Looking Back is a Bad Habit: Rooster Cogburn

The three of them would walk down to Owl Drugs after school, and there they became a cartoonist’s club – of sorts: Paul Davis, Russell Myers, and Archie Goodwin. And who would have thought of the trio of Will Rogers High School students as headed for stardom?

What?

You don’t know them by name?

I had a surprise there, too. Opened up the mail and pulled out a first edition copy of True Grit by Charles Portis, which ranks somewhere near the top of my list of favorite books. As it is with any new acquisition, I was checking the copy, making sure it was everything it ought to be.

It was.

Portis wrote the story with a rural eloquence that is almost poetic. Then there is that wry humor as typified in the courtroom scene:

Goudy: I believe you testified that you backed away from old man Wharton?
Rooster Cogburn: Yes, sir.
Goudy: Which direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: Backward. I always go backward when I’m backin’ away.

My examination had me lingering over the dust jacket and the artwork. A singular style, I thought. Simplistic but powerful. Knowing the story, I thought it captured the essence of both Mattie – the main character – and the title of the book.

paulDavisTrueGrit

I wondered who had painted it, and that’s when I learned about the after-school artists and Owl Drugs in Tulsa. Paul Davis did not linger in Tulsa long after high school. His skill with the brushes earned him a scholarship at a New York City art school, and he established a reputation and a clientele in short order.

His works were visible on the streets, on television, in magazines, and on movie sets. He painted record album covers and advertising art. He was in high demand as an illustrator even before he founded Paul Davis Studio in 1963. It was five years later that he was commissioned to do the dust jacket for True Grit.

It positively shocked me to learn that he grew up in Tulsa.

paulDavisHamlet

But I could relate to the idea of a cartoonist’s club. My ninth grade buddies and I considered ourselves more of a clique than a club, but we spent more time than we should have, putting pen to paper. Shortly before the end of the semester, my English teacher took me aside and informed me that I had turned in so few assignments that she was going to be forced to fail me.

She told me she hated to “Fail” anyone, and intended to record my grade as – I – for Incomplete. The letter wouldn’t make so much difference, I thought – figuring whatever letter she wrote would probably keep me out of tenth grade, or have me in “summer school” at the least.

It likely wouldn’t happen today, but she allowed me to stay after school each day of that last week of school, starting at the top and working my way down the stack of the semester’s worth of assignments I’d failed to turn in…

…because my buddies and I were too busy free-handing the line art from A Tale of Two Cities.

It was passable art that almost kept me from passing out of ninth grade, but – obviously – not enough to win an art school scholarship.

On the other hand, Paul’s art buddies managed to find their ways into the art world. Archie Goodwin – whom I had the good fortune to meet on an occasion – made his mark in the comic book world and was a frequent guest at conventions.

The work of Russell Meyers is something I examine every morning. The Tulsa World carries his comic strip Broom-Hilda, which Meyers syndicated in 1970 – the same year I squeaked into my sophomore year.

It doesn’t surprise me that so many talented folks have ties to the Tulsa area, but I am surprised at the number – with international renown – who have managed to slip under my radar.

Being a fan of True Grit, it tickles me greatly to know that the story is set in our general area (including a visit to JJ McAlester’s General Store!) and is such a wonderfully written book wrapped in artistic local color.

Like to own a copy?

I just happen to know where I can lay hands on a First Edition…

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Before lip-synch was even invented…

Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it was Leon, even if someone had pointed at the screen and said, “Hey! There’s Leon Russell!”

Nope. Wouldn’t have believed it. Behind the piano, all right, but no beard, no white hair. In fact, he’s got a cruiser-hair-do straight out of an S.E. Hinton novel.

Then, partway through the song – in between the lines of the verse – he stretches out a word the way only he could do it, and it is unmistakable. Can’t forget a voice that was already one-of-a-kind, even back in 1964.

shindigBeatles2

Some of you may remember the show: Shindig! (That’s not my exclamation point… it’s the way the show was titled.) It was pretty early rock and roll, and unlike New Year’s TV music broadcasts these days, there was no lip-synching. Real guitar licks. Real vocals.

There was a house band that played each week. The Shin-diggers – who were later known as the Shindogs. Some musicians who later became big names, including Tulsa’s Leon Russell on piano. There was Glen Campbell, Billy Preston, Delaney Bramlett (half of Delaney & Bonnie, and the guy who taught George Harrison to play slide guitar), and other notables who were later known as the Wrecking Crew (Phil Spector’s studio band).

Shindig! was put together as a replacement show for Hootenanny, another musical variety show that featured folk and bluegrass music. (Even as I’m typing these show-titles they sound old-fashioned and antiquated. Did we really use words like that?)

leonShindig1

“Come on!” we yelled. “Let’s have ourselves a hootenanny!”

