Jazz Bagpiper Rufus Harley: A man who really did go his own way

The Men Going Their Own Way “movement,” such as it is, has got to be one of the most ridiculous offshoots of the Men’s Rights movement, a haven for misogynistic manbabies who don’t even have the guts or the imagination to actually carve out their own paths in the world. In other words, most so-called Men Going Their Own Way aren’t. Most of them seem to be going nowhere at all.

So today I present you a man who truly did go his own way: Jazz bagpiper Rufus Harley, who played a kind of music that was truly his own. (The folks on I’ve Got a Secret certainly couldn’t figure him out.) He also seems to have been a pretty decent guy, to boot.

There’s a bunch more of his music on YouTube if you care to have a look, along with this interesting profile/self-portrait. Check out his take on Sunny, which is unlike any version of the song you’re ever heard.

81 replies on “Jazz Bagpiper Rufus Harley: A man who really did go his own way”

My experience was much like Kootiepatra’s (although my family, especially my father, was not very conservative).

In some sense, I’ve always been a feminist, but when I was younger, I would have shrunk back from the word. The prevailing thoughts I grew up around held that feminists were scary, hated men and wanted women to rule supreme. My parents never called themselves feminists, but were very supportive of me doing what I wanted to do. My father was a supporter of Affirmative action and social justice causes. My church was filled with people ranging along the political spectrum, but many of those in power were fairly conservative. I didn’t realize how much some of those attitudes affected my view of things since I knew I disagreed profoundly with some of the beliefs those individuals shared. (I also grew up in a pretty liberal city in a pretty conservative state; this sent some interestingly mixed messages.)

I remember going to my father when i was five or so and complaining that someone had told me dinosaurs were a boy interest and he comforted me and explained that I didn’t need to listen to such bs (not in those words).

I didn’t accept the label of feminist until my mid-twenties. My father passed away around the same timeframe, so I never got to have a deep discussion with him about it. My mom was more conservative than him (& is more conservative than me) and still rejects the label, though generally against sexism in principle (definitely the “not a feminist, but”). It’s complicated.

Sorry for the teal deer.

My parents were fairly liberal about gender roles and everything else (I wasn’t expected to wear dresses except the floral monstrosities – I say that with love – made by my grandmother; from about 4-10, I’d proudly declare anyone who’d listen that I wanted to be a paleontologist and then prattle on about the subject for as long as the listener would let me; most of my childhood memories involve me tromping through the woods, jousting the trees with sticks and lifting up rocks and logs to find salamanders and toads), but I never identified as a feminist.
Don’t get me wrong – at 10, I looked at my grandfather like he had three heads when he couldn’t believe that I couldn’t “properly” make a bed and would argue with anyone when they said that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl (made easier by the fact that until I was about 12, I was bigger and stronger than almost all of the boys my age), but I also grew up in a time when anti-feminists had spread the propaganda that “feminism = man hatred” so I never took the label.

Even as I aged – joined the Army at 18, then started college – and probably should have known better, “feminism” still had a pall in my mind.

Oddly enough, it took the far-ranging philosophical dialogues that comprised the bulk of my husband’s (at the time, at grad student in Lit and Cultural Studies) and my courtship with actual discussion of feminist (and AfAm and existential and queer theory and-and-and) philosophers to change my mind.

As for my husband:

He grew up very poor between Jacksonville, FL and (drumroll) Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Carrboro, really, because it was where the poor and working class lived when he was a kid) and says to this day that his having his formative years take place in that eccentric college town completely shaped who he is today.

He even credits one early girlfriend and her parents more specifically. Her parents were both professors, and she and they exposed him to music, books, and ideas that he hadn’t yet thought to explore. And, he says importantly, the parents – both vocal feminists – accepted him (a fairly large thing because his family in general and he in particular apparently had a bit of a reputation).
They took him along to dinner when the Mom got tenure, and he says that the Dad would sit with him even long after the daughter/girlfriend left and talk with him about philosophy while playin his extensive collection of jazz records.

