Tuesday May 31, 2016
The Mighty Fine Lobey Dosser show for the 2016 WEF as well regenerating the legendary characters in Bud Neill’s cartoons also celebrates a variety of associations with the artist.
The Pearce Institute based in Govan reconnects Partick with Govan as they were one burgh when Bud Neill was born here in 1911. The Lobey Dosser show is also a contribution to the annual Govan fair.
The Dram! In Woodlands Road has been the home of a yearly celebration of Bud Neill for many years and it is in close proximity to the bronze statue of Lobey, Rank and El Fideldo, currently removed for repair.
Partick Brewing Company, is close to the full size bronze statue of another character from the Lobey Dosser cartoons, the GI Bride and Wee Ned her baby son, located inside partick SPT Railway Station. The pub owner also contributed to the cost of the statue.
The spirit of the wit and humour of Bud Neill inspires the story for the new cowboy comic misadventure called ‘Lobey Dosser in Showdown at the last Chance Saloon’. However for those who seek some historical understanding of Bud Neill’s interest in ‘Westerns’ I have rounded up some info and ideas for your consideration:
The Comic Art of Bud Neill and the Western film:
Bud Neill (1911-1970) created in Sheriff Lobey Dosser a comic strip legend for the readership of the Evening Times (1949-55), which has survived the test of time, because it was fun blend of everyday Glasgow attitudes, illustrating dramatic adventures of life in a Wild West cowboy township, the classic image of the ‘Western’. Bud’s graphic art tales spiced a marvellous combination of humour and sharp wit, which has gripped the imaginations of his readers ever since. He captures in cartoon art the attraction of being a pioneer in a new world where the individual could make a difference. In Scotland today are many social clubs and events that celebrate the ‘Western’ aesthetic. One of the best known Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry has had its spread in Govan Road since 1973, and it maintains I high standard of entertainment in its weekend Country and Western music and dance shows. It provides a link between ‘Western’ culture today and the 1940s, to help seek the reasons why Bud Neill imagined, in subtle black & white art, a pioneer cowboy Sheriff who would become a ‘mighty fine’ legend of popular culture in the city.
In the six years that Bud Neill drew his daily cartoon strip the readers of the Evening Times, and a wider audience in The Daily Record and the Mail on Sunday into the late 1960s, grew to love the Sheriff and his posse, they could relate to Bud Neill’s art because, as a former Corporation of Glasgow bus driver, he drew on personal observation of street life in the city and used his understanding of art sharpened by his training at Glasgow School of Art. He added this knowledge of Glaswegians to a fantastic Wild West location, yet one easily understood by the popularity of cowboy films at the cinema. Bud Neill, in addition to his catchphrases ‘ho hum‘ and ‘mighty fine’, created a world of names and characters that then re-entered mainstream conversation in Glasgow: Fairy Nuff, GI Bride, Rid Skwerr, Rubber Lugs, Toffy Teeth and Rank Bajin. His characters often came from districts of Glasgow inc: Calton, Govan, Partick, Springburn and Yoker.
The first daily news of importance in reading the Evening Times was to study the latest form of Sheriff Lobey Dosser. It was in the adventures of this laidback and unlikely lawmaker and how he overcame the criminal schemes of Rank Bajin, that a warm humanity was communicated - a refreshing tonic - for a people still living with the harsh living conditions of post-war austerity and rationing.
Lawman v Lawbreaker:
But what did Bud Neill communicate: What is it about Lobey Dosser that tapped into the hopes and ideas of post-World War Two Glaswegians and what is it that new generations of people find fresh, funny and alive. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, with limited Television, going to the cinema, for all the family, was one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and that films about ‘Cowboys and Indians’ were crowd-pullers. Cowboy adventures offered an escape from the daily grind because they allowed viewers access to a life where the individual could take some control of their life. Although the difference between good and bad tended to be shown as opposites, the fairness of the Sheriff - the law-keeper - always struggled against the overwhelming odds of the outlaw and often the corrupt criminal activities of rail and cattle barons. The cowboy hero of Bud’s youth was William S Hart who’s most famous silent film was ‘Tumbleweeds’ of 1925. This ground-breaking cowboy film also contained a comic side kick called Kentucky Rose who has some visual similarities to Lobey Dosser, and the story of settler pioneers must have planted seeds of ideas in Bud’s imagination. Two cowboy films of 1939 that Bud would have known ‘Dodge City’ and ‘Destry Rides Again’ are stories of how unusual people rise to the challenge of being an honest sheriff - a fair lawman - and clean up the town. These films reflect the mood of why the war, if it came, had to be fought by individuals who believed in freedom and fairness who had to defeat Nazi dictatorship.
