Rest in Peace Uncle Don Don

My Uncle Don was the only rock n’ roller in the family.  When we were kids, we called him “Uncle Don Don”.  Our cousin Geoff already had an Uncle Don (my dad), so my mom’s brother became Uncle Don Don.  It’s just much simpler for kids if everybody has a different name.

Uncle Don had curly, flaming red hair.  Those Scottish roots.  In the old days he wore it long.  Come summer, he’d be at the cottage in nothing but a pair of old cutoff jean shorts.  Whether he was playing badminton with us, or just drinking a beer with the adults, he was always there with the jean shorts.

I can reveal now that it was Uncle Don who inspired a portion of Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

“Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these ‘little known facts’ would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, ‘Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.'”

Uncle Don was the very uncle who told me that Helix were once a country band.  That was him.  No shirt, football and that moustache!  Flaming red.  And jean shorts.

As I got older and into classic rock, we started to connect a little bit.  We were closer in the late 80s and early 90s.  He used to come over to the house and borrow tapes off me so he could record them.  He liked my Zeppelin and my Deep Purple.  From him, I recorded Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits — my very first Alice.  That happened in the summer of 1989, and I had no idea what to expect from Alice.  I also have a fond memory of us hanging out at the beach one afternoon, just the two of us.  It was a wavy day in August 1992.  I wonder if he wore the jean shorts that day too?

As the years passed, Uncle Don became more reclusive.  I had not seen him in many months.  He was not well.  Cancer was slowly starting to take him.  He knew he was going, and he knew he didn’t have many days left.  At least we had time to prepare.  My mom and aunt, and especially my grandmother, will miss him very much.  Uncle Don was the “baby of the family”, born much later than his two older sisters.  In many ways he had to live with being the “baby of the family” for his whole life.

Uncle Don passed away this afternoon at Freeport hospital in Kitchener.  As a family, we are all relieved that he is no longer in pain.  It is going to take time to process these feelings.  I worry about my grandmother, who still lived with him.  She is 95.  I spoke to her just yesterday.  She is prepared to go on without him, but I worry all the same.

There was nobody else in the family with long hair, listening to Alice Cooper.  It was nice having somebody else with the same tastes.  I thought a bit about what song he would have liked for this post.  I thought about “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, but I think I need a song for me this time. From Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, it’s “Teenage Lament ’74”.  The song that jumped out at me immediately as something really special.  The song I played over and over again, trying to figure out the words.  The song that just inexplicably connected with me.  I thought it was neat that I was going into my teens, listening to the music he listened to in his teens.  I started collecting Alice Cooper immediately.  Trash was next, followed by Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare.  Thanks for introducing me to Alice Cooper, Uncle Don.  You changed a life.  I will never forget you.

 

What a drag it is,
In these gold lame jeans.
Is this the coolest way,
To get though your teens?
Well I cut my hair weird,
I read that it was in.
I look like a rooster,
That was drowned and raised again.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
I’m going to leave today.

I ran into my room,
And I fell down on my knees,
Well I thought that fifteen,
Was going to be a breeze.
I picked up my guitar,
To blast away the clouds,
Somebody in the next room yelled,
You got to turn that damn thing down.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
Well I’m going to cry all day.

17 comments

    1. Thank you John I appreciate it. I’m listening to Cooper’s Greatest Hits now. I remember that I recorded it on side one of a 90 minute tape. I think I taped Trash on side two when I eventually got the CD of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deke, it’s funny how a lifelong obsession with Alice started with that one moment. I wasn’t even sure I liked Alice all that much when I taped it. I only know his 80s stuff!

      And check it out my mom found a picture with the cutoff jeans!!! That’s me in the middle with the beard, my buddy Peter with me, and my sister on the far right.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. So sorry to hear about your uncle. My cool uncle introduced me to Rush.
          It’s awesome how we relate certain songs, albums, music to a better time. Hopefully when you hear the Coop, you can think of cool uncle don don. I say do an uncle don don cutoff short tribute this weekend.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. Really nice heartfelt piece Mike.

    I have a metal uncle too, NWOBHM style. I love pumping him for his war stories of early 80s metal.

    Like

  2. Beautiful post. Sorry for your loss, Mike. It sounds like he was a cool uncle to have. My uncle Rob is the only one I have a music connection with. He stacks his vinyl horizontally. I give him crap every time I see him.

    Like

  3. Sorry for your loss, Mike. I hope you memories of Don Don will give you comfort.

    I too have an uncle that was into the rock – Uncle Louis, my father’s baby brother. We are estranged now, but when my sis and I were kids and just starting to get into music, we used to love hanging out with him and his record collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sigh. Thanks Sarah. That hits me. I feel that. Uncle Don kind of went his own way and I lost that earlier connection. It was great while it lasted. Can’t change the past though — I will focus on the good times we did have, and not the times he missed out on.

      Liked by 1 person

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