April 2005
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Bruce collageCan you identify this sissy? If you can, then you're real student of queer music history.

This show is nestled in the middle of a three-part series on the world of Gay Country Music. Where the last show went deep into the history, and the next will flesh out the contributions of the more recent country artists, this one, well, is something different.

It's "The Return of Big Bad Bruce: Homophobia in Country Music." I'll explore those comedy and novelty songs, done by straight artists over the years, that have been making the most of gay stereotypes. Some are outright homophobic and some merely poking gentle fun. But when you're in a mostly silent minority those songs in those early years got your attention. There were no role models on television in the 70's, and what those of us deep in the closet heard were the likes of Big Bad Bruce. I'll trace the evolution of the types of songs. Yes, the style of the stereotyping changed over time. Tune in and you'll see how, until I bring you up to date with a handful of gay-themed songs by straight artists that are downright positive, ones any gay artist would have been proud to have written. From Big Bruce to Garth Brooks, y'all come.

Big Bad John

Above, Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John,"
the song that begat all those parodies.
I've set up a special web page to
feature those songs, check it out.

Playlist           (airdate April 11, 2005)
Steve Greenberg - Big Bruce (1969)
Jimmy Dean - Big John (1962)
Ben Colder - Big Sweet John (1969)
Casey Anderson - Sweet Sidney (1962)
The Faux Pas - Big John (1967)
Bob Peck - Homo the Range (1951)
J. Curley Farrell - Fruity Brucey (1978)
Bruce Poose - Hopalong Sissy (1981)
Ben Gay & the Silly Savages - The Ballad of Ben Gay (1974)
Peter Dana - Queen of the Beach (1967)
Rock's Gang - Faggo Root Beer Commercial (1973)
Rock Harding - He Always Lets Me Down So Easy (1970)
Rock Harding - You Ain't Done Better Than Me (1970)
Rod Hart - CB Savage (1977)
Richard Thompson - Woman or a Man (1982)
Michael Doucet - Woman or a Man (1987)
Rodney Carrington - Dancing With A Man (1998)
Mac MacDonald - All My Exes Change Their Sexes (1996)
Howie Nave - Your Father Was Once My Mother (1991)
Ruthie & the Wranglers - He's A Honky Tonk Man (1998)
Cledus T. Judd - The Change (1996)
Pinkard & Bowden - Since My Baby Turned Gay (1992)
Bellamy Brothers - My Wife Left Me For My Girlfriend (1997)
Dick Dietrick & the Nightstandards - She's a Lesbian (2001)
Weird Al Yankovic - Truck Drivin' Song (1999)
American Comedy Network - Country Transvestite Song (2001)
Reverend Horton Heat - Cowboy Love (1999)
Austin Lounge Lizards - Cornhusker Refugee (1988)
Rodney Crowell - I Wish It Would Rain (2001)
Rodney Crowell - Wandering Boy (2001)
Digglers - Eyes of a Cowboy (2003)
Chris Difford - Cowboys Are My Weakness (2004)
Dale Allen - What Would It Take (1999)
Garth Brooks - We Shall Be Free (1992)


Read the script for the show...Plus there's more photos

Ben Colder  Casey Anderson  they aptly called themselves Faux Pas

I've started off with some parodies of "Big John" including the most know one, "Big Bruce," by Steve Greenberg, which got a lot of radio play in 1969. See the label at the start of the upper left montage. Then I sampled three more, starting with country comedy artist Ben Colder. You expect parodies from him, but the one on Casey Anderson's album seems really out of place. The recording is a rather ordinary folk album, and then you have this mincing song starring, in this case, Sweet Sidney. And the Faux Pas laid it on even thicker, all from the 60s.

And lisping stereotypes still reigned through all of the 70s, all three of the ones below could battle it out for most lavender...shall it be Fruity Brucey, the Hopalong Sissy, or Ben Gay? Tough call.

Fruity Brucey Hopalong Sissy Click to download Ben Gay, and those Silly Savages

Bob Peck's 10 incher Bob Peck          Peter Dana

Above left, let's go back to 1951, when Bob Peck took the tune to "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and sang about a cowboy named Alexis. That was from his 10" LP "Songs That Never Made the Hymnal." And Peter Dana in 1967 could not resist doing a rip off of Roger Miller's "King of the Road" with, yes, you guessed it, "Queen of the Beach." The act Rock's Gang issued their album "Bring It Back Alive" in 1973 and they also gave in to inserting a gay parody into an otherwise rock music recording...and did theirs as a fake root beer commercial. Gee, I'll take some Faggo right now! Now, you need to pass your cursor over the pic sleeve for the Rock Harding 45, to read the back. This odd recording on Canadian Capitol Records sported an obviously fake name (worthy of a porn star)...Rock Harding. Both sides were written, and probably sung by, according to the label, "J. Warren," and the Capitol discography from that year, 1970, listed in close proximity a couple 45s by a Jerry Warren, but that's where my search went cold. Another collecting mystery.

Rock's Gang   Rock Harding

Rod Hart's claim to fame

"Have you seen some Smokey Bears, or some bare Smokeys"

the "CB Savage" 45

Alas, Rod Hart actually made the Billboard charts with this one. It reached #67 early in 1976 and got plenty of radio play. I certainly remember hearing it.  Well, at least the song had an amusing "plot twist." On the back of the album cover were charicatures supposedly representing each song; see our gay pretender upper right.  