Humour v Conflict:
However, in the post-war era, Bud Neill found an alternative way to illustrate the eternal struggle between fairness and injustice, not just repeat dramatic adventures like the war comics, The Commando or Battle, or the gunfights of wild west tales in cowboy comics: Instead he was to use his understanding of art and compassionate humanity to invent a new fresh humorous and charming adventure series that transcended the evil consequences of conflict. In an original formal style of light and shade Bud Neill used his art and imagination to create Sheriff Lobey Dosser as a most un-Hollywood hero; he was short and dumpy with a long straight whiskers, poor dress sense and the clumsy tackety boots of the working man; but if long suffering, a resourceful and fair character, who had as his target, greed. It is a notable coincidence that the Glasgow comic strip adventures of Sheriff Lobey Dosser, matched in purpose the new American TV show ‘The Lone Ranger’ 1949-1957. In a post war appetite for peace, both stories shared a desire to limit violence and, instead of guns, use as a new weapon of choice, reason and wit to overcome anger and greed. A competing TV show ‘The Cisco Kid’, 1950-56’, also had a different way of solving conflict, they cracked corny jokes! Whilst ‘The Cisko Kid’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’ with other inc ‘Hop Along Cassidy’ were home grown American cowboy heroes, Lobey Dosser was a Scottish settler hero elected as sheriff, because of his sage leadership of the wagon train, by the pioneer populace of Calton Creek, Arizona, USA. This township in the Wild West cowboy prairies was founded by a wagon train of settlers from Calton, adventurous souls from the East End of Glasgow. The settlers of this new frontier town were now in the legendary Wild West of such infamous outlaws and gunmen as Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jessie James and the resilient ‘Red Indian’ Native American fighters against injustice inc, Cochese, Crazy Horse, Geronimo and Sitting Bull. The new citizens’ of Calton Creek had many difficulties to overcome, despite being in a place with the healthy air of the open prairies and the warmth of desert landscapes, new hazards lurked around every stage post.
Although surrounded by natural dangers and two Native American tribes, The Pawnee – later renamed the Layabouts - and the Blackfeet, the real threat to peace came from the mysterious outlaw and wannabe criminal mastermind Rank Bajin, who is obsessed with making lots and lots of money by lying, cheating and stealing in what he thinks, is a very clever manner. The origins are unknown of the very bad man, the outlaw, Rank Bajin; but the clue to his character is in the name. However the good man, the law-keeper, Lobey Dosser, came from the most unlikely of heroic origins; the clue in his name was the Glaswegian slang for homeless people who slept in closes, which confirmed his lowborn origins. Lobey Dosser’s dramatic life story is illustrated by Bud, who ultimately reveals Lobey - who has transcended the difficulties of his origin - is now a fair minded personality who retains his Glasgow humour along with his accent. In contrast, the arrogant Rank displays his superior education through a sophisticated use of over-polished English. However Lobey Dosser was not to face this tricky criminal alone, ho hum.
Heroic Horses, Hi Ho:
Great cowboy film characters often had, as a companion, free-spirited horses: ‘Silver’ was the name of the Lone Ranger’s horse. ‘Trigger’ was Roy Rogers ‘Four Legged Friend’. Another period example is ‘Champion the Wonder Horse’ who befriended a wee boy and with him had lots of adventures. Lobey Dosser ‘the wee boy’ has a rare breed of horse called El Fideldo. However Elfie had an original disadvantage over the horse TV and film stars of his time, he was a twa-legged friend!
Cowboy and cowgirl film stars that illuminate the heyday of Sheriff Lobey Dosser are worth recalling, some of the better known are: Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’, Doris Day in the musical ‘Calamity Jane’, Betty Hutton in ‘Annie Get your Gun’, Alan Ladd in Shane, John Wayne in ‘Stagecoach’, James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich in ‘Destry Rides Again’, Audie Murphy in ‘Destry’, and Errol Flynn in ‘Dodge City’. Bud Neill, a cowboy star in his own imagination, did, by creating Lobey Dosser and posse, add a Scottish artistic contribution to the intriguing personalities these stars represented on screen. It is worth noting that he also included the musical element, often having snatches of film and pop songs included in the scenarios as an added layer of meaning to the jokes.
Bud Neill, A Pencil Sharp Wit:
The scene is now set for a posse of characters to engage in a series of showdowns between, on the one hand, the law-keeper, Sheriff Lobey Dosser, and on the other, the crook, Rank Bajin. To summarise the effect of these stories: Hold on to your Stetsons and let the fun begin as you will witness a battle of wits between right and wrong, a satire on fake attitudes - sometimes off planet - that will entertain, engage thought with songs and jokes, stimulate the imagination and quite possibly liberate some laughter from the jail of everyday concerns.
Bud Neill rode off into the sunset in 1970, but his comic creation Sheriff Lobey Dosser has lived on in the imagination of the citizens’ of Glasgow and in those who discovered and relished his many subtle meanings. Three collections of his cartoons have been published in book form by Ranald MacColl in the 1990s, two bronze statues have been financed by public subscription and situated in public spaces; Lobey and Rank on El Fideldo - currently removed for repair - in Woodlands Road by the entrance to Park Terrace, in 1992; and The GI Bride, in Partick SPT Railway Station in 2009. A ‘Lobey Dosser Day’ folk music event held at The Dram, supported by Michael Dale of the West End Festival c2008-2014 and organised by Ian Black: A five minute video of a musical and visual blend of trumpet composition by John Maxwell Geddes played by Nick Walkley and illustrated with Bud Neill’s art in the reform of Rank Bajin in 2012 (on youtube): A one hour play by ‘Mighty Fine Theatre’ where Lobey and posse were regenerated in a new adventure called ‘Bud Neill’s Lobey Dosser Rides Again’ at Partick Burgh Halls in 2014 (on youtube). Throughout all these events The Grand Ole Opry has stood since 1973 as a bright beacon of those values that Bud Neill admired - many Opry-ans attended the unveiling of the Lobey statue. All this activity reveals an impressive record of support for Bud Neill’s artistic creativity, and a reflection of post-war values.
Full events details here. Six performances. Tickets £5.
Guest blog post by Duncan Comrie.