re here to talk about tunes.

While I’m something of a headbanger at heart, Joe has seen to it that I have a well-rounded musical education. My grandma has a picture of me tearing open Kiss’ Rock and Roll Over–a Christmas present when I was in kindergarten–but my gramps’ efforts to educate me haven’t fallen on deaf (or bleeding, remarkably) ears. Undoubtedly, I’m nearly as hooked on the likes of Stan Getz as Black Sabbath. I love the Blues, Grunge, Swing, Classical and face-melting rock. Well-rounded as I am, nothing beats the Mighty Zeppelin in my book.

Gramps and his saxTwo of my prized possessions are Gramps-related music photos. That’s him, left, back in the day. Pictured below is none other than Mel Torme, sitting in with Joe’s band when the drummer took ill. Always the sideman, and never the braggart, Joe once turned down a Woody Herman job offer. He had a young wife on the road with him, so preferred week or two stints rather than the constant one-nighters of the big name bands like Herman. Besides that, they paid better. I’m proud to know that my gramps rubbed shoulders with the Dorsey brothers, Torme, Herman, Lawrence Welk and others (in real life, Welk didn’t have that accent). He’s taught me to appreciate music, but I’m no clone: I can’t believe that nut job turned down working with Woody Herman.

My non-Gramps-clone status has been confirmed further, just these last few weeks, for example. I’ve been working in what will be next year’s garden lately. Perhaps no one else in gardening history has grooved to Kid Rock like I have while wrangling a tiller. Then again, and to quote the Kid, “You never met a motherf–ker quite like me.” Joe probably doesn’t listen to much Kid Rock.

Mel Torme on drums with my gramps’ band

Though Kid Rock’s more likely to drink Mickey’s than the rockin’ stuff from his home state of Michigan, he makes a good segue to beer. The thing I like about Kid Rock is his depth and texture melded with arse-kicking bang for your buck. His influences range from country and Southern-fried rock to to hip hop and metal. That’s one complex grainbill. Couple that with some over-the-top dry hopping, 12% abv, a bourbon barrel swarming with brett and a couple of years’ worth of age, and you’ve got yourself a Kid Rockin’ Russian Imperial Stout if ever there was one.

This blending of characteristics is clearly why I’m such a Led Zeppelin fan. They rock. But a good measure of the time they’re  in a rocking chair swaying with an acoustic guitar or mandolin in hand. Blues and rock and folk. Willie Dixon and Joni Mitchell and Elvis Presley. With these influences, what need would my mom have had for concern? To me, they’re a malty old ale with some age and vinous oxidative notes. Warmth, raisins and dates. And a kick.

But you’re not always up for a band, or a beer, so complex. Cake is a good example of a one-dimensional band that’s good to drink. Kiss. The Ramones. Dick Dale. All good, but not so complex.

There’s a lot of lousy music out there today. Budweiser = Britney Spears. Fizzy yellow stuff moves a lot of product.

But there’s good stuff out there as well. The craft beer bands I spend a lot of time with these days are Flogging Molly, Izzy Stradlin, Old Crow Medicine Show, Buckcherry, Amy Winehouse, The White Stripes, The Arctic Monkeys, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch.

Of course, there’s that whole drinkin’ and listenin’ thing. That’s just a huge given. A huge pleasure. A huge slice of my life.

I’ve veered in many directions in my life, but like a good beer, music and my silver-pated grandfather have served me well, kept me grounded, kept me good.


Not long after The Session #5–Atmosphere, I realized that I’d left out one of the most crucial parts of having a beer. I followed that post a day or two later with my own Session #5.5–Music, maestro. It delved into the old days of AC/DC, cheap beer and dirt roads. If you missed it, I’d encourage you to back up and check it out.

For the sake of tossing out other beer and music related posts over the last few months, I’d encourage you to hit these as well:

Brew Like a BB King (talks about the “less is more” approach to beer and music)

Izzy-inspired Living (talks about how one musician inspired me to quit my job)


Many thanks to Tomme Arthur, from The Lost Abbey, for hosting this month’s Session.


As a side note: Hey, Bailey, can you get me tickets for the Zep show at the O2? I didn’t get drawn in the lotto.

Cheers, all!


3 Responses to The Session # 9–Beer and Music

  1. Bailey says:

    Heh heh. It’s actually Boak who’s the massive Led Zeppelin fan in this house. She does a terrifying karaoke version of Rock n Roll…

  2. Wilson says:

    Hey, Boak, can you get me tickets for the Zep show at the O2? I didn’t get drawn in the lotto.

  3. […] Brewvana: The Session # 9–Beer and Music […]

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