Jim Heath says that he borrowed guitar licks from the same people Brian Setzer did


By Steve Newton

The leadoff track on the latest Reverend Horton Heat CD, Lucky 7, is titled “Loco Gringos Like a Party”. When I first heard it, I thought it was about a bunch of tequila-guzzling crazies that the Reverend (aka Jim Heath) and his bandmates might have met while touring down Mexico way. Turns out Loco Gringos were actually a Mexi-punk group that caused quite a stir in Heath’s hometown of Dallas 10 years ago.

“That song has a lot of inside stuff that isn’t necessarily understandable by anybody unless they knew the band,” explains the singer-guitarist, on the line from a San Jose hotel. “But Loco Gringos were pretty wild, man. They all had these big black dreadlocks, but then they got into this Mexican influence, so they had the Mexican flag, and dingleballs for around the drums, and those plastic burros you get in Mexico.

“They all lived in this big old house called Gringo Manor, and drove around in these old black Cadillac hearses with ‘Loco Gringos’ painted down the side in Day-Glo. One time they built a stage on top of one of the hearses and drove around playin’ on top of the car!”

It’s a shame that a band with that kind of spirited style isn’t around anymore, but fans of hellacious, outta-control punkabilly can still get their rowdy fix from Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace, and drummer Scott Churilla, who play the Commodore on Friday (July 19), on a bill with the equally intense Nashville Pussy.

There are a number of kick-ass tunes on Lucky 7 that could incite locals to test the limits of the club’s sprung dance floor, one being the blistering instrumental “Show Pony”. Heath had to practise long and hard to get that 90-second track’s lightning-fast licks down pat.

“That’s one of the things I do,” he claims, “because it’s very difficult havin’ to come up with this stuff. I want to feel like I’m getting better as a musician—and I want us to feel like we’re getting better as a band—so I practise quite a bit. You know, as much as I do practise, I should be a lot better, but I’m a little slow, so…”

After hearing Heath roast the frets on “Show Pony”—and other rockabilly-tinged standouts such as “Like a Rocket” and “What’s Reminding Me of You”—you’re left wondering if he’s been studying the frenzied playing style of former Stray Cats leader Brian Setzer.

“Well, you know, I love the Stray Cats records,” he replies, “but I have never sat down and learned anything that Brian Setzer’s done before. I could probably play the chords to ‘Stray Cat Strut’ and maybe ‘Rock This Town’, but, you know, a lot of the stuff he gets is borrowed from guys like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins. So I just borrowed from a lot of the same people he did.”

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