Forget “Black Friday,” welcome to “The Man in Black Friday.” The elves at Awaiting The Flood have put our heads together to come up with twelve great gift ideas for the season of giving, covering a variety of roots genres and price ranges, for the music lover on your list (And presents for yourself are, of course, entirely acceptable—it’s been a long year, after all). To help you out, we’ve also provided the skinny on where to get them and how much they cost (absent any possible shipping & handling charges)—all served up with a side order of tongue-in-cheek.
#12) Vintage Beer Signs
While scientists are still working to explain the phenomenon, nothing says “I listen to roots music” like having a vintage beer sign or two hanging in your home. To lend your gift some additional roots credibility, make sure to pick a beer that no longer exists, such as Falstaff (perfect for that “Redneck Mother” fan), Dixie or Billy Beer.
Where do I find it? For the adventurous, just looking for this gift (at antique malls, junk shops or even actual junk yards) can be part of the fun. For those placing a premium on convenience, there are a multitude of online sources. EBay is always a good bet. Breweriana is a nice site focusing on the middle to high-end signage.
What does it cost? Variable, from a few dollars to more than a thousand dollars—depending on what you want and where you find it.
What’s the downside? They’re bulky. Some of the really cool ones should probably come with a tetanus booster. Not every house guest will appreciate how awesome they are.
#11) Musician Bobblehead
Nodding with a perpetual Zen-like undulation, bobbleheads can go anywhere: the home, the office and even the car. Small and unobtrusive, at glance they can also make a big pint-sized statement about one’s musical taste.
Where do I find it? Sadly, there seems to be no master site for the bobblehead universe. Your best online bet is to do a search for “bobblehead” and the name of a particular musician or group.
What does it cost? Most bobbleheads are in the $10-$20 range. A few “deluxe” specimens can push $30 or even $40, with some collectible specimens reaching even higher.
What’s the downside? Availability is highly dependent on the musician for which you’re looking. Finding a bobblehead for The Beatles, Hendrix or even Iron Maiden’s iconic mascot, Eddie, should present little problem. Those whose fondest wish is a Moondog, Bix Beiderbecke or Faron Young bobblehead should probably learn to live with disappointment.
#10) Alligator Guitar
From East Texas to Florida, the alligator is a ubiquitous symbol of the swampland of the American South. So, what could be more emblematic of a passion for swamp rock, swamp pop, Louisiana blues, Cajun or Zydeco than an alligator guitar? John Preble, an artist based in Abita Springs, Louisiana (home of the celebrated Abita Beer microbrewery) can make that happen. The bodies of Preble’s “gatorfied” guitars are sheathed in mock alligator hide but, just looking, you can’t tell it from the real thing. The attached alligator head and optional claw headstock are, however, genuine. And, yes, they’re playable. Bill Davis, frontman for New Orleans rockers Dash Riprock, often uses one in live shows. Fortunately, Preble always tries to keep a few in stock—perfect for the holidays.
Where do I find it? Abita Springs, a nice adventure in itself and a great excuse to stop by the brewery while you’re there. They can also be purchased on Preble’s website.
What’s it cost? $600 and up, depending on the type of guitar (You can get a substantial price break by “Gatorizing” a guitar you already own, with costs starting at $350).
What’s the downside? They’re not cheap (see above).
#9) “Lighter” Smart Phone App
For decades, when you were at a show, there was no better way to tell a band “I really dig what you’re doing” than to pull out your cigarette lighter, flick it and hold it up as high as possible. If enough people agreed with you, the effect could be truly awesome. But in 2014, hardly anybody smokes anymore and venues have gotten picky about little things like fire codes. Modern concert-goers, bless their hearts, have tried to create the same effect by holding up smart phones. There’s only one problem with that—it’s lame. Fortunately, app creators are here to help: bringing you the best of both worlds with a variety of apps that create the image of a flaming lighter on your phone. Apps are available for most common brands of smart phones.
Where do I find it? Online. Search for “lighter app” and the brand of smart phone.
What’s it Cost? Damn cheap. Cheaper than a real cigarette lighter, actually. You can find them for as little as $0.99
What’s the downside? Still not as cool as a real lighter. Won’t help you if your plane crashes in the Andes and you need to start a fire.
#8) “Fit for a King: The Elvis Presley Cookbook” by Elizabeth McKeon, Ralph Gevirtz and Julie Bandy.
