Virginia Hanlon Grohl’s favorite Foo Fighters song is Everlong. As the mom of the band’s lead singer, and former Nirvana drummer, she is a big fan of Dave Grohl’s music. The retired school teacher sometimes makes it to dozens of Foo Fighters shows each year.
“It’s just fun! I get to travel to places I’d never travel to,” Grohl says. “I’ve gone to Australia with them and Japan with them and Europe and England. David was always so generous. He said, ‘Come on along!’ He knew I’d have fun and stay in nice hotels and get room service. It’s a pretty good gig being the mom!”
But the one thing Ginny Grohl never really saw on tours are the mothers of other rock stars. Inspired by the advice of a friend, she started tracking down these moms for interviews and the stories are collected in her new book, “From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars.”
“I was interested in the history,” she said. “What came before the rock star and what the influences were and what the mother’s music had been. The history that she had lived through.”
She said she bonded easily with the other mothers, and uncovered fascinating tales.
Dave Grohl’s mom talks to other moms
Before country star Miranda Lambert’s parents became her managers, they worked as private investigators in Texas.
“Investigating husbands and wives who weren’t faithful,” Grohl said. “They got hired to investigate Bill Clinton when all of his activities were being looked into. They were hired by the attorneys for Paula Jones to dig up as much dirt as they could about him. Their research was used at the hearings to impeach.”
She interviewed the mother of Rage against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
“Who was a very early activist in censorship in music and any kind of speech way before he was in the music business,” Grohl said. “We think of him as being the activist musician and she proceeded him in that. She was fearless.”
There are interviews with Dr. Dre’s mom, Amy Winehouse’s mom, REM’s Michael Stipe’s mom and we also have the pleasure of learning about Grohl’s role as a rock star mom. It all started when the school teacher mom allowed her son Dave Grohl to drop out of high school when he was 17.
“Everyone imagines that it would be terribly difficult, but after so many years of disappointment with lack of academic attachment, if I could put it kindly,” she said. “I knew how brilliant he was but he was really unhappy with school, year after year. So when he had a chance, not just to play with a band, but to go with Europe and play with a band … I knew the band well. It was a punk band called Scream. It sounded like he was going to get a pretty good education without having to go into another classroom.”
One mom who didn’t want to be interviewed for the book is Wendy Cobain O’Connor, Kurt Cobain’s mother. But Kurt’s mom asked Grohl to include some stories of her son in the book. Grohl talks about the time she was with Nirvana at the Reading Festival in England.
“Kurt stepped to the front of the stage and said, ‘Hey everybody, it’s Dave’s mom’s birthday!’ and started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and pulled me up to the stage,” Grohl recalled. “First of all, I was in shock. Then I got a look at I don’t know how many people were there, 60,000 people. That was my first touch with Nirvana fame. It was really great.”
I asked Grohl how it felt to see her son as a rock star. If it was strange to see him as a different person than the person she raised.
“No, he isn’t a different person, no matter what,” she said. “I think that’s why everybody likes him so much. He’s just the same. There’s no persona there, it’s just him. I’m proud of that and I think it’s why he’s so universally liked and respected.”
Listen to Ginny Grohl talk about her son Dave Grohl and her new book.