I actually got to meet the old girlfriend once – she now lives with her husband in a city not too far from us and we met up with them when we went up for a concert – and I tried to let her know the impact that she and her family had on Mr Prox, but I’m not sure how it came across.
Thankfulness for something like that’s hard to convey without coming off as a weirdo.

Proxeime, holy cow; that’s it. That was me except the last two paragraphs.

My first exposure to ‘what you know about feminism is wrong’ was an editorial cartoon outside a professor’s door (unfortunately not one I had for a class so I don’t remember the name or gender of the person). It was a strip with two women and started with the first declaring herself “not a feminist.” The second one said something about so, you’re ok with not having control of your life, your purse, etc. Eventually, the first declared she was a rootin, tootin, heck raising feminist.

It wasn’t much, but it got me to start looking into the scary words a bit more. It still took years before I would declare myself one.

By twelve, things had started to even out a bit, but in third grade I was one of the tallest two people in the grade (the other was also a girl). I was taller than my teacher that year.

I was also either the top in my grade in both English and math or one of the top two, so ‘girls are bad at math’ never stuck with me.

I identified as a feminist from 13 – didn’t consistently, due to peer pressure, but mostly. None of the women in my family were feminists, but it was a liberal upbringing and my mother was very pro sex (in a not creepy way!).
I was feminist as a direct result of the way that men and boys treated me on the street and at school. I was treated as a sex object from about 10. I was often afraid or uncomfortable in public due to the way I got treated, so by 13 I had realised somewhat what it meant and that there was a way of thinking that totally rejected such behaviour.

ceebarks – cripes, that’s bad. I worked with a trio of Assembly of God members in my first job, in the mid 80s, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t that far down that rabbit-hole. Maybe they were outliers, I dunno.

Probably not, really. AoG is more on the liberal/charismatic side of the evangelical world. Also depends on where they came from geographically and socially…AoG is a pretty big tent. My parents had migrated there from a more conservative denom. (Church of Christ) so the social/religious worldview I grew up with was a mix of AoG’s comparatively more progressive doctrine, and my parents’ more conservative inherited beliefs, if that makes sense. All of this in Oklahoma, which has a longstanding reputation for being a little, er, backward anyway. 😉

but yeah, when you are a kid, it can really be impossible to fathom that the little patch of evangelicism you know is just a small subculture, not The Center of the Universe and that there are a lot of OTHER ways to see things. Probably the thing that “saved” me (lol) was that my dad was in the military so we moved a lot, and we inevitably saw and heard things that stretched us. You COULD shoehorn at least some of those experiences into the “well, they just need Jesus!” narrative, but you’d still have to close your ears and say lalala a lot.

Far as I know, none of us grew up to be particularly religious. I’m an atheist, and to me my feminism (not even the more political aspects of feminism, just my own self-respect and human flourishing!) is so tied into my atheism that the two are hard to disentangle. I’m getting more interested in the views of more progressive religious people lately, though. Not sure it’s really for me, but I think people who can read and respect (and even apply!) religious texts in a kind of nuanced, historical way seem like they’re doing something admirable and profoundly honest. (Whereas during the Angry Young Atheist phase they were all just bullshitting themselves. 😉 )

Anyway, seems to me that when we were growing up, whenever things got tense, Mom would retreat into fundie-ism a little more: her attempt to find some validation and organize the chaos. She’s not nearly so enamored with that kind of thing now. I can identify because I did something similar when I had four kids under six. Feminism can seem a bit detached sometimes from the realities of day-to-day family life. I needed practical strategies to survive the next week and a little bit of a boost that I was Worth Something, not endless Shakesville-style feuds about intersectionality or whatever. (Intersectionality itself: great concept, don’t get me wrong.)

And I understand why feminism takes a bigger-picture view: the reason women get stuck alone at home with a load of little ones for 60+ hours a week with no pay, no help, derailed careers and educations, and everyone thinks this is simultaneously a state of nature and their own damned fault is… drumroll… patriarchy. lol

But that also means a lot of the people who reach out to women in that vulnerable, needy stage are reactionaries with their own agendas to push.

That’s so funny…I just posted his version of “Windy” (which is mind-blowingly awesome) on Facebook yesterday, because it was so windy in the Bay Area.

