Dad You Be Killin Em: Stu Cooper

June 12, 2012

We have so much to thank our fathers for. In addition to teaching us how to ride bikes and be good sports, they’ve also been our sagely guides through life. As a small token of our affection, we’re counting down to Father’s Day (this Sunday, heads up!) by celebrating our dads’ style, wit and wisdom.

What did your dad like to wear? On a daily basis, I remember my dad's clothes being pretty conservative, like him. He's a banker, so most of the time he wears bankerly things. But he would occasionally break out stranger novelty attire, outfits that to his children were simultaneously embarrassing and living-in-your-own-world inspiring—a plaid kilt, a rugby jersey adorned in the American flag, those pants you can zip off at the knee and turn into shorts. He's kind of goofy in that way, and I like it, picking and choosing unlikely fashion statements of his own invention. Another quirk is his fondness for promotional shirts from restaurants, and I remember him, more than once, asking waiters or waitresses if their uniform was for sale. My favorite T-shirt of his comes from a bar in Colorado, called The Minturn Saloon, with a cartoon of John Wayne and his horse sitting on barstools and the place's motto, ''If John Wayne didn't drink it, we don't make it." Also: my grandfather was always known for bow ties, and for special occasions my dad keeps up the tradition.

What music did he listen to? Besides his definite fondness for ZZ Top's "La Grange" and Creedence Clearwater, plus a long mail-order engagement with a Time-Life classic rock series, I don't have especially vivid memories of my dad playing music growing up. A few times he turned up Bachman–Turner Overdrive really loud, to my mother's dismay. In high school he was in marching band, and he kept his old instruments—a saxophone, a guitar, a banjo—even if he never played them around me. He always supports me making music. Lately, he's been getting into modern country, a fact we both seem inexplicably happy about, and, even more inexplicably, Dropkick Murphys-style celtic punk rock.

What would he say? Does he have a favorite phrase or saying? Something anecdote-y. My dad has a few memorable phrases—"Funny strange, or funny haha?" and "You bet your sweet bippy"—but what resonates most with me, and a trait I've surely inherited, is his improvised morning singing. Singing to the dog and about the sun rising and heaven only knows, just being generally and publicly happy about stuff, and not worrying about looking a little silly along the way.

Dad You Be Killin Em: Stu Cooper