Dear Henry Wild Dog

NYC Underground Icon: ‘Hiya Kids, Blondie Fans Are the Best’ (1978-82)

In a pre-digital era, fan clubs were a means of community building and disseminating information, from new record releases, bios, and tour schedules to exclusive band merchandise. Beyond the promotional aspect of building artist identity, fan club ephemera were a means of establishing a personal connection with fans and followers.

Wild Dog Archives includes a number of press kits and promotional items from now defunct fan clubs as well as handwritten letters. Henry Wild Dog was a superfan of female-fronted bands such as the Helen Wheels Band and Blondie.

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“My life is like a late night rerun.” – Debbie Harry

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 (Official Blondie Fan Club ephemera and PUNK zine No. 10 courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Detroit’s NECROS on Wild Dog, Texas Punk, and Obscurity Out West (1981)

Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn’s punk record collection was legendary. After his untimely passing, these artifacts were among the first to go — some dispersed among local collectors whose record shops displayed scarce and signed copies “from the personal collection of,” and others purchased by online auction enthusiasts.

Wild Dog Archives recently spoke to a record store owner in town about his high-dollar sale of the Necros four-song EP Sex Drive — the band’s 1981 debut and the first Touch and Go Records release — a choice pick from Henry’s collection proving its weight in the collector’s market. While this scarce record is no longer among the artifacts that comprise Wild Dog Archives, original letters from band members, including Necros vocalist Barry Henssler, leave an indelible mark about Henry Wild Dog’s status as both ally and unofficial ambassador of Houston’s early scene.

In September 1981, Henssler sent Wild Dog several Necros flyers, including one with a hand scrawled letter on the back discussing his view on MDC/Stains and The Dicks (before garnering fame outside of Austin), The Hates, keeping shows close to home or touring the West Coast (though he says the band was not widely known there), his own zine, SMEGMA JOURNAL (out of hometown Maumee, Ohio), and sending a copy of the new Necros EP.

“We send in the tape tomorrow,” Henssler wrote. “Don’t worry you’ll get one.”

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(Original Flyer courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Zine: Legionaire’s Disease, SLUGGO! and Austin’s 1206 Club (1979)

“Punk to us was: Do what you want, whatever the fuck it is, as long as your heart is in it.” –  Jerry Anomie, Legionaire’s Disease

The Houston and Austin punk scenes manifested simultaneously yet from different soil. Both cities began experimenting with shows in 1978. Houston had Paradise Island and Austin’s stomping ground was a near-campus Tejano Bar called Raul’s, which hosted early punk performances from The Violators, The Skunks, and The Huns.

Judging by this letter to WILD DOG from SLUGGO! – Austin’s original punk fanzine – the banter seemed friendly enough on the surface between the competing scenes. While Wild Dog is lauded for its coverage in “Smogville,” there were menacing threats toward what Henry described as “the most notorious, original Houston punk band,” Legionaire’s Disease.

The “Diseased ones” formed during the earliest days of Houston’s embryonic punk scene. Discussing the band’s early shows, frontman Jerry Anomie told Wild Dog Archives, “Some bands were busy rehearsing, and they wouldn’t play for an audience until they got good.” In the DIY spirit of the times, Legionaire’s Disease followed a different tactic. “Man, we just started doin’ shows, you know.”

Anomie was the undisputed wild man of the Houston punk scene. “Anything could happen at our shows, and it usually did,” Anomie says. Brawls, fist fights, and full-fledged riots have been attributed to many Disease gigs.

Legionaire’s Disease was still a cover band in early 1979 with its roster of songs by the Dead Boys, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, and the Sex Pistols. “What we had going for us was that we put on wild ass shows,” Anomie says. Released from prison in 1973, Anomie literally had no fear and there were few limits to his brazen stage antics when he was in high gear. “Our shows were wild as a motherfucker.”

The Huns from Austin were introduced to the Disease at a show at the Island. “We never did really connect with any Austin bands,” Anomie notes. “They were mostly college guys, and we considered most Austin bands as arty farty with the exception of The Dicks, Big Boys, The Huns, and a few others.” After hearing about the chaos of a Disease performance, The Huns invited the band to play in Austin.

Legionaire’s Disease accepted the offer and made the trip to Austin in mid-April 1979 shortly after their Rock Against Racism performance.

(continued below…)

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(Original galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Stabbing at Austin’s 1206 Club

The 1206 Club was a dive bar in Austin. “It was an old hippie bar in a black section of town,” Anomie recalls. Historically, the building was once the famed “Charlie’s Playhouse,” which opened in 1958 as a blues and jazz club. It was a known hot spot throughout the 1960s and shuttered in 1970. At the time of the Huns/Legionaire’s Disease gig, the 1206 Club had recently reopened in December 1978, and punk bands performed there as a side stage to Raul’s.

“The place was packed, and the old hippie that ran it made a lot of money off the bar,” Anomie says. “He asked us that night if we would come back and play in two weeks, and we said ‘Hell yes.’”

What the Disease didn’t know was that the core of Austin’s punk scene had come out against the band just after that first performance. SLUGGO! had published a scathing review of Legionaire’s Disease, and the band came back to a near empty house. Says Anomie, “They just didn’t like us; they thought we should have more artistic ability.”

There are two ways to look at small crowds, according to Anomie. “Some bands would get discouraged if they didn’t have a turnout. For us, the fewer people we had at a show the harder we would play.” He adds that the Disease’s second show in Austin was “one wild ass show!”

After the band’s set, Anomie approached the club owner for a cold drink. “I ain’t got nuthin’ for you!” was the reply. “I thought to myself, ‘we’d better get outta here. This is about to turn nasty,’” Anomie remembers.

