Flashback: The Reverend Horton Heat

The Reverend Horton Heat

I’m going to miss the Reverend’s gospel this weekend in Austin due to a prior commitment, but the notion of him being in town brought an old article to mind. Like a lot of car guys my age, The Reverend Horton Heat often found his way into my tape deck on those longer cruises. His tunes just seemed to match the activity I guess… That said, I never knew much about the Reverend’s car life. Was he really a car guy or does he just play one in music?

Amazingly, I got a chance to find out in 1998 or so when his record company approached little ole 22 year old me to do an interview. The following was published on The Jalopy Journal shortly after and while I do realize this post isn’t entirely on topic, I do think it’s fun to see where we (TJJ) came from every now and then. Enjoy or ignore fellas…

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It all started a long time ago actually. I was 15 years old when my old man bought me this ’55 Chevy coupe with a 4-speed and a pretty nasty small block. You know the goods – white pearl paint, 5-spokes, slicks, and open headers. I’d wait for my dad to go off to work and then I’d take it out to the highway not far from the house just to hear the cam come on and practice my power shifts.

The guy that owned the car before us had fumbled around a bit with the car and had the word “Jesus” etched into the back glass. As I was smashing gears and burning down that long desert highway, I’d occasionally look out the rear view mirror to check for cops, road kill, or any other pest. Something about that etched reference to sin just didn’t sit right while I was busy racing the devil.

Still, there wasn’t necessarily a conflict of sides on that highway. My race with the devil had nothing to do with religion. I realize now that I was at the core of the kustom kulture while behind the wheel of that ’55. I was doing something that none of my friends were doing. I was learning, growing, finding myself – I was hot rodding. And I was damn good at it!

So, what did I end up doing with that etched glass? I kept it. Only I covered it up with a sticker that I had gotten at a concert in Dallas, Texas. A concert that featured a band called: THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT.

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TJJ: So, fill us in on your rides.

The Rev: I gotta ’50 Ford two-door sedan and a ’96 Lincoln on the side.

TJJ: No shit? I sold a ’50 sedan not too long ago to finance my coupe.

The Rev: Slab side Fords are it man. Luxury boxes. I really got into the whole thing because I like Mercs so much, but then I kinda found myself with a shoebox. I dig the look. It’s the coolest, you know, I’m really glad I went Ford over Merc now. Something about them, I dunno less pretentious maybe?

TJJ: Yeah, I hear ya – little smaller, a bit cleaner.

The Rev: Exactly. Oh, and I love the slab side profile, its just cool ya know? Ya gotta chop em’ too. The Sedans and the club coupes are killer chopped. Business coupes? They just look great. I’d love to have a chopped, primered and slammed B-coupe. Hummmmm….someday. Mine looks like its baby blue, but if you see something that is blue next to it, you can tell it’s turquoise. It was started by someone else when I got it, so it already had a custom dash and all that stuff. It’s really a beater, but it’s fun – sits real low. In fact, it’s too low. I am thinking of taking some of the blocks out of the rear and just putting something real heavy in the trunk just so I can have the leeway.

TJJ: Yeah? You know, a lot of guys are runnin’ air bags now.

The Rev: Yeah, that’s the ticket! A good buddy of mine, Jeff Milbourn, does a lot of that. He’s a great mechanic. He worked for James Mills as a clutch guy and Lori Johns and all the dragster guys. His welds are just so amazing.

TJJ: I can’t weld for shit.

The Rev: Oh man, this guy is just so good at it – it’s just so easy for him. Really amazing.

TJJ: You ever seen Billy Gibbon’s business coupe? It’s got the look.

The Rev: Yeah, I’d like to see that. Have you?

TJJ: Yeah, I met Billy at a Harley shop I used to work at. I think Boyd built that car or did Chapouris? Hell, I dunno. Either way, I dig on that car.

The Rev: Cool. But I gotta admit, I’m kinda loosing it with my car thing lately. I just haven’t had a lot of time. With my family duties as well as, you know, my whole career thing – I just don’t have the time right now. I’m gonna get into the scene again though. I just got too. It’s in me. I do have a ’32 Ford Project right now. It’s over at a buddy’s garage – has been for years. Anyway, he’s a great mechanic and he’s been doin some work for me and stuff. I’m really starting to get excited about it. The only thing is the money. All that stuff takes so much money.

TJJ: I know man. Bankers just don’t catch the drift either.

The Rev: It ain’t gonna get any cheaper, but one of these days I am gonna have a ’32 Ford. I mean, I got a lot of parts and all sorts of stuff for it. I know exactly how I want it to look. It’s gonna be a high boy. The classic kind. A real hot rod, you know? Like a late 50s high school hot rod.

TJJ: Yeah, I can see ya tearin’ ass down M.L.K. in a hopped upped coupe. Hell, you got the look down. Speaking of, you got any tats?

The Rev: Oh, I got one really bad Bettie Page tattoo. I dunno, for some reason I just decided to get Bettie Page. I just loved her so much I guess.

TJJ: They ain’t cool unless they’re bad though.

The Rev: Yeah, well this one is cool then, but its not one I like to show off. Maybe I should get a better one just so I can say, “I got this really cool tattoo.”