Everybody wants to learn to cook like a king. And now you literally can. Filled with more than 300 of Presley’s favorite recipes and more than 70 photographs, this book is perfect for die-hard Elvis fans or modern roots-rockers who want to follow in their idol’s footsteps—right to the dinning table. If you like the concept but this book doesn’t look like quite the right gift, Elvis-themed cookbooks are surprisingly abundant. Brenda Butler’s “Are You Hungry Tonight: Elvis’ Favorite Recipes” is another highly regarded title. Whichever cookbook you chose, look for it to feature the King’s infamous fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Where do I find it? It’s available online, both new and used, from all the sites you’d expect as well as many Elvis-themed sites. You can also check your local bookstore.
What’s it Cost? Variable, depending on the format and whether it’s new or used. A new, hardcover edition suitable for either coffee table or kitchen runs about $35. A new spiral-bound copy costs about $15. Ebook versions run around $10. Used copies are available for pennies on up. Local bookstore pricing, especially used bookstore pricing, is variable.
What’s the downside? As might be expected, most of Presley’s favorite recipes are not exactly healthy (e.g. fried peanut butter and banana sandwich). Nor are many of them appropriate for individuals with dietary restrictions.
#7) Folk Art Nativity Set
Blending the spirit of the season with the ubiquitous artistic motifs of roots music, a folk art nativity set makes a distinctive statement. Coming in flavors including American primitive, cowboy, junkyard art, Latin, Southern, hipster and many more, you’ll have a variety of styles to choose from. Folk art’s emphasis on unique pieces and idiosyncratic artist styles ensures you’re giving a truly one-of-a-kind gift. A folk art nativity can be a touching and long-cherished gift—one that may even be passed from one generation to the next. How many gifts can you say that about? Of course, not everybody is celebrating Christmas this season—you have to look a little harder, but you can find folk art menorahs as well.
Where do you find them? Online (eBay and Etsy are great options, and a search can take you directly to some artists’ sites), art galleries, antique shops, bizarre little stores in the middle of nowhere.
What’s it cost? From around $20 up into the hundreds of dollars.
What’s the downside? Will probably only be displayed about one month a year. Better hope God approves of kitsch.
#6) BBQ by Mail
Nothing tells us more about our roots than what we eat. And nothing says “roots” like BBQ, those lovely morsels of slow-smoked meaty manna from heaven. Sad as it is to say, there are many parts of the country that don’t have access to good craft BBQ. If you’ve got a friend who’s never experienced real craft BBQ or who grew up around great BBQ and now lives elsewhere in the country, nothing will more clearly convey “I love you, man” than the gift of meat. Fortunately, a number of BBQ restaurants will ship their product anywhere in the country.
Where do I find it? BBQ-themed website, TM BBQ, maintains a list of pits across the country which will ship their product. For those who don’t want to wade through the entire list or don’t feel well-informed enough to make a choice, below we’ve identified one reputable outlet from each of America’s five major regional BBQ styles (regional styles have been listed alphabetically, we don’t want to start a religious argument) that ships their handiwork: Carolina, Maurice’s Piggie Park; Chicago, Carson’s Ribs; Kansas City, Jack Stack BBQ; Southern, Germantown Commissary and Texas, Cooper’s BBQ.
What’s it cost? Small samplers begin at around $65, larger spreads go up to around $200.
What’s the downside? Once it’s gone, the gift of BBQ will leave no tangible reminders (other than holiday weight gain) of your generosity. Not appropriate (but possibly very funny) as a gift for vegetarians and vegans.
#5) “Texas Night Before Christmas,” by James Rice
A reworking of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic Christmas tale, “Texas Night Before Christmas” is set on the Texas prairie and loaded with enough over the top Texana to make J.R. Ewing blush. Rice’s retelling has been a cult Holiday classic for more than three decades. Kids will love the illustrations, hyperbolic “Texan” language and general silliness. Adults will enjoy the kitsch and well-crafted, affectionate parody.
Where do you find it? It’s available online, both new and used, from all the sites you’d expect. You can also check your local bookstore.
What’s it cost? We found new copies online from $13.24 and used copies for pennies on up. Your local bookstore is caveat emptor.
What’s the Downside? Most effective as a gift for children or people with children. Will probably only come out for a few weeks a year. Apparently, not everyone is as fascinated with Texas as Texans are.
