Possibilities were endless in those days, which is why the axis of rock & roll still revolves around the music of the Fifties and Sixties. It was made by young people for young people without older generations to co-opt it. There’s even a saying among Sixties garage bands that, “If the band had long hair when you joined, it was already over.”
It was never fair to call Bubble Puppy “garage rock.” That was a term of convenience ensuring the band's authenticity. And they were authentic: David Fore, Rod Prince, Todd Potter, and Roy Cox had played in rock combos and surf bands around Corpus Christi and Austin before Bubble Puppy formed and started practicing weekly at the Pusi-Kat in San Antonio. They made rock & roll of the moment - esoteric, electric, unstoppable.
When “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass” was released in 1969 on International Artists, the label famously associated with the 13th Floor Elevators, it was a big psychedelic deal. Having our boys appear on American Bandstand and all over the radio in those halcyon days of major labels felt like mere steps away from the Beatles on Capitol.
And if it never happened completely for Bubble Puppy, you can fill in the blank with standard reasons - personality conflicts, change of musical direction, outside need for steady income, drugs, a major label effort that stiffed. Nevertheless, Bubble Puppy accumulated a repertoire of songs singular in Texas rock history.
That repertoire pumped out “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass,” while also crackling the velvet electricity of “Elizabeth,” “What Do You See,” and "If I Had a Reason,” music so timelessly rock & roll that it still levitates. Bubble Puppy's reunion set at the Austin Music Awards during last year's South by Southwest prompted Rolling Stone to gush about the band's “huge sound, and kind of gorgeous, too.”
What makes Bubble Puppy's appearance at Antone’s on Friday so rooted in South Texas lore isn’t just a stellar resume. It’s that they're paired with fellow true believers the Krayolas. Here’s another story of music made in youth that's too good to let go. What Hector and David Saldana did musically in the nuevo wavo Eighties still resonates, and the Krayolas’ string of recordings the last few years (Topsy Turvy, La Conquistadora) is testament to the same puro mojo that Bubble Puppy has.
Hector Saldana invented his own term for it: “Mexified.”
“When that came to me it just seemed to perfectly capture that San Antonio sound and the musicians I love. You either have it or you don't. I used to include lyric sheets with our records, but on the last one I just used that one line. That's all anyone needs to know about the Krayolas.”
Maybe, but there’s more. The Krayolas literally wear their influences on Nudie-style suits.
“They're our fun, colorful statement – pure San Antonio – and not just something out of Liberace's mariachi phase,” jokes Saldana. “I wear Buddy Holly and Esteban 'Steve' Jordan on my sleeve, literally. It just as easily could be Willie and Flaco or Augie and Doug. It could be our faces or Girl in a Coma or Pinata Protest or TexManiacs. It's the range of Texas music, my heroes.
“The most important image is on my back of my nephew Alex, a Marine killed in the Iraq War in 2006. They're Americano time-travel tribute suits decorated with images and characters from our songs. My brother's celebrates La Conquistadora and artist David Zamora Casa's painting. [Guitarist Van Baines' suit] is a nod to Augie Meyers' gift to us, 'Little Fox.'
“You can put it on my tombstone: 'Genuine Mexified San Antonio rock 'n' roll star.' That says it all.”