Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Great Grandpa "Groezrock" Connection

My great grandfather, Frank Latta, at Montana's Karst Ranch with my mother, Faye Latta, about 1934. My great grandfather was quite a horseman. My mother--not so much.

I've reconnected with several cousins--of the once-or-twice-removed variety--through the Internet, and we've enjoyed sharing information about the great grandfather we all share, Frank Latta, of Bozeman, Montana.

What I didn't expect was to hear from some rockers in the Netherlands, who, it turns out, also find old Frank fascinating!

The FSA/WPA 1939 Arthur Rothstein photo of my great grandfather that has made him a hit in the Netherlands.

It was the picture, above, that captured their attention. The one of old Frank rollin' that cigarette. One handed. It is such a wonderful photograph--the old barn wood as a background and Frank with his bad eye, stunning Stetson, remarkable moustache, the sapphire ring, his homespun shirt, and wearing a tie! Just about everyone in my family has a copy of it.

I've written several blogs about old Frank, who is also known for tracking and aiding in the capture of the railroad dynamiter and extortionist Ike Gravelle in 1903. 

After I wrote one of my posts,  a cousin who is an attorney in Alaska, passed on the information about the famous photo of Frank: explaining that it was taken as part of a Great Depression program in the U.S. to document rural life in America. That photo, and a sequence that goes with it, are now available through the Library of Congress on Line. What a terrific bit of info that was.

Meanwhile, across the pond ...

Someone with a Dutch rock band happened to be surfing the Internet one day ... and saw the picture. Do you think he thought Frank was rolling some substance other than tobacco? (You have heard about Amsterdam, I guess?)

Anyway, I woke up one morning this week to an unusual email: "My name is Richard van Luttikhuizen and I live in The Netherlands. I recently discovered the beautiful picture of your great grandfather, Frank Latta, moistening his hand rolled cigarette. After reading the blogpost about him, I was even more enthusiastic.

"This is why: I play in a band and we're about to release a record. We would love to use the photograph as the front cover of our CD. We'd be honored. The question is: is this OK with you?"

The band is called John Coffey. Mr. van Luttikhuizen gave me links to their web and Facebook pages. Reading up on them I've learned they sometimes can be found at the Cafe de Vrijbuiter and are hoping to go the punk rock gathering called Groezrock which opens annually in Belgium.

Why would I have imagined this was a country music group? You know, banjos and stuff like that. It's not.

I had to write Mr. Luttikhuizen back and let him know that the photos are in the public domain--at least I think they are--as they were paid for by the US government and are now available through the Library of Congress. I hope they don't put, you know, a skull and crossbones or some naked ladies on Frank's hat: but other than make those suggestions, there isn't much I can say.

I do have to shake my head a little and marvel at the connections we make today and how much they've changed the world since that photograph was taken in the shade of an old Montana barn in 1939. It isn't that long ago in linear time--but it is light years in the past in terms of technology.

I have to believe Frank would love seeing his face on the cover of a Dutch punk rock band's new 21st century CD. Why?

I figure no man who cultivated a moustache like his, meant to spend his life, or his eternity, going unnoticed.





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