31 Oct 2009

Grand Ole Opry

This gallery of in-and-outlaws was shot in '87.

I'd rustled together 20 rounds of 664 (Polaroid) and a beaten-up Mamiya Universal. At the time I thought nothing of the shots and laid them to rest. Like a case of Jack they've matured. These photographs weren't taken in a bar in Tennessee or an outpost of the Wild Frontier. They were captured in the Grand Ole Opry - the wild West -

West of Scotland!

  At the time the talk going around in the salons of Edinburgh was of gunslinging Weegies high on Heavy, ready to lynch the first Sassenach who dared put a foot over the boundary line. It sounded too good to be true. "Govan Gavin?!" was the baffled response to my invitation, apparently to a suicide ball. No one would come for the ride so I went on my lonesome.

I was welcomed with open-arms and over the winter of '87 I kept returning for a reality check-up.
Laredo gunslinger

  A stratified cloud of gun-powder and cigarette smoke hung over-head. Gunslingers danced as they slapped the burning embers on their thighs (in the race to beat their opponent they would often prematurely shoot-off before withdrawing from the holster). These urban cowboys were dedicated to detail - the get-up was got right. Who was going to argue with how they chose to escape? They had conviction, and six-shooters.

The Wanted posters had questions that needed answers. Where were the old-timers? What became of 'Jo Horner', 'Country Joe', 'Curly Bill', 'Bounty Hunter' and 'Cimarron'? Would I find ghosts where once stood a funeral parlour or would the image of bonhomie still play on in the former Picture House?

Kid Kamikaze and Cowboy Alec.

I deputised Kid Kamikaze who rode shotgun. The Kid was gonna cover me, armed with his pink compact and sharp eye. The fist-full of Polaroids was my passport to a magnanimous home coming.

Times have inevitably changed; there are too few cowboys and too many plucking hen parties. There's still a live band, bingo, line-dancing and gun-slinging (all for a fiver). Gone is the nicotine soused velvet curtain that hung like human fly-paper. The vista has been transformed by a prairie-panorama courtesy of STV's lawman - Taggart. Pretzels and cans of Red 'Sitting' Bull are a sobering change from the days of heavy and hard liquor. The memory of the old days still lingers in the air - the gunslinger's sulphur and salt peter making a last stand against the tobacco ban on the senses.

Outlaw (left) and Big Hoss (deceased).

Everyone gasped as I turned the shots. 'Deceased' was the word most used to describe the subjects.

John 'Kid Curry' McGhee (deceased).

John 'Cheyenne' Johnson (deceased) had attained legendary status before taking his life and with him the glory days.

Gambler (above) was run out of town after running-up bad debts.

John 'BJ' Duff (left) and John 'Doc Holliday' McCafferty (deceased). Blind DJ BJ has moved over, the new kid-on-the-decks is mos deaf DJ Rowdy Yates below.

DJ Rowdy Yates

Ian and Michelle (above) were on a roll. Michelle hit the bingo jackpot- a hundred pounds. Her and fiancé Ian (left) couldn't contain their joy- or their love for one another. Now they didn't have to worry about the taxi bill home - priceless moments.

The last of the die-hards was Archie 'Joe Horner' Buxton (above). It was unanimously agreed that Archie confounded convention, proving that looks could improve with age and tooth-loss! 

There are no pretensions here, just an honest celebration of culture and kinship. The spirit the of the Grand Ole Opry lives on...

 Thanks to all the kind folk of Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry, especially: JK, Big Bad John, Joe Horner, Cowboy Alec, Line Dancer, Bounty Hunter, Characo, Rowdy Yates, Peggy Sue, Nick Wray, Durango, Davey, Tony, Fiona, Night Rider, Donnegal Kid, Big D, Jake, Michelle and Ian, Duane, Bella and Cathie.