“Texas is still the most American of places, and the most extreme American place. It’s the pride and embarrassment of the nation. Many citizens may not have ever heard the words “Texas” and “punk rock” in the same sentence. When they do, it makes perfect sense. Texas is the reason.” – Pat Blashill, from “Texas Is The Reason: The Mavericks Of Lone Star Punk” by Pat Blashill 2020
Texas produces a variety of images. Cowboys, armadillos, sweeping prairies, desert mountains, deep pine forests, and the gulf coast. Outsiders think of a long list of ugly truths about the state, and you can’t blame them. However, those of us who live here will say it’s not all bad. Some people have issues that prevent them from getting along with others, while the rest of us just do The Get Along. We treat each other with kindness, hospitality, share good food and good times. And while oil and cattle seem like the most important commodities, I would argue it’s our music. We have a goldmine of legendary musicians that hail from here. Blues legends like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, and Freddie King among many others were born in Texas. Robert Johnson traveled from Mississippi to San Antonio and then to Dallas to make his immortal recordings. The Light Crust Doughboys produced pioneers of Western Swing in Bob Wills and Milton Brown. Everyone knows about Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Bobby Fuller, George Jones, Ray Price, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Doug Sahm, George Strait, Townes Van Zandt, just to name a few. Then there’s Billy, Dusty and Frank’s “little ol’ band” and of course The Vaughan Brothers. Pick a genre, Rock, Country, Blues, Pop, Metal, Rap, or Tejano, and there’s gonna be a long list of acts known the world over that came out of the Lone Star State. There’s a classic Scott Newton photo of three Texas icons: Gibby Haynes, singer of underground punk/psychedelic band Butthole Surfers, the late Roky Erickson, singer of the 13th Floor Elevators, the band credited with being the first to use the word “psychedelic”, and who went through some rough times but had an amazing solo career singing songs about things that go bump in the night, and Willie Nelson, the country music troubadour who gave Nashville a shot before returning home to Texas to lead the Outlaw Country movement. This photo sums up Texas music for me: the weird, the wacky, and Willie.
On November 19, 2021, a playlist I curated was broadcast on the Into The Maelstrom – Metal/Punk/Hardcore Radio show on KTEC 89.5 FM in Klamath Falls, OR, by host Nick Creature aka Nick Spehar. In October 2020, Nick asked if I would be interested in guest programming his Creature’s Feature Hour. He usually begins each show with an hour dedicated to one artist, genre or theme, and the idea was that I would focus on some of my favorite Texas music. I’m a lover of ‘60s Garage Rock, Punk from the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and it was the incredible ‘90s Garage Punk scene that Nick and I found we had a common reverence for. We also have discussed this being a multi-part series.
I met Nick Spehar in a music sharing group on Facebook a few years back and we share a love for Horror movies, KISS, ‘80s Metal, and ‘90s Garage Punk, including a connection to Dallas band The Mullens. They’re longtime friends of mine and they stayed at Nick’s house in Columbus OH, both times they toured the Midwest in the late ‘90s. Nick lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon now, and his radio show is a fun blast where he plays a lot of classic Metal, including lots of NWOBHM and ‘70s hard rock that I love. He also plays a bit of modern Metal, some extreme hardcore stuff that honestly is a bit out of my wheelhouse, but he does it with a passionate knowledge of the entire genre. At the same time he throws in schizophrenic doses of old school Punk and Hardcore, and yes, sometimes Garage Rock. In recent months the Creature’s Feature Hour focused on diverse sounds from The Mummies, to Septic Death, The Real Kids, Trouble, to Exciter, as well as episodes covering Straight Edge Punk and back in early 2020 he did an awesome three hour show on NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal).
When I graduated high school in 1986, I had no clue where I was going. I struggled in school and wasn’t prepared for college. I should say, I simply didn’t want to go to college. So I chose to pursue a career in radio broadcasting and attended a technical school where I learned how to be a radio broadcaster and earned myself a FCC license. However, I ultimately didn’t go into radio, instead settled for record retail and distribution while I immersed myself in the local music scene. One of the reasons I gave up on radio was when a couple of noted local radio personalities came to my school and spoke to us. One of them asked us why we wanted to be in radio and I explained that for me it was my love of music and that I wanted to turn people on to music. He told me that radio was not about music, but about providing a service to the community. What the f…? He was right, and I realized I was not a salesman, which was what I really took from his explanation. I didn’t have the ego or personality for it. I just wanted to play records.
