Who’s Your Hair Daddy?

In Celebrate by Jefferson Jay8 Comments

What’s a Hair Daddy?

“Hair Daddy” is my clever way of saying, the person who made you want to grow long hair. A lot of us longhairs have someone who inspired or influenced us to grow our locks. It might have been a close friend, family, or even a coach, or a person you grew it out with. Each one has a story.

Some folks' minds may wind toward the more familiar euphemism, "sugar daddy," someone who gives you "stuff" for "favors." Let the record show that this is certainly not that kind of daddy. 

Not a Hair Icon. That’s Different.

To be clear, this is someone you know, not some famous person with a glorious mane who you wanted to look like since you were a tyke. That’s your “hair icon,” a wholly different thing. For me, that’s Robert Plant, but that’s another tale entirely.


Based on a True Story

It was Valentine’s Day 1992. I was a senior in high school and my best friend, who lived in my house, was just fine. 24 hours later, he was in a coma. He lived in my house because his stepdad was a violent alcoholic. Five days later, he died, and to this day I believe his stepdad and mom were responsible for his death.

The trauma had emotionally wrecked me just months before entering college. A breathing ball of rage, somehow I survived into my freshman year at The University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMASS). My first month was spent with awful new acquaintances, excessive grief, and my hardest partying to date.

Soon after, I recognized the true nature of these acquaintances and went back to the amigos drawing board—starting with the rock-star types in the dorm room across the hall.


What Cool Looks Like

Dave was bald at 21, and shredded on the guitar like no one I had ever seen, but it was Mike who had a full head of gorgeous, long blonde hair. He was an awesome bassist, but ripped a mean guitar as well.

Mike was more than just another pretty head of hair. At this point in his life, he was slickness personified, and he quickly became the center of our emerging social circle.

He was a year of life and a lifetime of experience ahead of the crew forming around him, and shared life lessons of all sorts. Those days, Mike was on such a roll that we joked, he couldn’t trip without falling into the “arms,” of a beautiful woman.


The Kids in the Hall

Because Mike lived right across the hall, we bonded quickly. He told me he was going to be a musician for a living, an idea I had never considered before, but one I adopted in short order.

I had short hair growing up, with the exception of some mullet years in New Jersey around sixth grade, but I thought Mike looked extremely cool. It was right about then I stopped getting haircuts. Awkward phase came and I went quickly through it, as I started jamming with Mike and Dave.

I was going to be a singer, it seemed.

Fungiis Foreshadowed

The new hip regional band was Phish, and they had us hook, line and sinker. Mike scored us fifth row, center seats to see Phish in Worcester, MA on New Year’s Eve 1993 for $75 each. Those seats would cost like a million dollars now. It was epic.

Months later, I became the singer in Mike’s band. It wasn’t called that, but it should have been. It WAS called Chameleon Stress. As things grew tense and we feared the name was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, we mushroomed into The Fungiis.

VIP Life

We were young and out-of-control. No doubt. Once, as our alcohol-fueled crew of testosterone monsters charged down the dorm steps, Mike grabbed my arm. Good thing he did, cause I had just jumped over the bannister and was, very briefly, hanging above a four-floor fall. Thanks Mike.

Even back then, when Mike waxed poetic about his future he added, “and if life as a musician doesn’t work out, I’ll move to Amsterdam and do drugs ‘til I die.”

I didn’t take it that seriously, ‘cause we were 18 and invincible.

Kings of the Jungle

In our clearer-headed times, ironically, we slept side-by-side overnight, outside on concrete, in the icy Massachusetts winter. Our Vermontian heroes, Phish, were coming to the brand new Mullins Center at UMASS, on my birthday no less, and we camped out, first in line for front row seats. We were numbers one and two in line and the celebration raged on.

