Sunday, 11 May 2008

117: "Big Bruce"

“Big Bruce” (M. Vickery, D. Tyson, Bud. Reneau-Bill Stith).
Sung by Steve Greenberg.
Atlantic 1969

SPOKEN: The folk history of America is the history of its heroes. Big working men like John Henry, Paul Bunyan and Big Bad John. But today, I’d like to introduce a new folk hero. He didn’t work in a mine, or in a railroad, or any of those strenuous occupations. He worked in a beauty salon, and his name was Bruce...

Well, every day at the salon, you can see him arrive
He stood six-foot-six, weighed one-oh-five
He's kinda narrow at the shoulders, narrow in the hips
With a curl in his hair and a smile on his lips
Big Bruce
Big Bad Bruce

No one seemed to know where Bruce came from
He kinda swished into town and stayed all alone
Never said much, kind of quiet and shy
And when he spoke at all, it was just to say “Hi!”
Big Bruce
Big Bad Bruce

Same say he came from New Orleans
Where he had a social group called The Cajun Queens
Some say Hollywood or Beverly Hills
Where he got arrested for passing three-dollar bills
That’s Bruce

Then came the day of that terrible fire
Something went wrong in the #5 dryer
Into the chaos of those matronly caves
Went Big Bad Bruce, just a-fannin’ the flames
Big Bruce
Big Bad Brucie-Wucie

Well, the flames grew higher and the fire got worse
And someone heard Brucie cry, “Mercy, I forgot my purse!”
Into the fire with a squeal and a shout
We waited an hour, but he never came out
Poor Bruce
Poor old Bruce

Where that salon once stood is a grocery store
But his name will live for evermore
In the annals of time
And in the Hall of Fame
As a gay young cat who went down in flames
Big Bruce

You might say this is a big kind of fairy tale


This is a parody of Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John". This is a slightly rewritten cover of “Big Bruce” by The Country Gentlemen (Rebel 263, 1966). This version charted on the Billboard Chart at #97, July of 1969.

Not a gay cowboy song. Rather the joke here is the transposition of a gay scenario –hairdressers and their big city homosexual milieus (which we might recognise from #89: The Pied Piper of Burbank) – into a country ballad. In this there is of course implicit critique between the masculine he-men of the west, and even the typical macho western singer's drawl, and the effeminate fashion gay.
This also has significance because it is an early instance of Americans getting somewhat worked up in their belief that “Bruce” is a very gay name indeed.

While trying to find out more about "The Ballad of Ben Gay" and "Big Bruce" I found this Queer Music Heritage website which has an exhaustive history of gay cowboy songs:

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