“Big Bad John” and “Big Bad Bruce”…ah, Those Homophobic 60’s


Fans of oldies but goodies radio will likely remember the huge #1 hit Jimmy Dean had with “Big Bad John,” in 1961. Such a song was ripe for parody and those that did went directly for the opposite of the big super-butch John. They came up, mostly in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, with over a dozen stereotypical and homophobic parodies, and the most popular name in the title was Bruce.
Below, Jimmy Dean’s original hit
On This Page of my website I’ve collected all I could find, and you can hear clips of them all. And I was quite pleased a couple of years ago when Randy Sparks, of the New Christy Minstrels, emailed me that he wrote the first “Big Bruce” parody, but it was quickly stolen. He shares the whole story on my webpage.
Steve Greenberg had the most successful parody, with his 45 rpm record making the Billboard charts at #97, in 1969. It’s a well-known parody and I think it got a lot more radio play than the chart position indicates. Someone put the song on Youtube so I can share that with you here.
I found the lyrics online (below) and trivia nuts might be interested to know that Greenberg recorded it twice and in the other one Bruce, instead of coming from New Orleans, came “from Abilene, where he had a social group called the Lone Star Queens.” It’s curious Greenberg would make that change.

And another video is also on Youtube, by country artist/comedian Ben Colder, and his version was of “Big Sweet John.”
Ignoring the current age of Youtube video parodies, I think this song holds the record for most gay parody recordings actually commercially released.