Mike, with the help of his/our “friends,” Alice in Chains, Metallica, Rush, and others, showed me I was not alone in my grief. He introduced me to some perspectives and escapes that I needed. He showed a youthful Jefferson how to be. He was the big dog, with a King-of-the Jungle-like lion’s mane to boot.

I Think We Should All Just Mellow Out

As I grew further from my trauma, I was finally ready to hear it when Dave said, “I think we should all just mellow out.” Profound, right?

But when the name change didn’t portend a mood change, I left The Fungiis. It was the day Jerry Garcia died, August 9, 1995. Things were going downhill at UMASS and I decided to move to California. You know who else followed their musical dreams to California, a couple years later? Mike.

Mike got in a band with some of our other longhaired pals who’s own musical journey had taken them to San Francisco. Their band, Boomshanka, toured America, played Jazz Fest in New Orleans, even drove to Alaska. I transferred to Humboldt State and saw them around California whenever I could.


Living the Dream…

San Francisco is a very dangerous city to have a drug addiction.

They lived the dream hard-core and I mean hard-core. What began as mostly wholesome recreational drug use at UMASS, had become something far more serious and sinister for the Boomshankers.


Worlds Collide

It was July 4th weekend, 2001. Boomshanka was in my then-new hometown of San Diego, to play Winston’s. It was my first long-form, late-night hang at the legendary Ocean Beach nightclub.

Boomshanka rocked and it felt amazing to be back with my college buds. We shut the bar down with the friendly bartender, also named Mike, providing unforgettable hospitality.

Twenty years later, I live four blocks from Winston’s and have worked there since 2012, hosting Open Mic. My band, The Jefferson Jay Band, has played there on many occasions. Bartender Mike still works there and we’ve become good pals.


Where Are We Now?

As for Mike, my hair daddy, well… It’s his birthday today, as I write this, April 20, 2021.

He would have been 48, but he overdosed in a rehab facility in Massachusetts on June 20, 2015. Like many others these days, the fentanyl got him.

My hair daddy was human, and all that good fortune he once wielded, withered in the infamous Tenderloin district, where Mike would score heroin. Fentanyl may have had the last word, but the story had long since been written.

Though I tried regularly, I was unable to reach Mike those last years. Old college friends relayed harrowing tales of the darkness and desperation of his addiction. I’m so sorry they all had to experience that.

Years later, I re-interpreted his non-responsiveness as him doing me a final favor, sparing me from soiling our friendship with his sickness. It was a generous and selfless gift. He was my daddy, and no one should have to see their daddy like that.

Be Like Mike

Mike’s long blonde hair was the ultimate symbol of his unmistakable cool in the early 90’s. All of his freshman friends saw this and every single one who could, not only grew out their hair, but also took up a musical instrument. Like so many young men in the 90’s, we wanted to “Be Like Mike.”

Open Mike

So here I am, 29 years later. Spent my entire adult life with long hair. I play guitar and write songs. Still listening to Phish and Alice in Chains when I want to reminisce or commiserate, respectively.

I’m still grateful and aware that there’s no way I’d be here in San Diego, happy with my family and my music and my long hair, without Mike’s paternal direction. He lives on through every person he affected, and I’m humble to have been one.

We all have friends who have influenced us in some way or another, for better or worse, but we can all be thankful to the guys who inspired us to grow long hair.

Hail Mike, longhair for life.

Who is your hair daddy? Tell us in the comments, amigo.

Trav White

Legendary Master of Ceremonies Jefferson Jay

Jefferson Jay is a musician, comedy host and content creator. He was the legendary emcee for The Great Cut, tirelessly hosting The Longhairs’ record-breaking event for over 14 hours. Since then, he’s hosted and been a guest on the Let It Ride podcast, interviewed Santa, broke down hair tie brackets, and modeled headwear to international acclaim.

Jefferson Jay and The Jefferson Jay Band records are available on Spotify, iTunes, and everywhere music is streamed. His animated series, The Hunt for The Holiday Spirit, will change the way people understand inclusivity.