1 Oct 2016

The Many Blessings of Reverend Horton Heat

From Access All Areas, 2:25 pm on 1 October 2016
Reverend Horton Heat

Reverend Horton Heat Photo: supplied

Psychobilly royalty, Reverend Horton Heat has spent the last 30 years relentlessly playing every dive bar and night club across the U.S.A. and around the world - and he's heading to New Zealand for the first time this week.

"Nowadays, I actually enjoy playing music on stage more than I did when I was young." Texan Jim Heath, a.k.a. Reverend Horton Heat says he's over the traveling aspect to his job, but admits he does it in more style than he used to. "We play around 120 shows a year, rather than the 250 we used to do, and we have a bus, and we fly to places to play - instead of me having to drive us 500 miles like a maniac in a van to get us somewhere." 

Heath's musical route was set when rockabilly punk originals The Cramps came to his hometown in 1979. "Punk rock was still kind of new in Dallas, and I was a young guy and thought I was going to see a punk rock show. It was actually at a heavy metal place, but you know, they were playing rockabilly. It was a very memorable gig. There was an actual rumble between the heavy metal guys and the punk rockers. And the cops ran them out of town."

Beginning as a solo act, Heath was bequeathed the stage name 'Reverend Horton Heat' by a bar owner, unbeknownst to him before his first gig. "I'm glad he didn't name me 'Dog Dookie'" says Heath. He quickly acquired a band, and devoted following.

He recalls the show that got them signed to Subpop. "Jimbo [Wallace] was slapping his bass so hard he broke one of his strings in the last song, and he tried to just rip the string off with his bare hand. It sliced a major gash on his finger. You could see the blood spurting. Blood was going everywhere, and you could see the look on people's faces of shock. We stopped, and Jimbo took his hand and wiped his eyes one way, and them down the centre of his face and he had this big bloody cross down his face, and he looks at me and said 'Go!' and I said 'It's a psychobilly freakout!' and we kept going."

Eleven albums, five record labels and thirty years later, it's that mix of good luck and hard work that Heath credits his music career's longevity with.

For Music 101 Trevor Reekie is blessed to talk to the Reverend Horton Heat on one of his rare days off about Psychobilly Freakouts and life in Ford Transit vans.

Related Stories

  • Under the Influence: The Cramps
  • Music Details

    Artist: Reverend Horton Heat
    Song: Big Sky
    Composer: James Heath
    Album: Holy Roller
    Label: Sub Pop

    Artist: Reverend Horton Heat
    Song: There's a Little Bit of Everything in Texas
    Composer: Ernest Tubb
    Album: Laughin' and Cryin' With the Reverend Horton Heat
    Label: Yep Roc Records

    Artist: Reverend Horton Heat
    Song: I’m Mad, Psychobilly Freakout, Love Whip,
    Composer: James Heath
    Album: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
    Label: Sub Pop

    Artist: Reverend Horton Heat
    Song: 400 Bucks
    Composer: The Reverend Horton Heat
    Album: The Full Custom Gospel Sounds
    Label:Sub Pop

    Artist: Reverend Horton Heat
    Song: Longest Gonest Man, Zombie Dumb
    Composer: James Heath
    Album: REV
    Label:Victory Records