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THE BEATLES WERE ORIGINALLY POMPADOURED ROCKABILLY CATS!

The Beatles incorporated many styles of music into what became “Beatle Music,” everything from English Dance Hall Music to Motown found it’s way in to the mix.

If you listen to early recordings, their setlist was heavy on rockabilly and early R&B artists like Little Richard, Larry Williams and Arthur Alexander. The Beatles loved "black" music and later covered a lot of Motown artists like The Shirelles, The Marvelettes, and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. But, they were originally a rockabilly band.

Early rock ‘n’ roll was rockabilly. Elvis and the others were country boys with gospel/bluegrass backgrounds (and a healthy dose of hillbilly twang) attempting to play the blues and failing magnificently.

The Beatles recorded three of (rockabillly pioneer) Carl Perkins' songs on their studio albums--more than any other writer. In addition to those songs; "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby," "Matchbox," and "Honey Don't," Carl wrote the genre-defining “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Long before I had a name for it, I responded to all things rockabilly. Those three songs were my favorite “Beatle songs” when I was four, and Ringo was my favorite Beatle because he sang two of them! I wore those tracks out playing them along with my first “single” a hand-me-down copy of Roy Orbison’s PRETTY WOMAN.

On his way to tour England with The Fab Four, Orbison left his regular glasses on a plane and (in the days before one hour eyeglasses) he "made do" by reluctantly wearing his Ray Ban sunglasses onstage.

Roy and the Beatles' switched places on the bill partway through that tour, because Beatlemania was at a fever pitch. As a result, the tour got a lot of publicity. Shots of Roy in his Ray Bans were plastered on every newspaper in England, cementing a lasting rock and roll image, and establishing an enduring rock and roll accessory.

No less durable a rock fashion, the Beatle haircut is essentially a pompadour--if you wet one, it flops down into a passable "mop top". Back in the Hamburg days, the boys all had their hair piled high in emulation of their heroes: Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and the follicle-ly inferior Mr. Perkins.

The German artist Astrid Kirchher (who was dating then-Beatle Stu Suttcliff) wore her hair in a style that was almost a Beatle cut. After a swim, the boy’s hair hung down like hers, and they all liked it. She gave George the first Beatle haircut, and the others quickly followed suit. It was the first "rock-and-roll" hairstyle to become more popular than the timeless pompadour.


A shot of James Dean's headstone I took in Fairmount Indiana. By the way, the lip prints aren't mine.

Marlon Brando and James Dean certainly helped cement the pompadour's popularity. Their rebellious rock and roll attitude and prototypical greaser-style in THE WILD ONE ('53) and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE ('55) spoke to the same disaffected kids that rock and roll did. While WILD ONE predates the generally accepted birth of rock and roll, and REBEL hit theaters just before Elvis first hit the charts, the leather jacket and the pomp were a custom fit for this rebellious new music. Just as salt existed before tequila, but it’s hard to imagine one without the other.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia--Lee Marvin's gang in The Wild One was called "The Beetles".

 
Famous baldy-pants Yul Brenner with my hair on him!

WHY A POMPADOUR PAGE?

There are two reasons. One, people are vitally interested, and two, I’m tired of explaining it in person. I already hand out "web cards" at my shows with this web address on them... now I can just send folks here.

Another reason is that, when I first wanted a pompadour in the mid-eighties, you had to figure out for yourself how to do it, and what products to use by trial and error. Your barber isn't going to walk you through this...

Speaking of barbers, it's not a bad idea to find an guy that's been standing in the same spot for fifty years, who's still grousing about all the money The Beatles cost him. That guy knows how to cut a pomp! As I wrote in the column to the left, The Fab Four knocked this hairstyle out of the #1 spot (along with a lot of the guys that were wearing it like Frankie, Fabian and Bobby Rydell).

In fact, I had an unfortunate “80’s Hair Band” detour on my way to becoming the pompadoured pride of Spanish Harlem. The photographic proof is below, and the story of how I went so wrong is at the bottom of this page.

 

View this montage created at One True Media
Lord's Promo Photos Thru The Years

 

In LA, you can't go wrong with my hairstylist, Michael Anthony, at RUDY's: 323-661-6535 (around $20) say I sent you & you'll get free talc! E-mail me for my guy in NYC & I suggest Tomcats Barbershop in Brooklyn!

HOW I CULTIVATE MY "POMP":

Straight out of the shower, I put in a little gel and blow-dry it straight back. The trick to getting real height is to get some gel at the roots and blow dry it upside down, while bending over.

Once it’s standing high, I currently use a pomade which usually contains lanolin, fragrance, and coconut oil--I try to steer clear of beeswax because it’s hard to wash out. I throw a little Royal Crown Hairdressing in the front so it moves. Royal Crown's been around so long that Little Richard did commercials for it in the 50’s, which is good enough for me! “Even Long Tall Sally use it!”

If you have trouble getting the grease out of your hair, I'd suggest DAX Vegetable Shampoo, but some of our more rugged brethren resort to dish washing liquid.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Can I touch it?
Easily the most-asked question I get about my hair. I’m usually okay with people touching it. They always expect it to be as stiff as mandatory sentencing. (It's not!)

2. How long does it take you to get it to DO that?
Once you learn how, it only takes about five minutes
(if the hair gods are smiling on you).

3. How do you wear your hair when you’re NOT onstage?
Brian Setzer was asked that in an interview, and he said that it’s a lifestyle choice… you commit to doing your hair, even if you’re just going to the store for cigarettes. There isn't really a “Plan B”.

4. What do you use in it? Or, as Tom Griswold put it: “What do you put in there… some kind of sauce?” (To see Tom with a TOMpadour, go the bottom of this page)
I’m not too brand loyal. If your hair isn't too long, you can get by with any decent drug store hair gel. If you're reaching for the stars, I'd suggest starting with SPIKE IT Hair Cement. It's what Elmer's Glue wants to be when it grows up.

To get it to cling together for the rooster-y effect, and a spit curl if you're into them, you need some sort of grease or pomade. I'm using Hi-Top right now. Hair grease is like heroin... you should start with a little, and work your way up.

I’m a fan of Suave hair spray to keep the sides in place. Like spaghetti sauce, a pompadour is better the next day. You want a hair spray that you can wet, that'll stiffen up again without flaking. There's nothing cool about dandruff daddy-o, even if it's hair product.

5. Do you like The Stray Cats?
Uh… Yeah.

Check out my rockabilly page for links to some of today's (and yesterday's) hottest rockabilly acts!

HOW I FAILED AT MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT A POMPADOUR
(and inadvertently started a trend)

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.

Thanks to The 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. Brady!

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 Comic.

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 original.



Tom of Bob& Tom with The TOMPADOUR!

Bob of Bob & Tom with The BOBPADOUR!

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 that day.

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 bathwater.

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 play!" Yikes!

Flamin' Mike's truck shows the Funny Bone staff how Flamin' Mike got his name after The All Things Elvis Show. 



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