From a time long before the internet and advanced advertising technology - when roadside shock value was the name of the game, businesses along the American roadside used all kinds of wacky signs and statues to lure motorists in. This big fella is an enduring testament to a bygone era of the kitschy American roadside landscape.
There is a lot of documented history on these giants already - so I won’t go into all of that here. But, if you are interested in the back story of the Phillips 66 Cowboy (a.k.a. Muffler Man) check out: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/47459 and https://usagiants.com/about/ Both are excellent resources on the history and variations of these giants as well as information on the International Fiberglass Company that ended up producing them. The Roadside America link above actually has an interview with the owner of International Fiberglass and he goes through the entire history.
Ron and Maxine (the original owners) operated a Phillips 66 station back in the early 60’s in Havre de Grace, Maryland. When the sales reps came around showing off their new “sales booster” (a 20 foot tall fiberglass cowboy who looks like one of the lantern jawed characters from a 50’s Superman comic book), Ron opted to purchase one and have it permanently in place at his station.
He became an instant attraction. He originally was mounted on the roof of the station but was later moved to the ground and stood in front of it. Ron fashioned a special cart for the cowboy and he was even wheeled through downtown Havre de Grace for a parade. He is so enormous that he had to be leaned back at times to clear the power lines that crossed the road.
In the early 90’s Ron painted him in Desert Storm camouflage to show support for the troops.
By the early 2000s Ron had sold the station and retired but he knew he could not just leave the big fella out there alone, so he put him on a trailer and stored him at his home nearby. I was able to get in touch with Ron a while back and after more than a year of talking and going back and forth, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to buy the cowboy. In my opinion, he looks a lot like my good friend and old band mate Jeff Ball… So I am going to name him Jeff. (There is a pic below of Jeff mugging it up next to his fiberglass likeness).
No offense to the troops, but I will be repainting big Jeff back to his original colors (or at least very close to original). I feel that it is the right thing to do. He will become part of a service station installation at Ghost Town. He still has his original hat which is very uncommon as all too often the hats blew off and were lost or severely damaged.
The pics and video below are a sampling of some that I just took when we were moving him and a few vintage shots that Ron and Maxine still had… along with a shot of the two of them standing with the big guy right before we loaded him on the truck.