TJJ: I hear ya. I can hook ya up with McPhail and the Artist at Large group. I know, what about Jimbo? You know, the “Jimbo Song”. Did he really kick your ass?

The Rev: Yeah, that’s true. We got in a fight one night and I ended up with 30 stitches. We had just gone off tour. And you know, being gone on tour together with the band all cooped together… Its really hard work and we were really looking forward to getting back to Dallas, but our manager booked us at some place that, well, it was a restaurant gig. And they didn’t want any drums – Just wanted me there to sing and the guys to kinda back up you know? And so we said, “Well, we don’t do that much, but okay.” Anyway, we started doing it and I thought Jimbo was playing a little too loud. I kept telling him to turn it down and, anyway, we got into an argument and it ended up outside. It came to blows and I can’t remember who hit who first, but we ended up in a brawl where we both landed on the concrete. I split my head open when I landed on some kind of brick. It was like a brick sidewalk. So, you know, it was more jagged than a regular concrete sidewalk. What was really funny is the next day when we go walking in there saying, “Okay, we are here to get our stuff!” The people were hanging around talking about the night before and “that guy” that split his head open… And there we are, picking up our shit, hanging out together, just being friends. They are like, “You guys do that all the time?”

TJJ:

The Rev: You okay?

TJJ: Ohh yeah, sorry. I’m loosing grips on my professional interview here. Let me get back at it. Hummmm… If you could jam with anybody, who would it be? Dead or alive?

The Rev: Wow, I haven’t really ever thought about that.

TJJ: Typical interview question huh?

The Rev: I don’t know. There is a lot of people that it would be really fun to play with. There are just so many different types cuz we play on the lines so much you know?

TJJ: Kinda hard to find someone that has such deep roots that can still reach up and play with any of the loud bands. Elvis pre-Vegas? Or early Social Destruction? Cramps? Take your pic…

The Rev: It would be really cool to have Jerry Lee Lewis come and play some piano.

TJJ: That’s what I’m talkin about. Bitchin.

The Rev: Yeah, I mean that would be cool. Really, there are just so many other rock-n-roll greats. I’d have to make a list.

TJJ: Didn’t you tour with Johnny Cash for a while? Like two years ago?

The Rev: I am trying to think. Something like that. I think it was like five years ago. All I remember is that is was really odd, because we ended up this tour with Sound Garden. Like one of the last shows was this gig in Canada. It was huge, some big festival thing and we played right before Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.

TJJ: Shit, that is weird!

The Rev: Yeah, so we go from doing a show with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson to a show with Johnny Cash. Like right after we did this thing, we went to San Francisco to play with Johnny.

TJJ: Did ya change your set at all to play with Johnny Cash?

The Rev: Yeah, we played more of our straight rockabilly stuff. We used to do that all the time. Things like switch our set around because we played in bars a lot. Bars can be a real different scene. You can go from a hotrod, country scene to a punk scene you know?

TJJ: I hear ya…Is rock-n-roll dead?

The Rev: I don’t know about the state of the whole mess all together, because I’m not really..hummm…not too far in it, but I do think there is some cool rocking stuff going on.

TJJ: It seems like there is a lot more enthusiasm in Europe. It’s almost freakish there.

The Rev: They have a great appreciation for it over there.

TJJ: Yeah, they haven’t been bread around it, so it’s like they don’t take it for granted.

The Rev: Oh yeah. They are into it. But, you know, a lot of them have been into it for years – like since the 50s. That’s why, Bill Haley and the Comets will have a reunion gig and they will have 10,000 people show up. It’s pretty cool man.

TJJ: So close it out with one of those Rock-n-Roll stories I know you got.

The Rev: The problem with all the good rock-n-roll stories is that we are so wasted I can’t remember any of them. Have you ever heard of a band called the Supersuckers?

TJJ: Oh yeah, I dig the shit out of them.

The Rev: Well, what happened is they were opening up for us on this tour we were doing. We were in Cincinnati playing at this place called Bogart’s. The last part of the gig we all went across the street to do shots. I think this place was called Sudsy Malone’s. Yeah, that’s it. It’s a Laundromat bar, but they had a band playing, so we are all sitting there taking Jaeger shots and the next thing we know Dan Bolton (guitar for Supersuckers) is up there just standing on stage. We are all going, “Ohh shit.” I mean, the band is still playing, but he is just up there – standing. The next thing we know, he takes a running dive and just wipes out the drummer’s drum set. Just completely wipes it out. End of song, end of gig, end of whole bit. Well, they ended up throwing him out and after a while I went to check on him outside. As soon as I got out there, I saw two guys kicking him in the head. And he was laughing in between kicks, but they were kicking him so hard he was about to loose consciousness. So I told the guy, “Look man, stop kicking him.” And they just looked at me, turned around and started kicking him again. I had to do something. I pushed them away and they started hitting back and the next thing I know, I’m in a fight. So I got this guy in a headlock and I’m pounding away as hard as I can, but the other dude is just wailing on me the whole time. I ended up with a fucking black eye. In fact, we finished that tour with both of us having black eyes – only he had two.