Virginia Hanlon Grohl: From Cradle to Stage

From Saturday Morning, 9:44 am on 22 April 2017
Virginia Hanlon Grohl and Dave Grohl

Virginia Hanlon Grohl and Dave Grohl Photo: Supplied

Virginia Hanlon Grohl is the mother of Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, aka "the nicest man in rock".

Now in her late seventies, she had always wondered about how other mothers of rock stars coped with having super-famous offspring - and what they did or didn't do to nurture their children's musical careers.

After someone suggested she track them down and write a book she did just that, interviewing 18 mothers of famous musicians for From Cradle to Stage.

Hanlon Grohl talks to Kim Hill about what she discovered from the mothers of some of the biggest acts of the past 20 years, including Amy Winehouse, Michael Stipe and Dr Dre.

As a solo mother supporting Dave and his big sister Lisa, Hanlon Grohl held down three jobs.

"We just did it because that's what we had to do."

But the Grohl family always made time to enjoy music together, she says.

In the book, Dave traces his addiction to music back to one day when he was six years old, harmonising in the car with his mum to Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain'.

"I didn't know at the time that this was a great moment in his life. He didn't jump up and down and say 'Eureka, I have found the secret to music!'

Many of the musicians recognised their path early on, she says.

"One thing that amazed me … most of them really committed to music as their life's work at the same age – at the very early age of 12 or 13."

When Dave went on tour as drummer with the band Scream as a teenager, Hanlon Grohl said she wasn't worried as she trusted the band's leader.

"I knew he was going to be travelling the world and I just thought that's the best possible thing he could be doing and the best school he's going to get, the school of "I'll be in Paris on the weekend and in Amsterdam next weekend in London the following...' I think that's a pretty good way to get educated, rather than sitting at the book."

The musicians whose mother's she met weren't angling for fame and fortune when they were young, she says, unlike today.

"It was just that they were committed to the music."

Hanlon Grohl doesn't remember herself, but Dave recalls calling to ask her whether he should join Nirvana back in 1990.

"I said 'Yes, there's an opportunity, take it.' And it worked out well, didn't it?"

She has seen him perform hundreds of times now.

"I don't know how many miles David runs during a show. He expends a great amount of energy and he's not a teenager anymore."