EARLY TEXAS ROCK
Both my folks were school teachers, so we moved around a lot when I was young, mostly in East Texas, but I did spend my Freshman and Sophomore High School years in southern California. Indeed, we moved there just in time for me to catch the “Summer of Love” in LA in ‘67.
Those two years changed my music taste beyond belief! I got HEAVILY into rock – hard rock, acid rock, psychedelic rock. I’m talking Iron Butterfly, Hendrix, Doors, Mothers of Invention, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blue Cheer, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, It’s a Beautiful Day, Arthur Brown, Cold Blood, King Crimson, Ten Years After, 13th Floor Elevators psychedelic rock! [NOTE: See past article about Arthur Brown and Cold Blood. Look for upcoming articles on Ten Years After, Blue Cheer, It’s a Beautiful Day and King Crimson. Please let my publisher know if any of these particularily interests you.]
So when the family moved back to what seemed like (to me!) ‘Goat-Roper Paradise’ (Little Cypress-Mauriceville school district just north of Orange, Texas) in the late summer of ‘69, I quickly discovered that if I wanted hard rock music, well, there wasn’t much compared to California!
I honestly don’t remember ANY local radio stations playing anything but bubblegum or ‘Top 40’ - I’m talking 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express, Archies, Cowsills, Brady Bunch (Oh yes, even the Brady Bunch released some singles!), Partridge Family, Jackson 5, Osmonds, Tommy James and the Shondells, Tommy Roe, Bobby Sherman here, folks! The Monkees were often played as bubblegum, too, but I will dispute that falsehood! How many of you will admit to knowing – let alone listening to – those groups?
Anyway, real Hard/Psychedelic rock music over the radio mostly came from ‘pirate stations’ who BLASTED the airwaves illegally from Mexico, or listening to Chicago and New Orleans stations when they “skipped” through the atmosphere late oh so late at night!
But, folks, what Hard/Psychedelic rock that was available then in East Texas was truly AWESOME beyond compare!
For a start, only a few local clubs, like the Lighthouse in Nederland, the Cellers (there were 5 – 3 in Dallas, 1 each in Houston and Austin (the waitresses wore bikinis and often stripped on a runway by the band as they played!), the Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine (take your pick! – in the Sunset Coffee Building on Commerce at Main Street – Allen’s Landing – the building is empty now but still stands) in Houston, the Walrus in Dallas, the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin and the Circus in Bosier City, Louisiana catered to the live music Hard/ Psychedelic rock crowd in that era.
Probably the two most well-known and accessible live music clubs of this era – to me, anyway - were not in Texas at all, but 5 miles east of Orange on IH 10 in Vinton, Louisiana: the Texas Pelican Club and the Circle Club. I cannot tell you how many nights I spent in these my last two years in High School, or the bands I heard there. [NOTE: At those Louisiana clubs, in those days, if you could reach up to the counter to pay your admission, you could get in!]
[NOTE: I am researching a possible future article on these clubs – anyone interested? Let my publisher know! And if you have any firsthand memories or knowledge of these rock clubs back “in the day” please let me know!]
So, here in alphabetical order, are some of the early East Texas Hard/Psychedelic rock bands I listened to: 1) The 13th Floor Elevators from Austin were formed by Tommy Hall (electric jug – yes, electric jug!), Stacy Sutherland (guitar) and Roky Erickson (vocals/guitar) in ’66
in Austin, and played primarily Austin and Houston clubs (and a couple of times in San Francisco) until they broke up in ‘69, but did all their recording in Houston.
Recognized by many as the genuine, number 1 very first American ‘Psychedelic Rock’ band (most of the other such bands were British), Hall claims he actually coined this specific term for their music - stemming from the bands publically boasted custom of dropping LSD before playing every show. [Don’t ask ME how they could actually play concert sets tripping on acid!] Other groups did call their music ‘Psychedelic’, but not necessarily ‘Psychedelic Rock’.
This is their first hit, You’re Gonna Miss Me from their ’66 debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators https://youtu.be/gHK9vj0VE7w.
This is one of the few live videos of the band in this time ever to surface – they are erroneously introduced as Roky and the 13th Floor Elevators on this video. This song was written by Roky as a tribute to Muddy Waters’ song of the same name, but is not a cover.
Here are two of my favorite songs by the band: and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love from ’66 https://youtu.be/EJtRDIP
w17E (a cover of Solomon Burke’s 1964 release – later covered by everybody else in the world!) and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue from ’67 https://youtu.be/jGqEFQ5x
mjU (a cover of Bod Dylan’s 1965 release.) The 13th Floor Elevators released seven singles and four original albums, with several later compilations and ‘revival’ albums.
