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Reverend Horton Heat
Reverend Horton Heat live 2010
|Origin||Dallas, Texas, US|
|Labels||Four Dots, Sub Pop, Interscope, Time Bomb, Artemis, Yep Roc, Victory Records|
|Legendary Shack Shakers, Petra, Black Oak Arkansas, Supersuckers, Burden Brothers, Deke Dickerson, The Collins Kids|
|Members||Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath|
Arjuna "RJ" Contreras
Patrick "Taz" Bentley
The Reverend Horton Heat is the stage name of American musician Jim Heath (born 1959) as well as the name of his Dallas, Texas-based psychobilly trio. Heath is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. A Prick magazine reviewer called Heath the "godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly".
The group formed in 1986, playing its first gigs in Dallas's Deep Ellum neighborhood. Its current members are Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath on guitar and lead vocals and Jimbo Wallace on the upright bass. The band signed to Victory Records on November 27, 2012, and released its 11th studio album, REV, on January 21, 2014.
The band describes itself as rock and roll that's influenced by 50s rockabilly, punk, country, surf and jazz standards. The band mixes country, surf, punk, big band, swing and rockabilly into loud, energetic songs with often-humorous lyrics. Video games, cartoons and commercials have used the band's songs, giving The Reverend Horton Heat mainstream exposure.
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Heath's first band was 50s cover group called "Chantilly" featuring David McNair, C.A. Flores, David Flores and Sara Flores. However, Heath was more into blues and not really good enough to be in the band and was kicked out. So Heath went to practicing. Within a year, Heath played in a cover band called Southern Comfort with friends from W.B. Ray High School, David McNair, Jeff Nolte, Sam Reid, Steve Hall, before attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1977. At UT, he often entertained friends and dormmates and was often found playing in the stairwells at Moore-Hill Dormitory late into the night. Heath left school in the spring to join up with a touring cover band by the name of Sweetbriar. Three years later, former dormmate David Livingston, now in his senior year of school and at home visiting family, saw a familiar face on stage and reunited with Heath.
Livingston told Heath stories of the punk music scene in Austin and the acts playing at venues such as Raul's and Club Foot. Once, while home on another visit, Livingston took Heath to a Dallas rock and roll venue, The Bijou, to see an act called The Cramps. After the show, a brawl between punks and rockers broke out in the parking lot. While Heath and Livingston escaped any involvement in the scuffle, Heath later claimed to have had an epiphany on that evening saying, "I didn't know anything about the Cramps. I thought it would be a punk rock show, and it was, except that they played "The Way I Walk" by Jack Scott and "Surfin' Bird" and I realized that the roots rock and rockabilly that I had grown up with was able to cross over into the punk thing. It gave me ideas." Always a fan of 50s, blues and honky tonk, Heath returned the favor by taking Livingston and his wife to see The Blasters in Dallas at the Hot Klub. Livingston would later manage the band and co-wrote, with Heath, the song "Liquor, Beer and Wine".
Heath had married a former bandmate from Sweetbriar, Jenny Turner, and together they had a child, Kendall; they decided that the rock-and-roll lifestyle was over and that it was time to have normal adult jobs. But in 1982, Ted Roddy and Heath started a mainly rockabilly group called Teddy and the Talltops with Phil Bennison aka "Homer Henderson" on bass and Jas Stephens on drums. Heath also moonlighted on some gigs with "The Hot House Tomato Boys" from Fayetteville, Arkansas. The band also included long time friend Tim Alexander.
Around 1985, Heath was known as "Big Jim the Sound Guy" by those who frequented two warehouses that by night became music venues, Theater Gallery and The Prophet Bar while playing with. Theater Gallery owner Russell Hobbs nicknamed Heath "Horton". Heath used the old Sweetbriar PA system to earn extra money, running sound for bands such as the New Bohemians, End Over End, Dino Lee, Shallow Reign, Burning Desire, The Textones and Three On A Hill as well as doing sound reinforcement for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips, The Pandoras, Husker Du, The True Believers and Michael Stipe from REM.
For the Red Hot Chili Peppers gig, Heath and Jeff Liles, the booking agent for Theater Gallery formed a one-gig, local all-star band called "Beat Orgy". Heath sang one song during the set, "Folsom Prison Blues", and it caught the ear of Theater Gallery owner, Russell Hobbs. Heath decided then and there to start trying to get solo gigs.
Russell Hobbs asked Heath to play the opening week at his new venue, "The Prophet Bar". When Heath showed up for soundcheck, Hobbs told him his stage name was going to be "Reverend Horton Heat".
The title "Reverend" was a total shock to Heath. The Horton part was already Hobbs' nickname for Heath and the rest was a shortened version of his last name, Heath except spelled "Heet" (Heath changed that part to "Heat"). Heath initially said no to the proposed stage name, thinking it was too close to Reverend Gary Davis and "The Reverend Willie G." (Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top), guitar players whom Heath holds in high esteem and didn't want to be thought to be pretending to be in their league. But Hobbs had already made flyers and listed the show in the papers as Reverend Horton Heet.
At that first show, to Heath's surprise, there was a healthy audience who enjoyed his sets and were calling him "Reverend". So, Heath, being somewhat poor and desperate decided to take the name except for the spelling of Heet. Hobbs later claimed that the Reverend part of Heath's stage name was the idea of artist/musician John Battles. All of this transpired somewhere around the time of Heath's divorce to Jenny Turner.
Within several weeks of starting to play as Reverend Horton Heat, Heath began recruiting local musicians to play with him--sometimes unrehearsed. The very first show of Reverend Horton Heat with a band consisted of Heath, Jack Barton, Peter Kaplan and Tim Alexander. As Tim Alexander had a full-time gig with "Asleep at the Wheel", the band became a trio, However, Tim Alexander played piano, organ and accordion on many RHH albums as well as playing organ in Heath's side project "Reverend Organ Drum". Kaplan would be replaced by Mike Goodsell on drums. Then Mike Goodsell was replaced by Bobby Baranowski, formerly of the Werewolves and Lou Ann Barton.