“Oh, you’re darn-tootin!” rang out the shouted reply. “We’ll have a regular shindig!”

Looking at these pirated episodes, I have to shake my head at the dancing (as familiar as some of the moves look…) and the hair styles, but the music isn’t embarrassing. The show was taped before a live audience and the musicians did themselves justice. Sure, they’re oldies. But they’re easier to dance to than a history book.

The show had a two year run – not quite 100 shows – that for a time aired twice a week in prime time.

ShindigTitle

And there were plenty of stars: the Beatles taped a performance in England for the show (Oct 7, 1964), Roy Orbison, Mannfred Mann, the Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner, Tulsa’s Roy Clark, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys – all performed in the early shows over the first few months, and there were plenty of others.

It’s almost a miracle that I’m able to view the episodes. Back in the early 1960’s, videotape was a new thing, and quite expensive. Since it was re-usable, it mostly was – and many programs were simply lost in the overwrite recording. Some years ago, a record label released some compilation tapes (VCR), picking and choosing songs to include according to a theme.

But in this case, some fan put a film camera in front of his TV screen (I’m guessing, in the way the old Kinescope recordings were done) and created an archive. Some shows are obviously copied from a studio master, as the inclusion of a running-time stamp would indicate.

One thing I’ve noticed about these shows I recall from back then: Everybody sure looks young.

Well, some of us no longer have our youth – but we’ve got technology, by gosh! I’m cranking up the computer and jumping up (slowly) to do the Mashed Potato!

(Chef Dustin makes his mash by hand every day for lunchtime, so Come Visit!)

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!

As Seen on Television…

Media Surprise Day! No advisory notice from Facebook or the 5-Things-4-Friday newspaper column, but we found out early in the day that we were on TV and featured in a magazine!

The early morning guests were just about as startled as I was.

“Saw you on TV this morning!” said the early-arriver, smiling.

atulsapeople1

“You saw me?” I replied, thinking that if a camera crew had wandered in, I would have noticed. (Apparently, that isn’t the case, as proven by the next episode…)

“Sure did,” he answered. “This morning.”

We went through a mutual we-must-be-crazy moment, when I was pretty sure I couldn’t have been the one he had seen, and he was fairly certain I was. It was settled when he asked, “Do you have a first edition copy of a Charles Dickens book?”

atulsapeople2

“I do,” I answered, and then remembered that the TV program Discover Oklahoma! had included a bit on the book when they interviewed Dustin and me last summer.

We’re a re-run, I guess. I missed it again. Fortunately, the OETA-produced program keeps its episodes on YouTube, so I was able to see the segment later. (You can watch it clicking here. Our segment starts at about the 9-minute mark.)

The TV Mystery had just been solved when a group of ladies arrived for lunch. Ms Judy whipped out a copy of TULSA PEOPLE magazine and opened it immediately to a page with a picture of cup of stew.

Familiar-looking.

“That looks just like our stew,” I said aloud, amazed at the incredible similarity.

It was a large photo and I could clearly see the finely-diced carrots, the potatoes, the thick brown gravy. Just. Like. Dustin’s. When I spotted flecks of basil, I thought – Wait a minute here. Looked at the text and our store name jumped out at me.

It wasn’t until later that I was able to read the short paragraph (we had to serve their lunch, after all…) and look again at the picture. No by-line or credit was given for the photograph or the text, but it is beautifully done (as far as stew can be a beautiful thing…), and presented in a very high quality publication. Nice slick pages and glossy photos.

atulsapeople3

The ladies told me that they loved to go try out new places for lunch, and at having seen the cup of stew and the address, decided to give us a try.

I’m not certain the text is legible in the attached image, but the fine print after the headline reads:

“Dream of Dublin with a stop at Broken Arrow’s McHuston Booksellers and Irish Bistro. Nestled in the booming Rose District, the bookstore and café fills its tables for lunch, which features daily sandwiches and traditional Irish fare. Try the Everyday Special ($7), a cup of Irish stew – a menu staple – with a half sandwich for a hearty meal.”

They even included our internet address and store location.

Thanks right here and now to Dustin – it’s a grand-looking cup ‘o stew in the picture! A rousing Thank You to daughter (and Dustin’s sister) Kristen for helping in the front of the house today, and keeping the ladies happy.

And a Thanks! to the uncredited photographer who was wily enough to slip in and take pictures during our lunch rush – without me being any the wiser! (It has been extra-busy, of late, and I don’t seem to get any wiser…)

An official
McHuston Booksellers and Irish Bistro shout-out to TULSA PEOPLE publisher Jim Langdon, for allowing us to be included in the fine-looking and informative magazine!

Another year is upon us, and our wish to you is that your hand reaches out in friendship and never in need, so you may forget the troubles that pass away, and remember blessings that come each day.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!