Janis Joplin from Port Arthur was a friend of Hall’s wife, and sometimes opened for and/or sang with the band when she was around, and Billy Gibbons often played with them in Houston sets in ‘68, as well. 2) American Blues from Dallas was formed in ’66, by brothers Rocky Hill (guitar) and Dusty Hill (bass) and Frank Beard (drums). They played what Rocky called “psychedelic blues” (ala the 13th Floor Elevators), and were extremely popular in local clubs.
American Blues were regulars at all three Dallas and the Houston Cellar locations, as well as the Houston Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine.
Their first album American Blues is Here https://youtu.be/O70DaXxaWrs was released in’68, after which the band moved to Houston, where they released a second album American Blues ‘Do Their Thing’. Of course, American Blues is Here is in my CD Library!
Not long after the move and second album, the band broke up. Rocky left to return to his traditional blues guitar roots (where, among things, he was known as an inspiration and mentor to Stevie Ray Vaughn), while Dusty and Frank looked for something more ‘rock’ – see more about that below!
3) Bloodrock began as The Naturals in Fort Worth in ‘63, and actually released one single in ’65. Their lineup changed then, as did their name, to Crowd + 1 until ’69, when they were very briefly called themselves Texas. The group’s newest producer changed their name for the last time, to Bloodrock, and they released their first, selftitled album in ’70.
Their most successful album, Bloodrock 2 was released in ‘71, containing the group’s only hit, DOA, which probably is the CREEPIEST song ever to be played on the radio – I remember DJs at the SFA college radio station warning listeners before playing it! EXPLICIT WARNING: this is ABSOLUTELY the CREEPIEST, BLOODIEST, MOST disturbing music video probably EVER in the history of music videos! Watch it at your own peril – NOW I know you’ll ALL watch it! https://youtu.be/
bUkeu4Zj7pA Although this official video – made years after the song was originally released - is about a car crash, the song was
actually written about a plane crash.
Bloodrock played primarily in the Dallas and Houston clubs for most of their career, and released six original albums, a bunch of singles, and later on, a bunch of compellation albums. 4) Bubble Puppy was formed in ’67 in Corpus Christi, by Rod Prince and Roy Cox of The Bad Seeds from Corpus Christi (not to be confused with The Bad Seeds from Kilgore). They were unusual for having two lead guitars (which other bands later copied), and went through a period of trial and error before settling on their final lineup and sound.
[NOTE: Wiki and the band’s website both claim Bubble Puppy’s first public appearance was opening the San Antonio show for The Who’s ’67 tour! Except that, according to The Who’s official website: 1) that tour played only Houston and Dallas, not SA; and 2) The Who were themselves the opening act for Herman’s Hermits, not the headliners! So I don’t know what to believe on this one!]
At any rate, once their line-up was solid, Bubble Puppy relocated to Austin to play, and began recording in Houston, releasing their only hit Hot Smoke and Sassafras
https://youtu.be/Zl_COZrm5nA as a single early ’69.
They released their only original album A Gathering Of Promises later that year. Why even ask? Yes, it is in my CD Library!
In ’70 the band hired a new manager, moved to LA and changed their name to Demian, released one self-titled album, then broke up in ’72.
The original band members reunited for a while in ’84 and released a second album early in ’87, then broke up again.
In March ’11 Bubble Puppy reformed yet again, in Austin, around three of the original members (Prince, Cox and David Fore) and some members of Fore’s subsequent Austin bands, and began playing the Austin club circuit. Cox passed away in April ’13, but Bubble Puppy continues playing Austin area clubs! Check their website: bubblepuppy. com/ 5) Fever Tree began in Houston as folk-rock band The Bostwick Vines in ’66, but with new producers changed their name the next year, along with a new line-up featuring keyboardist Rob Landes and a new style of music – Psychedelic Rock. They were quite popular in local Houston clubs.
Fever Tree’s new producers also wrote all their music, and the band only had one hit in their entire career, San Francisco Girls in ’68 from their self-titled first album https://
youtu.be/xYe1HnZvioA . After moving to LA, the band broke up with their producers/writers, then fell apart as a group by ’70.
Guitarist Michael Knust was the other noteworthy member of Fever Tree – he reformed the group in ’78, but passed in ’03.
Billy Gibbons often played with Fever Tree in Houston, and can recognizably be heard on their first album, although uncredited. I know I did have this CD, but can’t seem to locate it now – I may have to order another copy. Besides, I always thought their 3rd album, Creation, which I do still have, was their best effort!
Fever Tree released four original albums, and several later compilations. 6) The Moving Sidewalks sort of began in Hollywood, where Houston’s Billy Gibbons was attending art school in the early 60’s. He organized a succession of surf-rock bands there: the Saints, Billy G and the Blueflames, the Coachmen, but by ’67 he had returned to his hometown of Houston.