Gender Confusion


During the 80's & 90's a common form of GLBT parody was the mistaken gender songs, along with the sex-change songs. In 1982 Richard Thompson wondered if the alluring person at the club was a "Woman or a Man," as did Michael Doucet in his cover version five years later. But my favorite can't-tell-the-difference song was by Rodney Carrington, called "Dancing with a Man," from 1998. In it he's making more fun of he and his buddy for the error in, er, judgment. Also on his album "Hangin' With Rodney" was the amusing "Letter to My Penis." His next album was not as good, though it did feature the amusing joining of its title, "Morning Wood," with the cover photo (which is under the pic of his CD above).


Above left, Howie Nave gave us the amusing "Your Mother Was Once My Father" on his aptly titled 1991 album "I Can't Believe I Sang That." Mac MacDonald, sometimes in the comedy duo Bird & MacDonald, issued several cassette tapes with his oft-off-color humor. The one I could play on the air was the charming George Strait parody "All My Exes Change Their Sexes." And in 1998 Ruthie & the Wranglers gave us the spirited "He's a Honky Tonk Man (Who Wants To Be a Honky Tonk Woman)." Below, Cledus T. Judd's contribution to transgender country was "The Change," from "I Stoled This Record." He's resurfaced to bring such songs as "My Cellmate Thinks I'm Sexy."


Their Women Are Lesbians!

Pinkard & Bowden  Bellamy Brothers  Dick Dietrick

Yup, these men lost their women to the lure of least they got good songs out of it. First, in 1992, comedy duo Pinked & Bowden were just plain down in the dumps "Since My Baby Turned Gay." The pain was compounded for the Bellamy Brothers when "My Wife Left Me For My Girlfriend," in 1997. Dick Dietrick was really the name of a TV character, played by Tim Stack, so this one was strictly for laughs, I guess.

First Person Stereotyping

Weird Al Yankovic     

Weird Al

American Comedy Network

You expect just about anything from Weird Al Yankovic. He donned high heels and drove a truck in his "Truck Drivin' Song" in 1999. And a slightly less classy portrayal came from the American Comedy Network in their "Country Transvestite Song," circa 2001. What was interesting to me is that these songs were done in "first person." Times have changed enough that the artist wasn't concerned about the audience thinking they were gay, just because the sang the song.

Getting Serious

Rev. Horton Heat

Rev. Horton Heat is really Jim Heat, from Dallas, but his song "Cowboy Love" seems fairly sincere. But his 1999 song wasn't the first serious gay country song by a straight act. I give that honor to an group known for their social commentary, the Austin Lounge Lizards. It came from their 1988 album, "Highway Cafe of the Damned." I just love their song "Cornhusker Refugee."

Highway Cafe of the Damned

Austin Lounge Lizards

Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell's "The Houston Kid"   Rodney Crowell

For his 2001 release "Houston Kid," Rodney Crowell received wide critical acclaim. And most critics gave special attention to Crowell's treatment of homophobia and AIDS in his two songs "I Wish It Would Rain" and "Wandering Boy." See the glowing review at the right.

Equally compelling is the pair of songs inspired by the twin sons of friends of Crowell’s parents. In what may be the most compelling treatment of AIDS and bias written, “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Wandering Boy” juxtapose the twin who flees Houston to become a bisexual hustler in California so strung out he knows not where he is and must return to the place he escaped to succumb to the dreaded HIV virus. It is in Texas, where the hard-core Texan’s latent homophobia and uninformed hatred of his brother’s lifestyle is ultimately transformed by his love for his brother, admitting “I used to cast my judgments like a net/ Those California gay boys deserve just what they get” only to be haunted by the realization “Little did I know there would come a day/ When my words would come back screaming like a debt I have to pay.”

Chris Difford


Known more for being one of the driving forces of the UK group Squeeze, what a nice surprise was a the very gay "Cowboys Are My Weakness" from his latest album "I Didn't Get Where I Am." What a terrific song!

Chris Difford  Chris Difford  
Dale Allen


Dale Allen

Ah, what a delightful song is "What Would It Take," and I would hate to spoil the song's fun by writing about it before you heard it. It comes from Dale Allen's album "Just For Fun," from 1999.

Dale Allen

We shall be free
We shall be free
Stand straight, walk proud
'Cause we shall be free
When we're free to love anyone we choose
When this world's big enough for all different views
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free
We shall be free


Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks

Yup, no surprise here. Garth Brooks has long been speaking up for what he believed, and he it put in his very powerful song "We Shall Be Free," from his 1992 album "The Chase."

Garth Brooks

I got a nice compliment after this show aired in Houston. A listener emailed the station: "I was just driving around listening to the show on straight representations of gay identity in country music. I thoroughly enjoyed it. it was like a paper from a grad student, but with a soundtrack to boot." That's kind of what it felt like when I was working on it...:)
Additional Research! Okay, I'm a fanatic, and put a ton of research into this show. There were a number of songs in my collection that have some degree of relevance to the subject of homophobia, but that I did not include in the actual show, for a variety of reasons. However, they still might be of interest to a researcher, so you can see my notes on those on This Page.
I've seen that pose in a thousand gay bars...
Hey, what's up with this pic? This advertizing shot of Kenny Chesney got a bit of notice in the press. The Dallas Observer (on May 27, 2004) commented: we have the recent shot which always puts us in mind of the Electric Six for some reason ("I've got something to put in you--at the gay bar, gay bar!"). This shot seems to be sending some sort of message. What's Chesney thinking there? Something like, "Hey, cowboy, wanna wrestle?"
Artist Links


Richard Thompson
Michael Doucet
Rodney Carrington
Cledus T. Judd
Pinkard & Bowden
Bellamy Brothers
Weird Al Yankovic


Reverend Horton Heat
Austin Lounge Lizards
Rodney Crowell
The Digglers
Chris Difford
Dale Allen
Garth Brooks

And there's more musical homophobia...                                      X-Rated Country!

Lucky guess! Oh, you guessed correctly!