a tale of two big johns.

Contributor: John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia,
September 2021)

At the age of 17 in 1975 I had found myself a ‘proper’ job. Junior musical
instrumental salesman in one of Glasgow’s largest and iconic music stores. I soon learned that all sorts of wannabe rock gods would come in just to try out a Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul guitar with no intention of ever buying one and usually sent these jokers on their bike.


On one particular day a young lad about my age, a little on the chubby side, approached my colleague and timidly asked to try out a guitar on display only to be knocked back. I don’t know why, call it a moment of weakness, but I found myself feeling really sorry for this awkward nerdy kid.

He became a regular customer over the next few months and years ( I never did get to know his name at the time) and eventually did buy a guitar – a reasonable copy of a Fender or Gibson from memory. Every time I saw him (we were on nodding terms now) there was a subtle change to the appearance of this one time dweeb of a kid. A piercing here, a tattoo there, a ripped pair of tight jeans perhaps until the last time I saw him. There he was in all his splendour with tartan bondage type trousers, leather jacket all studs and safety pins and a bright green spiky mohawk haircut. Wow ! I thought. What a transformation. A punk chrysalis no less.The shop closed and I moved on.

About three years later I was watching the TV show Top of the Pops and they introduced a punk band called The Exploited. I thought ‘here we go’ and was about to turn it down when I noticed my man cavorting about with a flying V – the lad from the shop!


Same scenario seven years later. Watching MTV and Goodbye Mr. McKenzie popped up and there he is again !

This very blog jogged this memory and so inspired further in depth research (well, half an hour on Google) to find out more on ‘customer come celeb’.

Our guitar hero is known affectionately as Big John Duncan, and he does age with me.

After The Exploited, he had bands Human Zoo, Crazy Maybe and Blood Uncles before joining the McKenzies.

He then went on to have a life as a guitar technician with Nirvana, Twisted Sister, Foo Fighters and Ministry.

Here he is talking about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.

Goodbye Mr McKenzie are making a bit of a comeback apparently so look out for them if you’re in central Scotland.

I wonder at any time over the years if Big John paused and thought “I wonder what ever happened to that spotty faced teenage music shop assistant that let me try out a guitar ? Oh, here’s your Fender Mustang Kurt.”

No. I don’t think so either !



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