Falconer – if we’re talking Bourbons, I’ll take his great-grandfather. 😉

AltoFronto, virtual hugs if they’re welcome. That’s a toxic mess to have to deal with in your own family.

ceebarks – it could well be a country thing, too. Australia has its own ugly religious history, but we don’t generally seem to have the extreme fervour that crops up in the US. These three were pretty laid-back generally and everyone in the office, them included, joked that one of them had two religions: AoG and football. (He’d take Mondays off if his team lost on the weekend.)

For my childhood, I don’t recall a lot about it, but I don’t think I took the slightest notice of “adult” concerns. There was no real religious upbringing for me; Mum was Catholic but gave it up after all the fighting when my fuckwit father got extra pushy about the kids having to be Methodist (he’d converted to Catholicism, unasked and not desired, when they married; for a few months he was the classic “more Catholic than the Pope” then went back to Methodism – all this while Mum was pregnant, too, the shit). There were RI lessons at primary school, but all that amounted to was the parables, none of which meant anything. Christianity was the background cultural noise for me, it didn’t have much personal meaning except an occasional vague sense of not doing bad stuff because you were being watched. I was certainly never a right-winger or at all right-leaning, not from when I first voted. I doubt feminism was ever mentioned at home, positively or negatively; from when I was eight it was mostly Mum and me; my sister moved out when she was seventeen and my brother (spits) was come again gone again while he was at university, and the male parent had finally fucked off. We were caught up in our immediate concerns more than the wider world; the world I wanted to know about was the seventeenth century, not what was going on now.

Hurrr, Bourbon.

Fun story, a propos of nothing:

I’d been sort of half-assing the religion stuff for a long time; I had to go to church and was gradually realizing that just being there made me feel like a huge fake because I just…didn’t feel it, you know? Like everyone around me was talking about how they could really feel the Holy Spirit moving tonight, and I was agreeing so I’d fit in but on the inside I was wondering when I could go home and finish my book. It didn’t do anything for me, and I kind of felt like I was faking an orgasm or something just to not make waves.

Then one day I suddenly had an epiphany: “Man, I think if I am zoning out having incredibly kinky sex fantasies during the sermon twice a week, possibly I am doing this wrong.”

Religion can do great things for a lot of people, but I think that in church (as in sex) if you’re faking it, there isn’t a lot of point to the exercise.

My mother, oddly enough, did not see it that way, and made me go to True Love Waits rallies and wear a purity ring anyway. And I didn’t even TELL her about the pervy daydreams.

AGNOSTICISM: for when you hit puberty and your church tells you that there’s no sex in heaven because you won’t want it anymore, and that seems like a terrible arrangement.

AGNOSTICISM: for when you hit puberty and your church tells you that there’s no sex in heaven because you won’t want it anymore, and that seems like a terrible arrangement.

Cripes, I’d be struggling not to laugh aloud or yell out “That’s what you think” or something equally unwelcome if I heard that!

Err, I mean – not that there is anything wrong with not wanting sex! That is a perfectly fine way to be! I did not mean to imply anything negative!

I just – I personally really like it, for myself, and find the idea that such a happy-making activity has no place in Paradise to be very unsatisfactory.


I sure didn’t read it that way, Mouse Farts! Your meaning was quite clear. And yeah, I totally agree, especially if one’s talking about making love. I mean, how much more appropriate to Paradise could something be? (Mr K says everything we do there is making love, whether it’s sexual or not.)

Oh dear. I was told (very firmly and slightly hysterically when I started asking questions that made my mother uncomfortable) that heaven is just basking in the presence of The Lord for all eternity, Amen.

So now I’m having mental images of “everything we do there is making love” and I have just enough leftover indoctrination that this seems vaguely blasphemous…but also HILARIOUS.

Irreverent Holy Orgasms for everybody!

ROFL well he did specify that it’s not all sexual!

I don’t think any basking in the presence goes on among those I know in Spirit … cradle Catholics, too, most of ’em. Basking in the garden on a sunny day, yes, or in the passing approval of the Furrinati, but religion’s remarkably lacking in our corner of the afterlife.