He and the band started to load up, but before they could leave, Anomie’s nephew, drunk from the show, turned over a table inside the club. “When he did that, this guy punched him,” Anomie says. “Next thing I know, Norman’s got this guy jacked up and he’s trying to push him through the window, and then the fight spilled into the street.”

Within minutes, a crowd had gathered from the surrounding neighborhood. “Franky Frazier, who was known around the Houston scene as a bad motherfucker, had a baseball bat and we were all in full swing.” Anomie then witnessed an unknown assailant stab bassist Norman Cooper in the back, which ultimately punctured his lung and landed him in the hospital overnight. He snuck out of the hospital the next day.

The fight after this gig proved to be the end of Austin’s 1206 Club. And what appears to be a tongue-in-cheek insult from SLUGGO! is referencing a brutal assault that took place only weeks before the letter was written. Although the “junk rot” reference may sound harsh, Anomie explains the band “didn’t get good until I finally got David Tolbert and Craig Haynes on guitar and drums.”

Once the band acquired the rehearsal space behind the Old Plantation, its sound improved and by the end of 1979, Legionaire’s Disease had released its first single Rather See You Dead/Downtown, introducing Houston punk in the New York, L.A., and San Francisco scenes.

Bottle & Chair Throwing Melee (1981)

Two DEAR HENRY WILD DOG letters from the Helen Wheels Band reference a Ritz riot ignited by the John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) outfit Public Image Ltd., Texas Punk, Wild Dog, and a mention of Houston’s Island rock club (see bio below from “25 Legendary Houston Music Venues”).

The Island

Known variously as Rock Island, Paradise Island and just plain the Island, this former Mexican restaurant on Main Street was Ground Zero for Houston’s punk rock scene between 1978 and 1983. In addition to providing a stage for local upstarts such as The Hates, Mydolls, Really Red and the Judy’s, the Island also hosted legends from the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and X to like-minded Texas groups Butthole Surfers, Big Boys and MDC. The atmosphere was rank and the threat of violence and police harassment lingered over many gigs, but the DIY scenester spirit of the place made it fertile ground for no-rules rock experimentalism. — Houston Press

TRANSCRIPT

March 8, 1981

Dear Henry,

I was real glad to get your letter, cause although I get fan mail from all over the USA & some Europe, I’ve NEVER gotten a letter from Texas, & I know Texas is BIG & there must be lotsa real rock n roll & not just boogie music. I think Wild Dog #? (that you sent me) is a great fanzine though I was not familiar with some of the bands (texas?). Was proud to see me on P. 20! ….

If you ever get to NY (or whenever we make it to Texas) I’d like you to be our guest at a show. We hope to have some T-shirt/buttons & most of all a record deal soon, but for the time being we could send you a couple of ravaged guitar picks if you want some HWB memorabilia….

Yours in Rock n Roll,

Helen Wheels

TRANSCRIPT

June 1, 1981

Dear Henry,

Hope things are going well for you in Houston & I thought I’d drop you a few lines to let you know how things are going with us. First off, we were called in especially to headline The “Ritz” on Sat. May 16 after the riot that “Public Image Ltd.” was responsable [sic] for the previous night. It seems that “P.I.L.” refused to come out from behind The Ritz’s video screen and then shouted obscenities at the crowd which caused a bottle & chair throwing melee.

No announcement was made about “P.I.L.’s” cancellation for the 2nd night & all of The Ritz’s stage hands warned us that we were in for the same, however, we got 2 encores at the end of the night! They called us at 5:00 p.m. to do the show that night and it was amazing how quickly we got it together.

I’m writing you from the Secret Sound in N.Y. where we’re recording our new 12″ 6 song E.P. It is being produced by “Blue Oyster Cult’s” Joe Bouchard and engineered by Corky Stasiak who worked with Lou Reed and The Clash so you know it will be “state of the art” work…

Thanks for your info on Texas Radio. I unfortunately misplaced the list, so if you were to be so kind, when next you write, please send out the list again. Also, I’d love to get some info on stores in your area where we could sell the record for CASH UP FRONT ONLY. We will be selling it via mail order, however we are looking for stores that we can sell the record for upfront money. When it comes out, we’ll of course send you a copy for review and place an ad in “Wild Dog” as well as sending a copy to Phil Hix & Richard at the “Rock Island” in Houston…

Sincerely,

Name Unknown [Road Manager for HWB]

P.S. by Helen Wheels

Hi, Henry — You won’t believe this record — It’s gonna be a world-wide hit.

Room to Rage, Destinations Unknown (1983)

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TRANSCRIPT

No date

Hi Henry! Long time no hear — How you doin? How’s Wild Dog? Did you receive the record we sent you? Thought you might enjoy this pic from Halloween — We may be going to Japan in August! “Postmodern Living” is currently receiving airplay in 38 states!

Best Always, Helen

(Image courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Halloween at the Old Spit (1981)

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halloween-letter copy

TRANSCRIPT

October 26, 1981

Dear Henry Wild Dog —

Nice to hear from you & glad of your continuing interest in the band — Here’s a couple flyers on some of our upcoming gigs. Yes the record has been quite delayed in release, but the package is STUPENDOUS & unique (& almost complete). Also guitarist Jack Rigg is no longer with the band & has been replaced for the time being w/ Scott “Top Ten” Kempner — formally of The Dictators. (He was my guitarist for about 1 1/2 yrs w/ an earlier HWB [Helen Wheels Band]). Loved the irreverent [sic] ISSUE. Hope Disc will be out in a couple weeks. You will be receiving a complimentary review copy. Thanks again for your interest. Too bad you can’t attend any of these Halloween shows — I’ll be dressed as a vampire/devil!

Keep Rockin’

Helen Wheels

(Images courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)