Friday, June 5, 2015

Interviews About The Rockabilly Lifestyle

I have asked a few people about their perceptions of the rockabilly lifestyle.  You may or may not know my handful of guests:

Just for the sake of the readers who may or may not know you, can you tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?

ReeRee: I'm ReeRee Rockette, a London blogger who owns a rockabilly/alternative hair salon.  Blog: Rockalily

Koop: My name is Koop Kooper, I am the host of the Cocktail Nation syndicated radio show and podcast. It’s a lounge and exotica show broadcast across the globe each week.  The show is broadcast from Sydney Australia. I am also a writer and blogger and have two books out on Bear Manor Media which covers the scene with interviews and bios.  Check out Koop's books here.

Jessica: I am Jessica Cangiano, a blogger from British Columbia.  You can check out my blog Chronically Vintage.

How do you define rockabilly?

ReeRee: Rather than defining rockabilly as a scene, the definition it holds for me is a style/look. It's a blend of 50s and rock'n'roll, with some modern elements blended in. It's got a certain attitude and swagger I think.

Koop: With so many different sub genres of Rockabilly it’s a hard one to nut down. Classic, Neo, Authentic and Psychobilly. Take your pick. I like them all but I think the key aspect is the basis of the original music frame work.
Jessica: I'm of the mind that there are probably just about as many definitions of the word "rockabilly", when we're referring to it as a subculture (instead of a more definable genre of music) as there are people with an interest in it. For me personally, I would define rockabilly as being a subculture with roots tied directly to the rockabilly music scene, and also with some of the other alternatives cultures (e.g., greasers) of the 1950s, and which today embraces some of the more bold, vivacious, and music driven sides of the vintage lifestyle spectrum.

What drew you to the rockabilly lifestyle?

ReeRee: Highwaisted pencil skirts! he he! Fashion that was different to what I'd worn before, Bettie bangs and polka dots. The fun and confidence that came with dressing in that way.

Koop: I first got into Rockabilly and retro culture in the mid eighties. I first got into fifties Rock N Roll and then discovered the scene and all the marvellous Rockabilly bands that were playing locally in what was a very vibrant scene.I was drawn to the fact that it is an encompassing lifestyle that had it’s own clothes, cars, music, movies, hairstyles and culture. Nothing ticks all the lifestyle boxes like Rockabilly and retro culture.

Jessica: I have a deeply rooted appreciation of the rockabilly lifestyle and sometimes find elements of my life falling into that camp, but am in fact more of a traditional vintage gal personally. I've been into vintage and history itself for as far back as I have memories (no joke) and can't honestly recall a time when I wasn't massively fascinated, and completely in love, with all things vintage.   While I never sugar coat the past in the slightest, there is a great deal about the mid-20th century that appeals to me on many levels and I love that I'm able to weave those into my 21st century life in a myriad of ways.

A lot of people think that rockabilly is just about music, cars, and tattoos.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?

ReeRee:  I think people waste too much time deciding exact rules about whether others are authentic, or rockabilly enough. Some people think it should be focused on the music, and people who just enjoy the style are "fashionobillies". I think people need to just worry about themselves and leave the judgement at the door! It can be whatever you want it to be.

Koop:  Looks for some people it can be just that. For me it’s about everything and it’s something that infiltrates your entire life and attiudes.

Jessica: That would be a massive oversimplification of a diverse, fantastic subculture in my opinion. Though those things to do factor into the equation for a percentage of those who define themselves as "rockabillies", they are not prerequisites to dub oneself as such and do not fully define the subculture in the slightest. I've known many rockabilly folks who enjoyed the fashions, but not the music, or the music, but not the car, or the cars, but not the fashions and so on, as well as those who identified with other elements of the movement (such as pulp novels, pin-up girl modelling, or vintage hairstyles), but not necessarily with those well known faucets of the rockabilly scene.


What are the top three misconceptions about the rockabilly lifestyle that you come across?

ReeRee:  I disagree that it has to be a complete lifestyle. Some people like the music, some like the cars, some the tattoos. I've often experienced shock that I don't really enjoy rockabilly music, yet look the way I do. I'm just  believer that you should do what makes you happy, regardless of what people think.

