“In the old days, bands had interchangeable members, and they had to play a lot of standards,” remarks Jim Heath, the titular Reverend Horton Heat of the Dallas psychobilly kings finishing out a six-night Continental residency this weekend.
A Corpus Christi native, the hellbent guitarist whose fiery trio rose to mid-Eighties fame in the Big D music crucible of Deep Ellum reminisces about a rock & roll era when acts went out on package tours, playing their hits with a house band.
“‘Yeah, well, what song does he sing?’ ‘Blue Moon.’ ‘Yeah! Okay! What key?’” back-and-forths the good Reverend. “Y’know, that kinda thing. Nowadays, bands are all over the map. It’s harder to do now, to make that happen.”
Heath, long-serving slap bassist Jimbo Wallace, and drummer Scott Churilla revisited this Fifties/Sixties paradigm at the band’s Hayride festival, inaugurated three years ago in Los Angeles and taking in special guests ranging from Motörhead bomber Lemmy to Austin’s reigning rockabilly queen Rosie Flores. Friday, former Zeros frontman Robert Lopez joins mid-set as his brilliantly funny alter ego El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. Roots guitar wizard Deke Dickerson duels on Saturday and Sunday.
“If I’m playing with Deke, I may have to play a Western swing steel guitar part,” muses Heath about his sideman role. “Or with Lemmy, I’d have to be a big ol’ metal guitar player. It’s fun. You learn about different people’s approaches.“And if I put in the right amount of homework, we can back up anybody and we can make it sound pretty good, or as good or better as the bands they had,” he laughs. – Tim Stegall