Lone star swinger
Scottish writer DUNCAN McLEAN has donned a Stetson to expose the roots of Western swing music
- all the way from Texas to Demi Moore's Striptease. Words: Damien Love
MANY ARE THE achievements already tucked away beneath Duncan McLean’s genuine cow-hide belt. He’s been a janitor in South Queensferry. He has written two novels. lilac/(den (1994) and Bunker Man (1995): and a collection of short stories Bucket of Tongues. which won the Somerset Maugham Award.
Playboys. Part of the reason for me picking it tip was that the band had such a stupid name.‘ The album became McLean‘s road to Damascus. When he won the Somerset Maugham Award. which requires that the prize money be spent on travelling abroad. he decided that — rather than rent a boat and row a couple of miles off the Orkney coast every day — he would travel to the Lone Star State. The aim was to track the music to its roots. The journal of his travels — the sounds. the roads. the food and the remaining. ageing custodians of the music he encountered — make tip his latest book. the lively. quasi- travelogue Lone Star Swing. Wearing his other but — not a
'i came across this album by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Part of the reason for me picking it up was that the band had such a stupid name.’ Duncan McLean
As the instigator and curator of the Clocktower Press — an early home for Gordon Legge and Alan Warner. among others — he was the first to publish fragments of what would eventually become Trainspotting by lrvine Welsh.
All of this pales into insignificance when placed alongside the revelation that the Orkney resident is a man hardy enough to have sat through the entirety of Demi Moore’s magnum opus. .S‘triptease.
Cornered in an Edinburgh cafe. McLean is at pains to point out that there was a reason for this. it wasn’t a desire to bask in Ms Moore’s choreographic skill. nor was it testimony to any enduring fascination with the expert screwball touch of Burt Reynolds. No. the author freely admits. only one thing in the movie interested him: ‘Pussy, Pussy. Pussy‘.
it should be pointed out that ‘Pussy, Pussy. Pussy‘ is a song cropping up briefly on the .S'triptease soundtrack. performed by the Light Crust Doughboys. who counted fiddler Bob Wills among their original line-up. The song tells of a woman who has misplaced her cat and of the band who help her look for it. Yes it does.
Formed in Texas in l93l. the Doughboys are generally recognised as the first practitioners of Western Swing. a melange of jazz. styling that has obsessed McLean since the late 80s.
‘l’d kinda gone off Country. because it seemed so quintessentially naff.’ he explains. ‘but in the mid-80s. people like Dwight Yokam and Nanci Griffith came along. and I started to get into it again. And I‘d go back and listen to the people who inspired them. so. I was in Vinyl Villains at the top of l.eith Walk. looking through the second-hand section to see if there were any old Honky 'l‘onk heroes and I came across this album by Bob Wills and his Texas
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Stetson this time - McLean is also about to publish Ahead ()flts Time. an anthology of (.‘locktower writers. from James Kelman and Welsh. through to lesser known writers like Brent llodgson.
But one question begs an answer. With all this talk of Western swing and country. isn’t McLean. as a member of the vanguard of the “Scottish literary renaissance' something of a generation traitor'.’ Shouldn‘t be. in fact. be hanging out with Primal Scream?
‘(Z)ch. well. i like all sorts of music.’ he affirms. ‘And the Texas Playboys. they were like the Primal Scream of their day.‘ Quite.
From The Clocktower (Book Festival) Duncan McLean, ESPC Studio Theatre, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, 0131 220 3990, 6.30pm, £4 (£2.50). Lone Star Swing by Duncan McLean and Ahead
Duncan McLean: on the road to Western heaven