Gibbons’ friend and mentor Roky Erickson of The 13th Floor Elevators helped him and drummer Dan Mitchell form Moving Sidewalks with organist Tom Moore and bass player Don Summers in Houston in ‘67, to play what Gibbons perceived as ‘psychedelic blues rock’.
Moving Sidewalks was quite popular on the Houston club scene, and opened several shows for the 13th Floor Elevators when that band played Houston clubs – including that notorious show at the Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine which was raided by Houston PD, and members of the Elevators arrested on stage for drug possession. (Pot, not their professed LSD!)
[NOTE: Many PDs – expecially HPD! - were notorious for raiding rock music clubs (but NOT strip clubs!) Houston’s Catacombs Club, Houston’s Cellar, along with Austin’s Vulcan Gas Company, never even bothered to get liquor licenses or sold booze, they were raided so often! However, rather than drugs or alcohol violations, these raids were actually conducted for pure ‘Hippie harassment’ – usually citing ‘electrical violations’ - the ‘electric light shows’ were deemed to be harmful to patrons! Ask me sometime how ‘Hippies’ were treated in Orange, Texas in that era!]
Anyway, while living in California, Gibbons had formed an intense friendship with Jimi Hendrix, and Moving Sidewalks also opened four concerts for him on tour.
Moving Sidewalks released three singles and one album, Flash https://youtu.be/
WPheF4Gw-K0 of which 99th Floor was the biggest hit. Yes, I have this album in my CD library.
In the years since, no less than 5 compilation albums and an EP of the Moving Sidewalks music have been released.
Moving Sidewalks reunited in 2013 for 3 benefit concerts, in NYC, Austin and Houston. Here is their performance of 99th Floor from the NYC show https://youtu.be/ bTusGNQvG4Q . 7) The Nomads from Texas City - NOT to be confused with the Nomads from Ft. Worth or Nomads from San Antonio – come to think of it, there were probably twenty bands called the Nomads! Anyway, the Nomads from Texas City formed in the early ‘60s by vocalist Frank Ziegel, and were popular in clubs on the south and east sides of Houston. They released two singles, I Walk Alone https://youtu.be/3c4MveIIiUo and I’ll Be
There https://youtu.be/6Er5Hpzw26M in ’67, and another in ‘68.
The ’68 single earned the group a move to California in ‘69, where guitarist Johnny Orvis took over the band and they turned into The Smoke - not to be confused with the bands of the same name from Australia or England – and recorded several albums before breaking up.
They never recorded any albums as The Nomads from Texas City. 8) In ’69, after Moore and Summers of Moving Sidewalks were drafted into the Army, Billy Gibbons and Dan Mitchell formed a new trio (bands back then were usually at least 4-5 or more members) with organist Lanier Greig. Gibbons says he came up with the new band’s name from two posters of BB King and ZZ Hill on his apartment wall – ZZ Top!
This original lineup of ZZ Top released their first single, Salt Lick https://youtu.be/ dfjAcPRrFfE , the flip side of which was Miller’s Garage https://youtu.be/cobbo69
7QE in ’69. After this release, Greig was replaced by bassist Billy Ethridge (of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band), and Mitchell was replaced by Frank Beard of the American Blues from Dallas. Ethridge was then replaced by Dusty Hill also of the American Blues. The band’s lineup has never changed again.
The new ZZ Top played their first concert together at a dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Beaumont on February 10, 1970, and was very popular in East Texas, playing local clubs, high school dances, etc.
And yes, for those of you who caught my reference to Little Cypress-Mauriceville early in this article, ZZ Top played MY High School Senior Prom at the Jack Tar Hotel in Orange in the spring of ’71! Here’s the band’s photo from my yearbook:
They had actually recorded (but not released) ZZ Top’s First Album https://youtu.
be/aOy4XdMYQb0 by then, and their producer tried to get them out of the contract, but our school refused.
To my recollection, they played the usual litany of Top-40 and radio hit covers customary to a high school dance, none of their own music. [LCM classmates help me out here – what do you remember?]
The later hype the band’s PR people put out about crowds trying to crash the dance, people climbing through bathroom windows at the hotel, etc. is NONSENSE – no one had heard their first album yet (I myself first heard it late that fall!) and at that time they were just another local garage band who could be heard at local clubs or dances on any weekend, playing radio covers!
Much later in their career, ZZ Top did play the ’97 Super Bowl Halftime show https://
youtu.be/nC_iiq06qck and the 2008 Orange Bowl Halftime show https://youtu.be/o9n06jBjPlQ .
I don’t know if anyone has actually counted how many albums ZZ Top have released over the years – I have 18 in my CD Library, and just got in a packaged compilation of their first 10 CDs!
There you have it folks. A quick breakdown of eight of the more popular psychedelic bands of late ‘60s East Texas, two of whom – ZZ Top and Bubble Puppy – are still together and playing!
Not all the bands of that era and ilk, of course. Maybe there’s enough for another article.