41 thoughts on “Scene from an imaginary video work

  1. Sheila Ryan Post author

    In one scene [of “Stranded in Canton”], the camera follows (Randall) Lyon into Jim Dickinson’s backhouse studio, where assorted people are sitting around … Some of the musicians are jamming – Dickinson is playing an electric guitar, (Jim) Lancaster, is at the piano. [Jerry] McGill, his gaunt and tapered face resembling a cobra’s, takes hold of an acoustic guitar and performs a song. When he’s done, Lyon starts spouting a soliloquy, holding a bottle of champagne in his hand. The camera surveys the room, but his words are clear. “This is a dis-ass-trous period in our time. We got to respond to what’s going ahn or else we got to hang it up with kinder-goddamn-garten.” Dickinson accompanies with apocalyptic feedback from his guitar, and it all becomes too claustrophobic for McGill. The camera whips around at the sound of gunfire – McGill has drawn and fired his pistol. He smashes the bottle with the barrel and then puts the gun against Lyon’s head. The voices that squealed when the bullets caught them off guard have suddenly stilled. The guitar continues, a soundtrack like the Wild West saloon player who knows it’s best to never stop. The camera remains focused on the gun, the gun always, because whoever may say whatever, the subject in that room is the gun.

    “I’m gonna whip you with this gun barrel,” says McGill, whose eyes shine like B.B.’s. “Be nice, be real nice.” Lyon is doubled over at the waist, his head, his life, in McGill’s hands. Then McGill, he is no longer McGill, he is Pancho Villa, he is Jesse James, he is completely and totally Lash LaRue – turns to the camera, sees that it’s pointed right at him (he’s still holding the gun), and he says, for the camera’s benefit, “I don’t care nothing about that.” He’ll do it for the world to see! In an instant, the pistol is waved, smashing the bottle in Randall’s hand, and following the instant, smashing the light. The guitar feedback stops with the sudden darkness and the scene, take one, the only take, is over.

    by Robert Gordon, from It Came From Memphis,1995.

    Via Boogie Woogie Flu.

  2. Carole Corlew

    I read he evaded capture by the FBI for years while playing guitar for Waylon Jennings, sometimes dressing in drag to avoid detection. But maybe that’s just part of his legend.

  3. Sheila Ryan Post author

    I’m with Maxwell Scott, the journalist who has one of the last words in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  4. Sheila Ryan Post author

    I wish I hadn’t forgotten half the pertinent details of a Memphis story I had from a one-time Memphis journalist. It was about the Peabody Hotel ducks and a hippie duck-caretaker.

  5. Sheila Ryan Post author

    I’m really not with the “print the legend” school of journalism, but it’s a great line.

  6. Sheila Ryan Post author

    “Back in the days when everybody liked Quaaludes”: from Eggleston’s reminiscent voice-over.

    That resonates, although I never liked Quaaludes.

  7. Carole Corlew

    I’m guessing they weren’t rolling on quaaludes alone.

    Another thing I read is Jerry McGill is or was living in Alabama.

  8. Carole Corlew

    That is an inspired thought, Shelia. I would like to get those two together. Deron, you need to be on standby with your cameras.

  9. Carole Corlew

    Okay, where would Jerry McGill be? In north Alabama (Muscle Shoals) or the southern part of the state with the other criminals. Ha ha.

  10. Carole Corlew

    When I worked in Birmingham the former governor, Big Jim Folsom, would call and carry on about how south Alabama had hijacked the entire state and that was why there had been so many problems. Big Jim and his chauffeur would cause a stir by taking off now and then and no one would know where they were. Looking for Jerry McGill, I bet.

  11. Sheila Ryan Post author

    Disguised in drag and looking for Jerry McGill.

    Also, it’s hard for me not to think of it as Mussel Shoals. Makes so much more sense. Which is why I love the fact that it is Muscle Shoals.

  12. Carole Corlew

    The Cherokee called it the mussel place. That became Mussel Shoals, then it was misspelled. Or something like that.

  13. Carole Corlew

    I am sure I told this. A man was tailgating us when I was little, on a back road in Tennessee. He bumped our car and Miss Nell pulled over, got out and opened with, “Now why would you do this?” He was a ringer for Hank Williams and was reeling drunk. There was no damage and he apologized profusely while she lectured him.

    Jerry McGill could probably use a good talking to as well.

  14. Sheila Ryan

    Carole, I don’t remember that! About Miss Nell lecturing the drunk Hank WIlliams-lookalike tailgater. That’s great.

    I bet she could tell that Jerry McGill to quit acting the fool and no mistake.

  15. Sheila Ryan

    There were loads of mussels near Davenport, Iowa (on the Mississippi) and near Metropolis, Illinois (on the Ohio). A friend and I once interviewed an old man in Metropolis who knew all about fresh-water mussels and the pearl button industry. Somewhere stashed away I have a mussel shell from Metropolis with a hole drilled out of it.

  16. Sheila Ryan Post author

    I could die with a smile on my face knowing that Miss Nell had called Jerry McGill a bird. Either to his face or as an aside.

  17. Sheila Ryan Post author

    Why, thank you, Rick. I mainly posted it as a kind of off-kilter lure to entice people into the Eggleston video. As soon as I looked at it, I thought, Oh my soul, that looks like a still from some video from the early 1970s, like from Patti Smith’s days with Sam Shepard or like “Stranded in Canton.” So it’s kind of a way of looking at my past through an image of me as I am now. Or something like that.

    I’m glad you like it. I kinda do, too, truth to tell.

  18. Sheila Ryan Post author

    Trying to collapse time. I’ve got me a birthday coming up tomorrow (and I’m really not saying this by way of soliciting felicitations — honestly, once you reach the double digits, it ain’t no big thang), and I guess I’ve been thinking about me as I was and me as I am and trying to reconcile all my many selves. The photo is part of that reconciliation.

  19. Carole Corlew

    I understand re aint no big! The photo does look like it belongs in the Eggleston video. The part where you and Jerry, you know, compared guns.

  20. Sheila Ryan Post author

    Why, thank y’all. It actually falls on the 21st, but I’ll take good wishes whenever I can get them.

  21. Pam

    I remember Eggleston at the Art Institute in Chicago a couple years ago. He was elegantly dressed in a dark suit and deep lavender tie, signing copies of the exhibit book. The lower floor of the new wing was packed with Eggleston admirers, the galleries filled with his photos. But I remember his photos being very bright and delineated, almost harsh, when in color. Your self-portrait, Sheila, seems softer to me…Like it!

  22. Joyce Rosic

    Jerry McGill,The Original Rock and Roll Outlaw was a sweet,loving young man when I first met him. Fifty years later he’s a lot older, a little wiser but still the same sweet, loving guy I knew so long ago. He’s had some rough years, done some crazy things but along the way he wrote some great songs, played with some of the best musicians around and entertained a whole bunch of people.
    Legends are funny things, made of half fact and half fiction. They’re fun to read about but hard to live up to and hard to live down —

Comments are closed.