A couple years later I was invited to visit a radio show at Dallas’ community radio station KNON. I had met the host that did a show and they allowed me to spin some music I was into and it turned into me becoming their sidekick, for a lack of a better term. For the following 8 months I was programming half the show and on multiple occasions, I did the entire show myself. We played lots of Texas Punk, but I wasn’t as aware of the vast universe of ‘60s Garage yet. Sadly, I’ve lost touch with the host of the radio show. I made contact with them a few years ago, but they didn’t seem interested in discussing these events for personal reasons and so I must refrain from even stating their name. In the decades since, I did some DJ-ing, and became a master in the art of making mixtapes, then mix CDs. Today I enjoy digital technology and the ability to create mix playlists through YouTube or Spotify and share them with friends with the help of social media. The itch to DJ again is always present (and I’ve built up a massive record collection) and the idea of getting back on the radio has been offered to me, but my job leaves me little time to focus and I just lack the appropriate energy for it. Yet, here I am now with a wonderful opportunity to make some playlists and let someone else play them.
For the first of what I hope is a number of episodes, I put together an introductory playlist of some of my absolute favorites and what I think are the most important bands/songs of the ‘60s Garage, ‘70s & ‘80s Punk, and ‘90s Garage Punk eras. There’s so much good music that came out of Texas in the last four decades of the 20th Century. In the Punk era alone there were so many amazing Punk, New Wave, Power Pop, and Hardcore bands, but I’ve always liked the stuff that is more in the Rock ‘N’ Roll style. For the ‘60s era there were a lot of great Psych bands, but again I’m a bigger fan of the bands that followed in the Stones/Kinks tradition of Garage Rock. The ‘90s was where all these influences of the past really came together. ‘90s Garage Punk was a lifesaver in oversaturated Alternative Rock era, played with reckless abandon, humor, and loads of energy. Bands like The Motards, The Sons of Hercules, Sugar Shack, Lord High Fixers, and The Mullens changed my life and listening tastes forever. Depending on how far I go with all this, I’ll try to feature some newer bands that are making good noise I like these days.
Here’s some notes on what was featured in the first episode, Born Losers Vol. 1. I will share some links to various sources that have more info on this stuff.
Born Loser – Murphy & The Mob (Tyler, TX) – from the b-side of their 1966 45 on Talisman Records
The theme song of this series. I first heard this song on Back From The Grave Vol. 3, and then Catt Butt’s cover. It would be many years later I realized that many bands, including a few Texas bands had covered it too. It made me realize that although it was obscure it was a Garage classic. A funny thing is the lyrics were written by the band’s one time manager, who dismisses it as a “juvenile” thing he did before he went to Vietnam and became an alcoholic. For those of us fascinated with ‘60s teen angst, it speaks the truth about a nerd who gets revenge (get it?) against the jocks and rednecks by getting himself a swingin’ bachelor pad and becomes a hit with the ladies, yet the squares still call him a “born loser”. Check out the blog Garage Hangover for more info.
Pappa Hoodoo aka Witch Doctor – Lord High Fixers (Austin) – From the Talking To Tomorrow 10” EP on Scooch Pooch (1995)
Mid-‘90s Garage/Soul that featured a reunion of Poison 13’s Mike Carroll and Tim Kerr with members of Sugar Shack and The Spoilers. A live version titled “Hoodoo Man’s Pins” appears on the Texas Speed Trials compilation, while the When The Revolution Comes comp features it as “Witch Doctor”, which was how it also appeared on the band’s set lists afterwards. They were one of the reasons I moved to Austin in 1995. The Fixers had an almost spiritual effect on me and were a significant influence on my appreciation of all music.
My Girlfriend Is A Rock – The Nervebreakers (Dallas) – From their album We Want Everything on Existential Vacuum, recorded in 1980 but not released until ‘94
The Nervebreakers are considered Dallas’ first significant Punk rock band, although they were a garage band that pre-dated the Punk movement. In July of ‘77, they opened for the Ramones’ first Dallas show, and on January 10, 1978 they opened for the Sex Pistols at the Longhorn Ballroom, a gig they got by simply calling up Malcolm McLaren and asking if they could play with them (imagine that!). The band would also go on to back up Roky Erickson for a period of time. “My Girlfriend Is A Rock” appeared on their ‘78 debut Politics EP, but this is the faster version from ‘80.