My ‘conversion’ to feminism happened pretty quickly, but not until around roughly nineteen. During my high school years, I was pretty much fundie. Tried to read my Bible every day, did some mission trips (mostly construction-based), strongly pro-life, yada yada. Though some things did slip through, notably, “Hey, I figured out why God wouldn’t want women to be teachers. It’s because men just won’t listen to them!”

Then I attempted to study feminism from a biblical perspective. While reading feminist blogs and 101 stuff, things just started making a lot of sense. Before, I’d bought into the lie that feminism had done its job, but all the stuff I was reading showed me how much shit was still in the system. The clincher was when I tried to share my findings with my bible study class. You could practically see the dwindling line graph representing my credibility reflected in their eyes. The worst part? Everything I’d learned made so much sense to me, so when they couldn’t accept it, I thought it was my fault. I blamed myself because I couldn’t convince them to care about the injustices that women still face on a daily basis.

Since then, I’ve called myself a feminist and subsequently doomed myself to be the token liberal amongst most my offline acquaintances, which really sucks when they start complaining about Obama or “socialism” and I have to hold my tongue to keep from yelling “PEOPLELIKEYOUARETHEREASONWECAN’THAVENICETHINGS!” Ah, the trials of growing up with people you no longer agree with while being too antisocial to actually befriend more like-minded individuals.

Thank GLaDOS for the internet.


Same here, I started getting into feminism after I starting looking at Christian based feminism. Although I grew up with egalitarian views I stumbled across blogs that revealed some deep corruption and rotten patriarchy within the church (the larger church as a universal whole, not my local denomination). Once I moved on to secular blogs my eyes were opened to the battles that women of all stripes have left to fight.

On the Christian front I discovered bible verses that had been twisted by men with agendas and other parts of Scripture that had been completely ignored in order to help bolster their pre existing views. I learnt how to look at the bible from a historical perspective, to question and to reconsider a face-value interpretation so it fit with the rest of the book. I learnt about “celebrity pastors” that were or are spreading some terrible doctrine and oppressing women left and right. It all made sense to me. Above all I disagree with Christian Patriarchy because I’m a firm believer in the “love thy neighbour” verse and patriarchy shatters that standard. Not to mention that I can’t imagine a just and loving God being a supporter of patriarchy – I think it more likely that the past scholars and copy writers of the bible had gotten it wrong in places.

I have a hard time telling some people that maybe they’re reading the bible wrong, or that maybe it’s been mistranslated. That doesnt usually go down well.

Sunnysombrera, are there specific blogs or orgs you recommend as far as Christian feminism goes? That’s something I’m interested in as well. I’ve also based a lot of my thoughts on ‘love thy neighbor,’ ‘God is love,’ and ‘of all these, the greatest is love.’ Oppressing others is not love.


~ Wordgazer’s Words

~Biblical Personhood

~ Love Joy Feminism (the author is atheist but was raised Christian Patriarchal and does an excellent, balanced job of dissecting the culture and doctrine with an egalitarian viewpoint. She makes her arguments based on the idea of a loving God and liberal Christianity even though she is a non believer so hats off to her).

~ The Wartburg Watch (this website is feminist minded, however the content is not so much feminism focused but corrupt church and doctrine focused. It reports on instances of child abuse or sex abuse cover up in certain institutions so CW, but also discusses problems with what a “celebrity pastor” has preached and discusses troublesome doctrine such as patriarchy/complementarianism, New Reformed Calvinism, dominionism etc.)

I got to see the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (a world champion pipe and drum corps) perform Pachelbel’s Canon. ON BAGPIPES.

It’s exactly as awesome as you assume it is.

I should clarify about the Love Joy Feminism blog – if you want to see her dissect patriarchal culture go to her sections on Quiverfull and Patriarchy. In other places she also discusses secular feminist issues (her most recent post is on Gamer Gate and nerd culture) and things taught by fundies/evangelicals. The latter is very much from an atheist perspective but she asks good questions.

