BBC Radio 4 Tribute to Ferdinand Porsche

I had a call from BBC Radio 4 this afternoon about an upcoming tribute they are recording on Ferdinand Porsche. I’ve been asked to contribute, and suggested another name they should talk to. I’m taking the 911 down to London tomorrow and we’ll try to record something in it. The Orange is no hush puppie, so it ought to be interesting!

Considering Butzi, his place in history and how we should remember him is something I’ve been doing a lot of. I grew up in a broadly similar family dynamic – third generation of a family business that was well established in its field – so I feel some simpatico with his start in life.

Our family business was music: we had a small chain of shops and were Irish importers for Gibson etc. I started ‘working’ there around age 7, and would go to ‘the big shop’ on Saturdays, where my Uncle John and his son Jonathon, Uncle Sean and his son Johnny, two more local Johns, a guitar tech, an electronics engineer and my grandad all worked.

So many Johns and then me on top. My second name is David, so I became Johndee, and that is why my blog is called Johnd Glynn (not john D. Glynn). I didn’t want something with Porsche in the name, and JohnGlynn.com was already taken.

ANYWAY! My dad and grandad were very well known. It was expected that I would follow their musical careers (dad was a successful musician and grandad ran the Musician’s Union in that part of the country) and for a long time I did. I learned how to sell, studied some instruments and generally did what I was told. But, much as I enjoyed working with my dad and grandad, I did feel some resentment for an impending career that was not of my choosing. My big thing was cars, trucks, bikes and books: I wanted to write about cars.

When my grandad died, my dad’s priorities began to change and eventually the business closed down. I was free, but I had also lost a purpose. I wandered distractedly for years before finally, a big bike accident for me and the premature death of my young brother in law forced shifts in thinking, and I finally bought my first Porsche. The sea change came in a 911, on the way home from the Nürburgring Oldtimer in 2009. A chance conversation brought clearer focus, and led me to where I am now: on a journey that still thrills and terrifies in almost equal measure.

Some reading this who will wonder what a music business in soaking wet Ireland has to do with three generations of car designers, hundreds of miles away? Probably nothing if you take it that literally. But I’m not talking literal: I’m trying to explore it emotionally. How does someone feel when the family business is pulled out from under them, or the ties of obligation are severed? I do know something about that.

Thoughts continue before tomorrow’s recording. So many paths are open to all of us but, in the end, we can only take one road. How worn the road is and what lies along the way depends on courage and conviction. It seems to me that Ferry had both, in supersize portions. I don’t know about Butzi as yet, but of the same species, for sure.

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