#4) “Your Favorite Band Sucks” t-shirt
Our music is one of the ways we define ourselves. And we all have that one friend (and sometimes are that one friend) who is sure his or her taste in music is better than everyone else’s. A “Your Favorite Band Sucks” t-shirt, in comfortable cotton, is the perfect vehicle for the genre partisan, hipster or general contrarian to proclaim his or her musical superiority to the world.
Where do I find it? All the usual online t-shirt sites (Café Press, Etsy, Zazzle, etc). Coming with a cow skull emblem and Western-font lettering, the version offered by The Onion’s online store merits special consideration as a roots gift.
What does it cost? From $8.00 to $30.00, depending on the vendor and type of shirt.
What’s the downside? Possible bar fights (Maybe not a downside for those living a hard-core country, punk or rockabilly lifestyle). Very slight risk that an encounter between two people wearing the shirt could create a space-time anomaly that will destroy the universe.
#3) Western Wear for Dogs
Once upon time, wearing western wear made a statement. These days, it seems like everyone is duding it up in cowboy hats and boots. So, if you want to proclaim your authentic country, rockabilly or Americana credentials, maybe it’s time to enlist your dog’s help. Now Fido can channel anyone from John Wayne to Willie Nelson with a canine cowboy hat, western collar and even cowboy boots.
Where do I find it? You can check the larger big-box pet stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, online or on foot. Your best bet, however, may be several boutique pet accessory stores featuring Western wear. Puprwear and Primp Your Pet are good for general doggie western wear. For boots, Dog Supplies Site is pretty much the only game in town.
What’s it cost? Cowboy hats, $15.95; bandannas, $10-$12; collars, $10 up to more than $100; jackets, $20-$50; a set of four matched cowboy boots, $10.50
What’s the downside? Your dog may face constant mockery from nature’s perfect snide hipster, the cat.
#2) “The Best of Soul Train” DVD collection
No TV program has had more influence on America’s musical taste than Soul Train. In its 35-year run, the program had a profound impact on the shape of soul, R&B and funk — with occasional forays into disco, gospel, hip-hop, jazz and rock. Many now seminal artists were first introduced to nationwide audiences by Soul Train’s impeccable arbitrator of taste, the flamboyantly-attired and immaculately-coiffed Don Cornelius.
If you’re looking for a gift for those with nostalgia for the series or a fondness for its key genres, the good folks at Time-Life Music have poured through the 1970s heyday of the show to help. The “standard set” includes 130 memorable performances by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Tina & Ike, The Isley Brothers, The Staple Singers, The Temptations, The Commodores, Gladys Knight, Martha & The Vandellas, Teddy Pendergrass and Bill Withers. The collection also features a series of insightful interviews with Cornelius, Smokey Robinson, Jody Watley and others. For the true Soul Train fan and/or serious genre enthusiast, Time/Life also offers a “deluxe set” featuring 288 performances and 8 CDs.
Where do I find it? New? Only from Time-Life Music. For used copies, you can check Amazon, eBay or secondhand book and music shops.
What’s it Cost? New, the Standard Set costs $119.96. The Deluxe Set will set you back the oddly precise amount of $219.92,
What’s the downside? Spontaneous formation of Soul Train lines. Realizing you will never, ever be as cool as Don Cornelius.
#1) Supporting the Music
Nothing may warm the heart of a true music fan more than putting your gift money where his or her mouth is. While some roots genres are global cash cows, others thrive only as a result of love from their fan base. Organizations such as the Americana Music Association, Blues Foundation and Country Music Association play vital roles in their chosen genres. Through a gift membership in the name of your music fan, you can help support the good work of those organizations (and, of course, such memberships also often come with free swag and other benefits).
Or, if your music fan has specific passions, you can make a donation to an institution with a more focused mandate, such as the Motown Museum, Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Smithsonian Folkways or the Stax Records Museum.
We don’t necessarily think the organizations listed above are better than the plethora of others available, we just wanted to provide you some examples of the options out there.
Where do I find it? Online, you can search for the websites of non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving great music. Once you’re there, most of the sites will go out of their way to show you where and how to give them money.
What’s it Cost? It depends, both on the organization and your budget. A one-year individual membership with the Blues Foundation costs $25. The same thing with the Country Music Association costs $100. Most organizations seeking non-membership donations will accept as much or as little as you’re willing to give.
What’s the Downside? None, really.
There you go. A dozen gifts to warm the hearts of roots fans. If that special person on your list won’t love at least one of these gifts—they’re probably not worth giving to anyway.