By: Willie Moseley

 

Time was “cruisin’” was a term for Baby Boomer teenagers that involved harmless (and to some extent, aimless) driving around communities for no particular reason other than to frequent local landmarks such as drive-ins.

Such rides were simply to be seen and perhaps to show off the particular vehicle you were driving.

And as that generation has begun to retire from day jobs, one entertainment/travel option that seems to be on the increase for such folks has been a music genre-themed cruise on an ocean liner, with entertainment provided by (present-day editions of) bands with which Boomers came of age.

Such cruises have been going on for some time and seem to be increasing in number (and “concepts”). Moreover, the usually weeklong excursions have happened in the Caribbean as well as California.

Sometimes, it’s a singular band that is featured on the cruise. An earlier example would have been the voyage sponsored by the legendary instrumental band called the Ventures, which was founded in 1959. That combo was the keystone aggregation in a Left Coast four-day cruise from Los Angeles to Baja California early this century (they followed up by releasing an album titled “Surfin’ to Baja” in 2006). There was also a younger band called Los Straitjackets on the same cruise that proffered similar music.

But what was interesting was that some of the passengers were members of bands that are or were more famous than the host band. They were onboard because the Ventures had been a big influence on them in earlier times.

And in the ensuing decade and a half, aging children of the post-war and Eisenhower eras have witnessed a burgeoning growth in the tourism industry of specialty ocean-going events that chronologically cater to their nostalgia. It’s gotten to the point where entire musical genres are now represented by numerous bands on such journeys.

One obvious caveat concerning this entertainment phenomenon is that many of the bands, as noted in this space a few months ago, are down to one original member. Sometimes someone owns the name and there aren’t any original members at all. There are also “tribute bands,” (and that designation is, at least, a bit more upfront in marketing such aggregations) as well as acts that have a slightly different name for legal reasons (“The Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards”).

And the older the musical genre, the more likely such performers might have also been seen on PBS during Pledge Week. To wit:

From what I could determine, the oldest demographic that has a specialty cruise presently being booked as of this writing consists of fans of vocal groups and pop singers from the early Sixties; i.e. before the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Performers slated to appear include Dion, Brenda Lee, and Brian Hyland, among others. Not surprisingly, there’s supposed to be a tribute to Elvis, but another act called “Winter Dance Party” sounds intriguing, because it’s a tribute to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, all of whom died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa on Feb 3, 1959.

A voyage for Southern Rock fans has already sold out. It’ll feature groups like the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and an Allman Brothers tribute band. Lynyrd Skynyrd will provide an on-shore performance during a stop in Jamaica.

A “Soul Train”-oriented cruise will present performances by the Pointer Sisters, the Spinners and Jeffrey Osborne. The sojourn will be hosted by Tony Cornelius, son of original “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius.

Don’t expect to see tributes to Faron Young or Porter Wagoner on an upcoming country music cruise. Most of the acts appearing on that trip came into prominence around the time “Urban Cowboy” dramatically shifted that genre into the mainstream of American music, whereby what’s now called Country is for all intents and purposes Top 40 rock (but “Top 40” doesn’t exist anymore as a term or concept).

A “Flower Power” cruise will target, uh, Top 40 music from the 60s with performers such as the Buckinghams, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and the Grass Roots.

There are now cruises that cater to lovers of music from ‘70s (“Rock and Romance”, featuring Styx, Air Supply, etc.) and even the ‘90s.

It’s an ocean-going concept of different strokes for different folks and apparently music nostalgia is a popular phenomenon that makes for unique voyages. One wonders about which cruise he/she might choose, and why…