A Tribute


Hugh O'Brian TV's Wyatt Earp Sings

was the name of the ABC-Paramount record
I played for a roomful of stoned airmen.
I was the only white guy present that day.
It was 1973. They sat through “The Legend
of Wyatt Earp,” the first cut on the album:
Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp. Brave, courageous
and bold. Long live his fame and long live
his glory. And long may his story be told…

They passed around the album jacket, saying
I remember this guy
and No, shit and Yeah.
Sat still for me telling them Hugh O’Brian
played Earp on TV between 1955 and 1961.
A lot of nonsense if you were black and
smarting from injustice or MLK’s murder.
The next cut had them fidgeting, saying,
Play something else, for fucksake!
All right, cut it the fuck out!
They heard:
Oh, the Buntline, the Buntline Special—
it was the longest fastest shootin’ iron
and never was beat on the draw…

I tried telling my befuddled fellow airmen
that the joke was the producers of the show
shaved off the handle-bar Earp moustache
and made him marshal of Tombstone, a lie.
They started saying, Play some Hendrix
and You got any Stevie Wonder? since
they were pissed off, in 1973, and Wyatt
Earp/Hugh O’Brian was lily-white. Maybe
you had to be there, in Rantoul, Illinois:
blind on reefer, missing home and Ohio.
Or maybe you had to be 19, new on base,
and believe a hero to be a hero, regardless,
but I played one whole side of that record.

Copyright 2008 Roy Bentley