After a gig in Houston, Jim Wallace approached Jack Barton after the show and asked to try his bass as the band was tearing down the gear. His double slap style attracted the interest of Heath and he obtained Jim Wallace's phone number.
Coincidentally, in the early 80s, while Heath was in "Teddy and the Talltops", Wallace was playing sometimes in a Houston band called "The Teddy Boys". Wallace played in a band called "Six Gun" that came to Dallas to share the stage with "Teddy and the Talltops" at the old Twilight Room. However, Heath and Wallace did not meet formally at that gig.
In early 1989, at exactly the same time of Rev. Horton Heat's first release, a seven-inch 45RPM single "Big Little Baby" on the label Four Dots owned by Carl Finch of Brave Combo, Barton and Baranowski both quit the band even though the band was doing well in multiple markets (Dallas, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Nashville). "Big Little Baby" was a limited pressing and is now somewhat rare. So, with future gigs on the books, the earliest being only two weeks away, Heath called Wallace and asked him to be in the band.
Heath drove down to Houston to talk to Wallace about being in the band and Wallace agreed. Within weeks Wallace had moved to Dallas and was on the road with Reverend Horton Heat. To replace Baranowski on drums was David Mabry. This line-up was the first to break into the markets in the upper Midwest like Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis. They toured and promoted the new single even though it was with Barton and Baranowski.
Mabry would be replaced by Kyle Thomas. With Kyle on drums the band broke into new markets on the west coast in Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. It's during this time that Reverend Horton Heat secured a record deal with Sub Pop Records. It was also during this time that the band would travel to Memphis to record with former Sun Records greats, Barbara Pittman, Malcolm Yelvington and Johnny Powers at the old Memphis Recording Service where Sam Phillips started Sun Records and recorded Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Jackie Brenston and many more. The band would often spend the night on the floor of Barbara Pittman's apartment.
Charlie Reid became the manager after a couple of years of the departure of Livingston with Heath booking his own tours in the interim. Reverend Horton Heat recorded for Sub Pop at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle and Crystal Clear in Dallas, which made up the majority of material on RHH's debut album, Smoke 'em If You Got 'em. Then, the band recorded with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers producing at Ardent Studios in Memphis. That record was called The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat.
Reid's role as manager/booking agent came to an abrupt halt in April 1992 after it was learned that Reid was stealing money from the band. After another stint of Heath booking more tours for the band, Heath hired Scott Weiss as his manager/booking agent, and Weiss continues in that capacity with his company Atomic Music Group.
Weiss immediately went to work at finding a major label for Reverend Horton Heat. He was successful at getting Interscope Records to co-release the album "Liquor in the Front" with Sub Pop as well as securing a three-record deal. With Weiss, Reverend Horton Heat has not been without a record deal since the 1990 signing with Sub Pop Records.
Around 1990, drummer Kelly Patrick "Taz" Bentley joined the band just in time to record the first album. Taz played on the first three albums and stayed with the band until just after the release of "Liquor in the Front". Taz was replaced by Scott Churilla on drums.
In 2006 drummer Scott Churilla left the band and joined fellow former Sub Pop group The Supersuckers. He was replaced by Paul Simmons, formerly of Legendary Shack Shakers and Petra.
The band released their one and only album with Simmons, the country flavored "Laughin and Cryin with the Reverend Horton Heat", in September 2009.
In May 2012 it was announced that previous drummer Scott Churilla would be returning to the band full-time.
Victory Records signed Reverend Horton Heat in 2012, and an album titled Rev was released on January 21, 2014. A YouTube video for a single on the album, "Let Me Teach You How To Eat," was officially released on November 12, 2013.
On July 31, 2017 it was announced via the band's Facebook page that long time drummer Scott Churilla had left the band. No details were given on the cause for the split; only that the band wished him luck in the future. On August 11, 2017 the band announced Scott's replacement, Arjuna "R.J." Contreras, formerly of the band Eleven Hundred Springs, would be handling all drum duties and that the band was currently in the studio recording a new album. No details of its release have been given.
Matt Jordan of West Virginia joined the band full-time in September 2017 playing piano and organ as well as doing some singing.
"Psychobilly Freakout", and later "Wiggle Stick", were both featured in video segments on the show Beavis and Butt-head. The song "I Can't Surf" was part of the soundtrack of the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, published in 2001. "Psychobilly Freakout" was used on a commercial for Buell American Motorcycles and a slightly altered version was featured in the game Guitar Hero II and later on Guitar Hero Smash Hits. Their song "Baddest of the Bad" is featured on the soundtrack to Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. The 1997 PC video game Redneck Rampage also includes two of their songs: "Wiggle Stick" and "Nurture my Pig!" The song "Big Red Rocket of Love" is featured on the video game Motorstorm for the PlayStation 3 and a slightly altered version of the song was featured in a 1999 television commercial for the Mazda Miata. The song "Pride of San Jacinto" is featured on the video game Hot Wheels Turbo Racing.
Heath has a signature guitar from the Gretsch Guitar company, the 6120RHH. One of his favorite vintage guitars is a 1954 Gibson ES-175, which he rarely plays on the road since its wiring buzzes in certain venues. His favorite amplifier is the Fender Super Reverb.
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1990||Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
|1993||The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat
|1994||Liquor in the Front
|1996||It's Martini Time
|2000||Spend a Night in the Box
|2005||We Three Kings
|2009||Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat
|2018||Whole New Life
|"--" denotes releases that did not chart|