Koop:  1/ We all Iive in the fifties and have no idea it’s 2015
2/ That you have to be old fashioned
3/ That you love being called Elvis

Jessica: That everyone dresses pretty much exactly the same. Not true in the slightest! There are even spin offs from more traditional rockabilly looks, such as psychobilly and gothabilly, respectively, and more over, this is not a subculture that is defined entirely by how one dresses, so that doesn't hold up for a second. Groups of folks with similar interests will often dress in similar styles, but no all rockabilly girls wear cherry print dresses and have dyed black hair styled in Betty bangs in the slightest!

That rockabilly girls are apt to be, to borrow a vintage term, fast. Please! That's incredibly insulting, judgmental, and sexist. This is the 21st century and no one should be labelled with a sexually derived term because they belong to a certain subculture that itself is not centered around sex (e.g., those who are into BDSM) - and even then, it's no one else's business to apply labels to anyone. We should all be free to define ourselves however we want!

That rockabilly folks just want to party like there's no tomorrow. Most folks enjoy a good shindig, but it's not fair to say that a whole subculture just wants to treat everyday like it's 1999 (or would that be, 1959? :)). I think that this one largely stems from the role that music has played in the rockabilly subculture since day one. While plenty of rockabilly people love to cut loose and have a great time, of course they also do other things, have jobs and families that they focus on, and so on. 

What has been the greatest impact for you by living the rockabilly lifestyle?

ReeRee:  When I started to dress more alternatively with a rockabilly look my confidence started to soar. Dressing rockabilly started me on my tattoo journey, so I guess the greatest impact has been the permanent changes I've made to my skin!

Koop:  Having friends from across the globe and always having a venue anywhere in the world to check out that will have new friends to meet.

Jessica: Again, as I identify more as a "traditional vintage fan", so to speak, I'm not sure how much this applies to me. If we're talking about vintage in general though, I the greatest impact that it has had on my life has been the incredible degree of happiness and fulfillment that vintage brings into my world every day.


Have you picked up any new skills or hobbies since your rockabilly immersion?

ReeRee:  I can create victory rolls!

Koop:  In the late eighties I became a DJ and Promoter, two things I had never done previously that led to a fulltime career in radio.

Jessica: So much of my life is focused around vintage at this point that it's hard to find an area of it that doesn't relate back in some respect. Vintage has lead me to become a professional (vintage) blogger and Etsy vintage seller, brought many amazing friendships into my life, bolstered my confidence (I'm an incredibly shy and introverted person by nature), given me so many great opportunities and experiences (including appearing in numerous print and online magazines), and helped me to better find and define my own voice as a person.


Why do you think rockabilly is growing in popularity?

ReeRee:  I don't necessarily think it is. I think the internet has just connected people with similar interests and opens up more opportunities for people to make new friends from locations other than your own.

Koop:  I don’t know that it is. Here in Sydney it has shrunk, that said overall interest in retro culture has increased because of the internet.

Jessica: Because it's awesome! :) Beyond that, I think that rockabilly may be on the rise because there are so many great elements to this subculture. It marries the past and the present, is welcoming and open to all kinds of people from different walks of life, backgrounds, etc; is a lot of fun, and allows people to instantly have a welcoming community of their own to be a member of.


What would you tell this new generation, based on your experience with rockabilly?

ReeRee:  What new generation???

Koop:  Don’t let ‘Scene” define you. The lifestyle is of utmost importance as is the fun factor.

Jessica: March to the beat of your own drum. If you don't dig a certain element of the culture, you don't have to take part in it. You're free to be whatever kind of rockabilly gal or guy your heart desires.


Let's get some rockabilly recommendations from you, keep it to 3 each: Book.  Movie.  Music.

ReeRee:  At the salon we enjoy listening to

Koop:  Book- The Pied Pipers of Rock N Roll
Movie- Road Racers
Music- Ralph Nielson and the Chancellors -Scream

Jessica:I'm going to have to go more vintage here, as that's what I know best! :)
Books: Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look; The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947 - 1957; and The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish.

Movies: The Women, White Christmas, and La Dolve Vita.

Music: Anything by Frank Sinatra, Dean Marin, and any of the great big band leaders like Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller.

If you think you have some important answers to these questions, please contact Jessie.  We might do another round.


  1. Thank you so much for including me as part of this wonderfully fun and very thought provoking interview, dear Jessie. You asked fantastic questions and really gave me pause for thought on the influence of the rockabilly subculture on my life and wardrobe alike.

    I hope others reply to your call, as I'd really like to keep reading what more folks in our circle have to say here as well.

    Big hugs & tons of thanks again!
    ♥ Jessica

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'm glad you participated! I have some more people interested, so there might be a second interview.


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