FROM BOX SPRINGS WITH LOVE
By Melissa Riddle
Beulah Byrd. Queenie Delphine. Farley Byrd. Dr. Harley
If you haven’t met these oddly-named people already,
chances are you will. They are the members of the lovable, yet
slightly off-key, gospel quartet known as “The Glory Bugles.”
The Glory Bugles have been described as the Goodmans on a
bad day, or the Stamps Quartet all stamped out. Some have compared
them to The Gaithers on acid. But actually, it’s more like The
Gaithers with acid reflux.
The Bugles – who like to say they “put the fun in
fundamental” – have always wanted to perform Gospel Music in the
worst say. And now it seems they have finally succeeded.
Hailing from the tiny Tennessee town of Box Springs, the
Bugles reside among the close-knit collection of unincorporated
“bedroom” communities known as Slats...Hospital
Corners...Caster...Trundle...Headboard...and Futon Holler..
Here, the Box Springs Chamber of Commerce proudly
proclaims, “If Box Springs doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.”
In reality, the Glory Bugles are a theatrical ensemble
made up of four award-winning singers, actors, songwriters and
authors who have developed full-blown characters to inhabit their
fictional small town.
Nan Gurley is Queenie Delphine, owner of
Taps and Tutus, a dance studio, and director of the Box Springs
Fine Arts Center.
Wayne Gurley is Farley T. Byrd, III,
Director of Sinus Affairs at the Box Springs Industrial Ammonia
Plant, and founder of the Glory Bugles.
Bonnie Keen is his wife, Beulah – a baton
twirler, poodle groomer and cosmetologist for the deceased at the
Imagone Drive-Through Funeral Parlor.
And Steve Pippin is Dr. Harley E. Never, P.H.D.,
(Pig and Hog Doctor), an animal psychologist affectionately known as
the “Pig Whisperer” and curator of the Box Springs Swine Institute,
Museum and Gift Shop.
Collectively, the Glory Bugles are a side-splittingly bad
gospel quartet, complete with outdated hairdos and garish costumes
designed to magnify the bad theology and legalism found in their
music, captured for all posterity on their CD release entitled “Get
Right or Get Left.”
The lyrics alone are worth the price of this recording.
But when you add the group’s over-the-top, off-key singing to songs
such as “If Your Hair’s Too Long There’s Sin in Your Heart”... “If
John the Baptist Used the King James Version (It’s Good Enough for
Me)”...and “Heaven Yes, Hell No,” then you’ve got a musical
collection of truly priceless value.
But this spoof of bad gospel music is much more than just
a comedy concert. In reality, it’s a fast-paced, two-act theatrical
production featuring fictional ads for various Box Springs
businesses who also serve as valued hometown sponsors of the Glory
Bugles current tour. A few of these sponsors include...
Box Springs Biblical Barbers: “Where Faith and
Follicles Meet Fashion” (no long-haired cuts allowed here).
Nervous Eddie’s Tattoo Parlor (“Biblically-Themed
Tattoos While you Wait”).
Epaphrodite’s Nighties (“Firm Foundations for
Goddesses of All Sizes”).
The King Jimmy Bible Bookstore (“All King James,
All the Time.”)
And the aforementioned Imagone Drive-Through Storefront
Funeral Parlor, where you can view the remains of the dearly
departed without ever leaving the confines your car.
Think “A Prairie Home Companion,” “Greater Tuna,” and
“This is Spinal Tap” with a gospel theme, and you’ve got a pretty
good idea of what the Glory Bugles are all about.
Launched in the 1980s as a cameo sketch in the comedy
group Ariel, The Glory Bugles have spent 20-odd years winking an
irreverent eye at self-righteousness and bad theology as only those
who know it first-hand can.
Wayne Gurley, who founded the group along with Keen and
Wayne’s wife, Nan, says that the Glory Bugles were inspired by the
influence of small town, southern America, “where you knew what was
going on by listening to the radio for the hog report, the hospital
and funeral reports, and the weekly specials at the Piggly Wiggly,”
he says. “There’s such joy and simplicity in small town life,
especially when you toss in all the legalism that exists in small
town church life, it’s just packed with humor.”
