One Two Three Faw!

A brief history of Texas garage rock

Original Artyfacts: the Seventies

Did Texas garage rock die between the end of the Sixties and the beginning of punk? Well, that all depends. The era of young Texas bands cranking out sneering, sunbaked variations on the British Invasion for a shot at regional airplay was over by 1970.

Roky Erickson was locked up at Rusk State Hospital, and many of his contemporaries had moved on musically. Gary P. Nunn graduated from veteran West Texas garage rockers the Sparkles to pen the progressive country anthem "London Homesick Blues," while Bugs Henderson swung from playing guitar with Mouse and the Traps to Freddie King-style blues. The Moving Sidewalks' guitarist Billy Gibbons became the most commercially successful Texas garage rock alumnus with ZZ Top.

And yet, for younger musicians coming up, the standard-issue rock star fantasy became less attainable as the fun-loving romp of A Hard Day's Night morphed into the hero worship of The Song Remains the Same.

In the midst of and perhaps in response to this void, Lenny Kaye dropped Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 in 1972, a collection that codified the sound of Texas bands like the 13th Floor Elevators and Mouse and the Traps as "punk" or "garage" rock. Nuggets became a blueprint for punk's mid-Seventies eruption.

In Texas, this eruption was subtle at first. The Werewolves brought glam to Dallas, fending off redneck homophobes and opening for the New York Dolls in 1974. Meanwhile, Doug Sahm produced Roky Erickson's ghoul rock comeback, "Two-Headed Dog" in 1975. Taking cues from Sahm's Sir Douglas Quintet and ? & the Mysterians, Joe "King" Carrasco resurrected the mid-Sixties Tex-Mex sound with El Molino in 1976 and later with the Crowns, dubbing it "nuevo wavo."

In Dallas, the Nervebreakers were plying proto-punk originals amid Standells covers with a young Tex Edwards on vocals. They later opened for both the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. San Antonio's Vamps, featuring future Sons of Hercules vocalist Frank Pugliese, opened for the Pistols at their January 1978 Randy's Rodeo show in the Alamo City.

The Sex Pistols didn't make it to Austin, but Phil Tolstead, vocalist for nihilist punk agitators the Huns, spawned a riot at the band's first show by kissing a cop at the Drag-bound Raul's on Sept. 19, 1978. Bassist Jesse Sublett and guitarist Eddie Muñoz formed the Skunks that same year. When Muñoz moved to L.A. to join the Plimsouls, 19-year-old Jon Dee Graham replaced him. Sublett also played in the Violators with future Go-Go Kathy Valentine.

Picking up on the precedent established by the Red Krayola, Houston birthed politicized, art-fueled bands like Really Red and Vast Majority that foretold hardcore. The rest of Texas answered, and the Big Boys, Dicks, and Stick Men With Rayguns weren't far behind.

As the Eighties dawned, the punk descendants of Texas garage rock violently separated themselves from their more fashionable New Wave cousins and prepared for battle against the coming Reagan revolution.

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Randy "Biscuit" Turner

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