Hipsville 29 B.C. (I Need Help) – The Sparkles (Levelland, TX) – From their 1967 45 on Hickory
The Sparkles went through various lineups dating back to 1957, but the mid-‘60s version of the group produced two Garage rock classics, “No Friend of Mine” and this stomper, which was covered by The Cramps. The pounding drum track was the result of this particular lineup having two drummers. Levelland is a tiny farming town 30 minutes west of Lubbock, so I’m sure The Sparkles had more of a presence in Buddy Holly’s backyard than their own, but quite remarkable that such a rockin’ band came out such desolate surroundings. I wish I could explain the title, especially the “29 B.C.” part. The lyrics sound like someone had a fun night enjoying some psychedelic substances that landed them in jail for running a red light and something about running through a drugstore and possibly being lost in a forest. The chorus states a desire for the troubles to end and only a girl can help:
The blind can’t lead the blind
And baby, I’m blind as you
I can’t help myself
How can I help you?
I need help
I need help, girl
I need help
I need help, girl
Angry Girl Use (aka Angry Girl) – The Sons of Hercules (San Antonio) – From the 1996 comp TEXAS: A Collection Texas Garage Punkers on Au Go Go Records (Australia)
Formed in 1990 and still going, the Sons feature SA punk legend Frank Pugliese. I hope to feature some of Frank’s early work in future episodes. The Sons have always been one of the best live bands in Texas. This Au Go Go comp was a very important and special document of the mid-‘90s Texas Garage Punk scene. Highly recommended.
Modern Needs – Really Red (Houston) – From their 1980 single on C.I.A. Records
Their 2nd single. Classic Killed By Death track. Classic Punk song period. Really Red’s politically charged music made them popular in the Houston and Texas Punk scene, and they were one of the first Texas Punk bands to tour nationally. In 2020, a tribute album Teaching You the Fear… Again was released featuring Jello Biafra, Mudhoney, The Dicks, The Bellrays, and many of their fellow Houston Punk bands of the era and today.
Woman (I Can’t Believe) – Neal Ford & The Fanatics (Houston) – 1966 demo that was released on a 7” by Caped Crusader in 1994
Neal Ford & The Fanatics were one of the most popular rock bands in Houston in the late ‘60s. They were known for their infectious British Invasion style harmonies and psychedelic edge. This 1966 demo is a scorching Zombies cover, (later covered by Lord High Fixers) that showed a louder, faster edge with the unbelievable screams from Ford, who sadly passed away in May 2021.
Go! Space City – Sugar Shack (Houston) – From their 1997 album Five Weeks Ahead Of My Time on Estrus Records.
My all-time favorite Texas band next to ZZ Top. I’ve been following them since I met them in the late ‘80s, and their ‘94 album Shotgun For Two was a major catalyst for my jumping into the ‘90s Garage Rock scene. I will certainly feature more Sugar Shack in future episodes plus The Party Owls, their pre-SS Punk band.
Satan Baby – Stickmen With Rayguns (Dallas) – From the 2015 comp Grave City on End Of An Ear Records, recorded sometime in the early ‘80s
Stickmen With Rayguns were an infamous Dallas punk band throughout the ‘80s, often sharing bills with the Butthole Surfers, and featuring wild frontman Bobby Soxx, who was the focus of a classic early ‘80s local TV news piece about the Punk phenomenon. While some songs appeared on various comps, most of their recordings didn’t see a release until the new millennium, just before Bobby passed away in October 2000.
Mental Case – NCM (aka Non Compos Mentis) (Dallas) – From the 1983 comp Live At The Hot Klub released by VVV Records
Bassist/vocalist Neal Caldwell owned the VVV (pronounced “vee-vee-vee”) record store and record label. VVV was the first record store I ever ventured out from the suburbs and into Dallas to check out. It was almost entirely Punk and New Wave. But most importantly, NCM was the first Punk band I ever saw play live, at a high school dance. Like something right out of a movie.
Don’t Come Back – The Mullens (Dallas) – From their 1999 2nd album Go Where The Action Is
Longtime friends and I will certainly be showcasing them more in a later episode. I met frontman Tim Stile back in 1987 when he played drums with Joe Christ. I was a very close associate of his next band Hash Palace, and right about the time he moved to the microphone with The Mullens, I moved to Austin. Tim would constantly send me demos of the band recorded in his home studio, and it was really amazing witnessing Garage Punk fans all over the world embrace The Mullens. Tim and guitarist Matt Mayo wrote some of the best Rock ‘N’ Roll to ever come out of Dallas. Unfortunately, Matt had to leave the band a few years ago due to health issues, but is still making music on his own, while the band has soldiered on and hopefully will have some new music released soon.
