David Grohl Alley, World's Largest Drumsticks
Rock star David Grohl, founder of the Foo Fighters and former drummer of Nirvana, was born on January 14, 1969, in Warren, Ohio. This surprises many people, who assume he was born in the Pacific Northwest. It surprised Warren police sergeant Joe O'Grady when he heard it in 2007, over a couple of beers, from an Ohio DJ named Fred "Fast Freddie" Woak.
Joe thought about David Grohl and about how the young people of Warren -- a city that had fallen on tough times -- could be inspired by his success. As a police officer, he also thought about a grungy alley just off the courthouse square. The connection, he told us, seemed perfect. "This is our guy," he remembered telling himself.
It took some convincing of the city council -- who had to be told what a "Foo Fighter" was -- but Joe eventually won its approval to rename the trash-filled byway David Grohl Alley.
(Grohl joined The Flaming Lips as the only rock act honored with an alley).
Joe shepherded the alley's revival, cleaning out the garbage and installing lights and security cameras. Artists from a local gallery painted the pavement, graffiti-style murals, and plywood canvasses of Grohl art that were hung from the alley's walls -- offering visions of David Grohl as everything from a harlequin-style Fiddler on a Roof to a superhero erupting from a drum. ''We wanted to make it one of the best spots in the city," said Joe. "If you saw it before, it was one of the worst.''
David Grohl Alley officially opened as an attraction on August 1, 2009. To almost everyone's surprise, David Grohl showed up at the dedication, along with his mom, dad, and stepmom. He played "My Hero" on a guitar and dedicated it to Joe O'Grady. Reporters at the time described Joe hiding tears behind his sunglasses.
"I was embarrassed," he told us. "I got all mushy and stuff."
Joe, however, wasn't done. He wanted the alley to grow and change, "to have a life of its own, to be a part of the community." In that spirit the alley has been repaved and painted with new designs, and new artwork has been added, including a David Grohl drummer sculpture by local artist Dan Plant, made of 20-gauge steel in his parents' garage.
Joe, who likes to vacation on his Harley and is a fan of RoadsideAmerica.com, also knew the value of a "world's largest" as an attraction. So he convinced local artist Joel Eggert to hand-carve the World's Largest Drumsticks out of two poplar logs, each 23 feet long and weighing a half-ton. They were added to the alley in May 2013 ("You did this, you absolutely did," said Joe, referring to Roadside's role in inspiring the worth-a-detour landmark drumsticks, although he also credits his girlfriend).
David Grohl did not attend the drumsticks' unveiling, but he did take out a full page ad in the local newspaper, thanking the town while posing for a photo wearing a t-shirt emblazoned, "Made in Warren."
We visited the Alley early one morning, and were impressed by the quantity of artistic tributes up and down its length. It stretches from a busy street and fast food drive-thru, past a parking structure and through a tunnel to another parking lot. We got friendly nods from two denizens who emerged from doorways along the brick wall -- musicians, artists, fast food workers? All three? It's hard to say, but you could do worse than having an early career backstory that includes living right off David Grohl Alley.
The Grohl family still lives in Trumbull County, and David still occasionally stops by to visit. "He's just a good person," said Joe, adding that there have been several "confirmed reports" of tourists visiting the alley who've encountered David strolling through, checking out the latest additions.
"What do you think?" he asks. "I'm Dave."