Growing up in my dad’s
bar in the late 60’s I was around a LOT of guys with pompadours--the
hairstyle was only ten years from the peak of its popularity
back then. The “regulars” that had them were always
the coolest, funniest guys, and the guys you didn’t want
to get on the wrong side of.
Stray Cats, around '81, I finally had a working definition
for my favorite kind of music. My friend’s wife cut hair,
and I brought her a photo of what I had in mind. Then she said
to me the four words no man should ever hear: “You’ll
need a perm.”
What can I say? I really wanted to be
a rockabilly cat, so I bucked up and endured the indignity of
a head full of curlers, only to come out looking more like Mr.
While waiting for it to relax, I wrote
an opening “bit” that incorporated my new curls
and worked every time, which made me stick with the look longer
than I'd planned. (Strong opening bits being hard to come by!)
As it grew out, and I started to look
more like Robert Plant or a Sunset Strip Glam Rocker, it was
a major hit with the ladies, so I went with it. What the heck--I
liked that style of music, too. (After all, my sister did take
me to see Led Zeppelin when I was eleven!)
At first I only had the hair and the
attitude but, eventually, I accessorized. I bought a fringed
black leather jacket, chaps, zebra pants, snake skin boots,
a biker vest, and inadvertently gave birth to The Rock And Roll
Of course there were guys before me with
a “rock and roll” attitude and sensibility. Lenny
Bruce, Sam Kinison, and a junkie named Frank, to name a few.
But none of them ran with it and really dressed the part, or
were young enough to pull it off convincingly. Rolling Stone
Magazine had proclaimed comedy “The Rock “N’
Roll of the Eighties” and I took it to heart.
As I toured the U.S. other young comics
glommed an eye-load of the female attention I was getting, and
they quickly dumped their sport coats and t-shirts, grew their
hair out, and jumped on my zebra print bandwagon.
Like the RAMONES toured England and left
a punk band in every city, I was leaving “rock and roll
comics” behind me like rabbit pellets. Six months later,
I’d come back to town, and there’d be a guy that
looked just like me, who generally kept the subject matter (sex,
drugs & rock‘n’ roll) and threw out everything
Tom of Bob& Tom with The TOMPADOUR!
Bob of Bob & Tom with The
Greasers at my All Things Elvis
Show at The Indy Bone Flamin' Mike, Mark, Lenny (of The James
Dean Museum) & "Lightnin'"
|It was time to move on.
By then, the wonderful (& equally
rockabilly obsessed) Tom
Kenny had gained national prominence.
Tom and I had lunch in Raleigh one afternoon, and talked music
the entire time—really hitting it off.
I decided that if I tried to go back
to the retro look I was originally shooting for, I'd seem to
him like the copycats that I’d cranked out. I didn't want
the future Spongebob Squarepants sore at me, so I wore suits,
and got a little Vegas-y for a while there, but many years later,
I got back to where I was originally headed!
So here’s my stab at public service,
The Pompadour Page. I hope it informs you, makes you smile,
and keeps you from making a similar mistake. I have to warn
you though--don't take the plunge unless you can handle hearing
"Hey Elvis!" from passing cars on a daily basis.
You’re also going to learn how
little people actually know about this slice of Americana, and
their ignorance will wear on you. I was in the post office (having
a bad day) and the clerk said: “I like your hair…
it’s real 1980’s.” I snapped: “Try the
FIFTIES, jackass.” And no, I didn’t get my stamps
People think of one of two guys when
they see a pompadour: “The Big E” and Brian Setzer.
Never mind that a lot of well-known men from Clint Eastwood
to Chuck Woolery wore their hair in a swept-back pompadour style.
Most game show hosts, magicians, and truck drivers do to this
day! The hairstyle, like the music, never goes away completely.
Because it was the most popular hairstyle
in the south during the start of the civil rights struggle,
to some folks, you’ll look like the guy that invented
racism. It IS commonly associated with confederate flags, corn
liquor, and guys that chew on toothpicks and call you “chief”.
But, I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the
I asked my friend (rockabilly musician
turned comedian) Steve
Neal what he thought of my pompadour page, and he
grunted that I was "giving away the secrets". I said:
"Does that bug you?" and he said; "I don't care.
But, it's kind of like when Bruce Lee started teaching Kung
Fu to white people!"
All text © 2004 Lord Carrett
I merriily added pompadours to
the BOB & TOM guys and they decided "turnabout's fair
Flamin' Mike's truck shows the
Funny Bone staff how Flamin' Mike got his name after The All
Things Elvis Show.