In & Out – Larry & The Blue Notes (Ft. Worth) – From their 1966 45 on Charay Records
Classic ‘60s Punk, covered by The Mummies. Their first single was another classic, “Night of Phantom”, which was originally recorded as “Night of The Sadist”.
Don’t Tread On Me – Kit & The Outlaws (Dallas) – From their 1966 45 on Black Knight Records
This 45 was originally released when they were just The Outlaws, but lead singer and songwriter Kit Massengill’s name jumped out front as Philips Records picked it up for national distribution. The A-side is a great cover of “In The Midnight Hour”, but the B-side became a Garage classic.
Nothing Can Bring Me Down – The Twilighters (Belton, TX) – From their 1968 45 on Mark VII Records
Savage. The most appropriate description of this classic outta the small town of Belton just south of Waco. While they had definitely caught the Hendrix bug, the Twilighters were still stuck in the garage. However, their only record was recorded at the Temple teen club Mark VII with blankets hung over some lumber to buffer the sound. Result? One loud, yes, SAVAGE slab of garage punk, and it was released on the club’s own label. Most impressive is the band wrote the song just before they recorded it.
You’re Gonna Miss Me – 13th Floor Elevators (Austin) – From their 1966 45 on Contact Records
I couldn’t do a Texas playlist without this. The Lone Star State equivalent of “Louie Louie”. Every Texas band should know it.
Gary Floyd – Butthole Surfers (Austin) – From their 1984 debut full-length Psychic… Powerless… Another Man’s Sac on Touch & Go Records
No explanation needed for this legendary band, formed in San Antonio in 1981 but relocated to Austin, becoming one of the most influential bands in underground music. Their music was subversive, melding Punk and Psychedelia with Metal and Electronic music, often accompanied with nightmarish visuals projected behind them. They were part of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour and became a fixture on MTV in the ‘90s Alternative era. “Gary Floyd” is often described as a country or cowpunk song, but it also has a very ‘60s punk sound, as much a callback to the 13th Floor Elevators as a shout-out to the lead singer of The Dicks.
The Dicks Hate The Police – The Dicks (Austin) – From their 1980 7” EP on Radical Records
Hard to argue with this not being the definitive Texas Punk record, their landmark 1980 single originally released on Radical Records, bootlegged and reissued as recent as 2020. Forever relevant. And of course featuring the amazing, soulful and revolutionary Gary Floyd.
We’re Not In It To Lose – Big Boys (Austin) – From their 1983 2nd album Lullabies Help The Brain Grow released by Moment Productions
The Big Boys and The Dicks were unequivocally the foundations of the early Austin Punk scene, yet were quite different musically. The Big Boys were a very influential band, credited with popularizing skate punk, they could surf between hardcore Punk, Post-Punk, and were the first to throw Funk into the mix, long before bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They would often play to all-ages audiences, inviting fans onstage to sing along, and then suggesting “Now go start your own band.”
One Step Closer – Poison 13 (Austin) – From their 1984 self-titled debut album on Wrestler Records
Legend has it that P13 singer Mike Carroll, who was a roadie for The Big Boys, would play these mixtapes in the tour van that featured lots of old Blues and ‘60s Garage sounds, which inspired Big Boys Tim Kerr and Chris Gates to start P13 with Carroll, pursuing that combination of Blues and Punk, first tapped into by The Cramps and The Gun Club. They played lots of covers by Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, The Sonics, Richard Hell, The Troggs and The Pleasure Seekers.
The Fast Song – The Motards (Austin) – From their 1994 self-released 7” EP I’m A Criminal.
The new kids on the block… Mid-‘90s Garage Punk that many felt carried on the spirit of Austin’s early Punk scene. They created many beer hurling good times in their four-year run. Seeing this band a couple dozen times was a life changing experience.
Well, that’s about it folks. Thanks to Nick Spehar for allowing me to do this. It was a blast and hopefully we will do it again in 2022. Follow the Into The Maelstrom Facebook page for more info and definitely check out the Mixcloud archive.
I’ve also made a YouTube playlist of the songs: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKv4aUcP0VUcyfZpVqblzuu6H4-XCH9ne
And here’s some more cool things to check out:
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