I am not a Christian. I was brought up as a Unitarian, a “church” where you can believe anything you want, but you are not SUPPOSED to believe in the divinity of Jesus. Then I lurched into atheism, then drifted back into agnosticism. But I would have to be much denser than I like to think I am not to accept that Christianity has been and is a major force in our western culture.
The main problem is that the Bible, and therefore Christianity, are products of a time and a region where patriarchy was very strong. Then in the early days of the Christian church leadership passed to St. Paul, who was severely misogynistic and also founded the strain of ascetic hatred of the flesh and everything associated with it (e.g., sex). (I always find it hard to believe that the same man wrote “I do not suffer a woman to teach” and I Corinthians 13, and many scholars believe that some of “Paul’s epistles” were written by others in his name. It might be helpful to think of Paul as leader of a school of thought rather than an isolated individual.)
I have always thought that the Virgin Birth myth was originally intended to establish Jesus in the tradition of pagan heroes who were mythically fathered by Zeus/Jupiter et al. (Nobody at that time knew about the sperm and egg, and the father was thought to be the sole source of a child’s heredity.) The growth of the cult of Mary and the flesh-hating views of many early Christian leaders then deflected the myth toward virginity = purity = a view of sex as sinful which led to the prudery and gross overvaluing of virginity in women which still has considerable influence today.
The gospels, obviously, were written after Jesus’ death, but how long after is a matter of hot controversy. Many scholars believe that all four were based on an earlier gospel which is now lost. People who want to believe in the authenticity of the gospels (without depending on pure faith) tend to place the dates of composition earlier, so that the gospel writers might actually have witnessed some of the events, and there would have been less time for oral traditions to work their inevitable modification. (Think of what, for example, our versions of John Kennedy’s speeches — or perhaps Winston Churchill’s or FDR’s — might be like if we had nothing but oral tradition — repetition with constant minor changes by hundreds of people.) I believe that whenever they were written and whatever sources their writers used, the gospels inevitably incorporated the biases and theological agendas of their authors.
I myself like to think that Jesus was something of a radical feminist by the standards of his time. There is evidence to suggest that Mary Magdalene may have actually been one of his most important followers, perhaps even a chief assistant, which is why the later misogynistic church found it necessary to slime her reputation. (I think she was probably not his wife — sorry Dan Brown — though it’s not impossible; she is the only person that all four gospels agree was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection, either alone or with a group of women.) Was Jesus a virgin? I severely doubt it. Was he married? Possibly — his parents would probably have been disappointed if not ashamed if he hadn’t been. On the other hand, he was one of a type of man — itinerant, charismatic — who generally make poor husbands (poor providers, never at home) but tend to be very attractive to woman, such that there would have been plenty of lonely widows who would be willing to offer him a more intimate solace than merely a hot meal and a place to sleep. Paul’s influence was very strong in the decades right after Jesus’ death, and the prevalence of his anti-sex views would have caused any gospel writer who wanted to stay in the good graces of the powers-that-be — assuming for a moment that he himself did not share those views — would have prudently have avoided including any parts of the existing legend of Jesus that indicated he had a taste for the pleasures of the flesh.
There are also many indications left that Jesus was unusually sympathetic to women by the standards of his time. His response to the woman taken in adultery — go and sin no more — is one. His strictures against divorce were also strongly pro-woman, as at that time a man could divorce his wife at will, leaving her destitute and without recourse. (Not very strong in defending the sanctity and prerogatives of the patriarchal family.) And you could easily find others.

tl;dr: Jesus may not have been what patriarchal churches want you to think he was.

Jay, that reminds me of a story of my mother’s.

A bagpiper in full regalia was the musical start to a medical meeting in a little conference room of the hospital with a divider between the two halves. On the other side of the divider, another meeting was happening.

The bagpiper marched in at the start. Then, he played all four verses of Amazing Grace, and brought the meeting on the other side of the divider to a screeching halt.

The keynote speaker’s first words after he marched out:

“Where I come from, we don’t do that to ducks.”

(He was from Barrow)

Thanks, Sunnysombrera. I’ve read some of Love, Joy, Feminism and enjoyed it. I should read more. I haven’t heard of the others before; those will be good to look into.

Love Joy Feminism is interesting. It always saddens me that children have to battle their way out of a totalitarian oppression like that, but at least some of them come out stronger.

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