The Glory Bugles take a good-hearted poke at legalism and
‘holier than thou-ism’ of every stripe. “There’s a very fine line
between ‘laughing at’ and ‘laughing with,’” admits Grammy Award
winning songwriter/producer/actor and veteran Screen Actors Guild
(TN) Nashville President Stevan Pippin. “The message here is
religious at its core, but the characters are so misguided and
downright goofy, the jokes are always at their expense, not at the
expense of the truth. Still, we know sometimes our toes are right
on the line.”
The Glory Bugles write almost all of their own material,
taking inspiration from real people, small-town folklore and church
marquees all over the country, where the truth is so much more fun
than fiction could ever be.
Solo artist/songwriter/author and former member of Grammy
winning Christian group “First Call,” Bonnie Keen, says her
character, Beulah Byrd,
“is convinced that beauty can set a woman free, so she always looks
her best, and yet she’s always on the verge of a crying jag. She
has visions of grandeur, is convinced of her talent, but she’s torn
between her aspirations and her reality. That’s why she does the
splits a lot. It’s symbolic. She’s split in two.”
Steve Pippin’s “Dr. Harley E. Never,” is Box Springs’ only
certified swinologist. “Harley is a composite character, based on a
myriad of cracker barrel philosophers, colorful country characters
and townsfolk that my dad used to run into on his adventures as a
Colonial Bread delivery man,” Pippin says. “A life-long bachelor,
he’s the local pig whisperer, with a degree in animal psychology,
with multiple ‘sheepskins’ from Box Springs University.”
For Nan Gurley, an accomplished theatrical, film and TV
actor/singer/ songwriter, Queenie Delphine represents the best and
worst of the independent, self-assured woman. As the director of
Box Springs Fine Arts Center, Queenie
is responsible for the cultural soul of Box Springs, and she takes
that role very seriously,” Nan says.
“From ‘Taps and Tutus’ to modern jazz, interpretive dance,
elocution and manners, she makes it her business to keep the fine
arts away from those who might ruin them,” Nan continues. “She is
the truth-snatcher, the care-frontation expert, the posterchild for
legalism. Always rigid, always right, and always proper.”
Not unlike the thousands of American Idol wannabes in
‘real life,’ the fictional Glory Bugles are desperate to break out
of their mundane lives and make the big time. So they work hard at
their day jobs and book their gigs where they can, determined to
showcase their many, if ill-tuned, talents.
Farley T. Byrd, Wayne Gurley’s character, considers
himself the visionary behind The Glory Bugles. “Farley has visions
of grandeur,” says Wayne. “He’s trapped in a dead-end job at the
ammonia plant, and all he’s ever wanted to do was sing gospel music,
so he founded the Bugles and pushes them out on the road whenever he
can, performing for little pay but lots of glory.”
The Glory Bugles’ eclectic stage production features a
“virtual set” of digital images projected onto a screen behind the
group as it performs. These images are appropriate to whatever song
or theatrical piece they may be sending up at the time. A couple of
hilarious videos at the beginning of the show also help set the
comedic tone for the entire the program.
It should be made clear that this show pokes fun at bad
theology and the foibles of believers, but never God Himself. Each
of the actors are committed Christians and have no desire to trash
the Creator of the Universe.
“Really, what we’re spoofing is bad theology, not
Christianity,” says Nan. “The whole concept is to be able to laugh
at ourselves, to see that God is so much bigger than all our
pettiness, bickering, competition and pressure we bring to religious
practice. And because God is so much bigger than most of us give Him
credit for, we can be free from all that mess.“
So if you enjoy leisure suits...beehive hairdos...trailer
parks...and cowboy hats, or if you’ve ever chuckled at the wisdom of
a church marquee, you’ll feel right at home with the Glory Bugles.