long-haired disco boys
Terry Barr

is the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Bessemer, Alabama (okay, his therapist proclaimed that but it fits). He writes almost daily on medium.com, focusing on music and its role in his life. In 2020-21, he did The American Crisis Playlist Series, and this year he has staked his life on nominating the “Worst” Best Album of every year, starting in 1963. He’s up to 1982 (Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain) and cringing at what might be next. He lives with his family (wife, Carolina Wild Dog Max, and Mr. Nibbles, the cat who refused to leave) in Greenville, SC. He has two adult daughters, and is about to be a grandfather. Currently, he’s listening to a vinyl copy of The Rolling Stones’ Out of Our Heads.

Memoir

Long-Haired Disco Boys

written by Terry Barr

Long-Haired Disco Boys is about Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1970s — a time fraught with racial tension and confusing questions of identity. Author Terry Barr found the music of that era confusing, as well. Southern rock competed with Glam and Disco, and for a long-haired guy like Terry, finding his place, his sub-culture, and the accompanying music wasn’t easy.

 

© 2021 Terry Barr  | Recording © 2022 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

Read by Toby Tomplay
I was eighteen when [Charlie Daniels’ song] “Long-Haired Country Boy” was popular, and one of my friends and I used to sing it together as he strummed his acoustic guitar. We were long-haired country boys, or at least long-haired, native-born, suburban Alabama boys. And we loved and defended our rock music. Our white boy’s music.
In 1979, Birmingham elected its first black mayor, Richard Arrington, Jr. Yet, so many of us were still willingly, blindly, living in a segregated world. To claim otherwise, even then, would be to antagonize those who were still standing their ground for causes lost and irredeemable.
So yes, the story or myth of the strong white southern man defending his heritage, land, woman, entire family, and his white boy rock and roll is certainly a potent one. It’s simply not the only one.
In the days before long-haired southern/country boys became cooly ubiquitous, some of us had to duck and cover to save our bodies and soul from friends and classmates who called us “sissy” because of the length of our hair, or because we tried out for the school play instead of the football team.
long-haired disco boys
Terry Barr is the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Bessemer, Alabama (okay, his therapist proclaimed that but it fits). He writes almost daily on medium.com, focusing on music and its role in his life. In 2020-21, he did The American Crisis Playlist Series, and this year he has staked his life on nominating the “Worst” Best Album of every year, starting in 1963. He’s up to 1982 (Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain) and cringing at what might be next. He lives with his family (wife, Carolina Wild Dog Max, and Mr. Nibbles, the cat who refused to leave) in Greenville, SC. He has two adult daughters, and is about to be a grandfather. Currently, he’s listening to a vinyl copy of The Rolling Stones’ Out of Our Heads.

Q&A with Terry

Tell us about your story...
I can be a little naive, or at least I was as a teenager. I thought disc jockeys were gods and when I finally met one, he sort of came on to me. I thought a lot about why I couldn’t believe he was gay. I had listened to him for years, and he looked like a long-haired hippie freak. And so did I. So, thinking through this meeting got me to wondering how he managed the southern rock world with that other side of him. A few years later, I ran into him at one of Birmingham’s gay discos. As a guy who loved the Allman’s, Neil Young, The Bee Gees, and Donna Summer, I started trying to reconcile who we were. I wanted to quit apologizing for liking what I liked and for being who I am—just another way Alabama gets inside of you and causes internal identity-strife. Do you really have to pick pop culture and life sides?

 

What was the inspiration for this story?
Watching the Bee Gees documentary on HBO set me to thinking and remembering those days. My memories started unfolding from there.
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the last few months?
Our older daughter has just had a baby — Pippa Adele! I also decided to retire from teaching — I’ve been a Professor of Literature for almost forty years!
What are you most looking forward to, post pandemic?
Going to live concerts on a more regular basis!

 

 

 

What have you recently read that you loved, and why?
David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue and David Hepworth’s A Fabulous Creation: How the LP Saved Our Lives. And Abigail Dean’s Girl A.
Coffee or tea? Whiskey or Wine?
Coffee!!!!!!!!!! A good medium roast. And Bourbon, please (4 Roses Single Barrel).

 

Tomorrow, I absolutely refuse to…
Watch Fox News (but then, that’s every day).

 

Anything else you’d like to share?
Please buy a new turntable and listen to vinyl again. You’ll be a happier person.

 

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