The Blue Pigs
Updated: May 19
National Police Week will be observed starting May 14th of this year. In honor of this, I would like to take my old school Detroiters down memory lane. Les Cochons Bleus (Lay Co-shawn Bleh), which is French for The Blue Pigs. For many, hearing that name brings a smile to their face and with it great memories.
In 1970, Les Cochons Bleus was formed under Police Commissioner John Nichols who gave them their unique name. He chose to take an unflattering term for police (pig) and class it up with a French pronunciation. The rock band wanted to be called the Funky Fuzz but had to go with the name bestowed upon them. There were originally five members of the rock band who all sang. All were Detroit Police officers. Charles Henley and Mark Boatright were on guitar, Gregory Hudson played the conga drum and wrote the music, Hugh Burrell was on bass, and Rod Gray set up the sound. The police officers’ mission was to promote the Detroit Police Department at a time when the relationship with the community was strained. They wanted to humanize police officers through music and performed mostly at schools and at civic functions. Through their music, they stressed the importance of love and understanding, taught safety to school children, warned about the dangers of drugs, and most importantly, at that time, they urged racial harmony.
Many had a hard time pronouncing Les Cochons Bleus, so the goodwill ambassadors went with The Blue Pigs. By 1979, it was estimated that they reached about 500 people a day with their music and messages. In 1981, the national reality television show “Real People” featured The Blue Pigs, and America was introduced to how we did it in Detroit!
Eventually, Hugh “Boss Hog” Burrell became the front man and the band played mostly Motown oldies but goodies. In 1986, the group would ask school children if they knew where guns were kept in their homes. To their dismay, about 75% of children raised their hand indicating they did. The Blue Pigs urged the school children to go home and tell their parents to secure and hide their guns. At the end of those performances, The Blue Pigs told children, “We love you all.”
I fondly remember The Blue Pigs coming to my middle school during the crack epidemic, telling us to stay away from drugs. They would spread positive messages in a fun way through song. I remember EVERYONE (even the too cool for school students) singing along with them. Sadly, in 2002, Detroit police chief, Jerry A. Oliver disbanded the group to put more officers on the street.
So, here’s to those goodwill ambassadors that broke social barriers, improved the Detroit Police Department’s image, told kids to stay out of trouble, and improved community relations…THANK YOU!
Detroit Police Officers Hugh Burrell and Charlie Henley bumping hips in March of 1973 at Coffey Junior High School.
The Blue Pigs in 1979.