Houston’s youngest band at the start of the scene, Vast Majority recorded its lone studio effort I Wanna Be a Number in March 1980 on Wild Dog Records. Henry Wild Dog, who helped produce the 7″ single, had a brief stint with the band as part of its second lineup. His contribution to gigs at Paradise Island earned him the DIY-inspired handle Henry “Bad Guitar.” Original member Scott Telles (vocals and trumpet) recounts the band’s history with WDA’s namesake on the Hyped 2 Death Archive Series #201.
As verified in an interview with the original members in WILD DOG, the politically motivated teenage punk band performed for the first time alongside AK-47 at Houston’s inaugural Rock Against Racism show held on April Fool’s Day 1979 at the Island.
“I saw the Sex Pistols when they came to the Kingfish in Baton Rouge [in 1978]. That was the beginning. Then The Normals were the only punk band in town, and I really liked them alot [sic]. They were something different. Their music was a big influence.” – Darren “Derwood” Hill, bassist and backup vocalist, Red Rockers (From a 1981 interview in WILD DOG)
Originally formed in 1979 as The Rat Finks, the Red Rockers were the most successful band to come out of New Orleans’ early punk scene.
In 1980, Red Rockers recorded two of its original songs, “Dead Heroes” and “Red Star,” on the No Questions, No Answers compilation released by FINAL SOLUTION zine editor Larry “the Punk” Holmes’ Vinyl Solution Records. That same year, the band recorded its first EP, Guns of Revolution, on Larry the Punk’s New Orleans label before relocating to San Francisco in 1981. Red Rockers’ first LP, Condition Red, was recorded in 1981 on San Francisco label 415 Records and featured guest vocals from Jello Biafra on a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Red Rockers gigged at the Island in Houston in 1981 while on tour. Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn and contributing interviewer Marjorie were “fortunate” to party with the band during their stay, according to an interview in WILD DOG zine, in which Darren “Derwood” Hill discusses The Clash’s influence, opening for The Dead Boys at Houston’s Whiskey River in 1979, the changing New Orleans scene, and dedicating a song to the Houston Police at the Island performance.
Deeply rooted in progressive and underground movements, Weissborn steered many of his interview questions toward punk politics and the band’s social message. “Anarchy is fine, but you can’t be an anarchist for anarchy’s sake,” Derwood said in response to whether the band held anarchist or Marxist beliefs. “You’ve got to have something behind it. You can’t destroy everything because then you destroy yourself.”
“There will be some regulations, rules, standards, or something of the sort – I hate to use the words ‘rules and regulations’ – about who helps clean up. We used to have popcorn in here. Instead of eating it, they threw it.” – Phil Hicks (From a 1979 interview in WILD DOG zine)
Paradise Island (Parasite Island), Rock Island, and later just the Island was Houston’s first designated punk rock venue, an exile’s dive on Main Street converted from a former Mexican restaurant. The club was run from 1978 to 1983, debuting many local first wave acts such as Christian Oppression (later the Hates, Houston’s longest running punk band) and AK-47 while also hosting nationally famous bands, including X, Black Flag, and Dead Kennedys.
In a 1979 interview by John Peters for WILD DOG #3, Island owner Phil Hicksspoke candidly about whether his club would survive overhead and damage costs from unruly punk crowds or sell out to disco investors, Austin versus Houston, Legionaire’s Disease’s notorious performances, and whether to leave broken glass on the floor in the spirit of its destructive shows.
“If rock’n’roll doesn’t pay the bills then I will be satisfied that I have experimented at all levels,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair for me to support a building and not to at least be able to experiment and try different things. I have never put popular rock’n’roll bands in here, not because of the budget, but because I started out with a game plan of having a place so that unexposed talent or bands could come in here, so they would have a place to play in front of people and could get a start. Momentumwise [sic], emotionally – so they could get out of their practice room.”
(Original galley; first page out of six courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
“The [Electric] Eels were an extremely loud, controversial assault on their audience. They were also very entertaining. The Eels are gone for now but there are some excellent tapes floating around. It would be great to have some of them released.” – Michael Weldon, contributing editor, CLE
Issue 2 of Cleveland, Ohio’s underground punk periodical CLE was released in the fall of 1978, a year after its debut in winter 1977. Covering the local first wave scene, CLE was founded by then 18-year-old Jim Ellis, who served as editor and publisher for the full five-issue run until the publication folded with Issue 3B in spring 1981.
Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn reached out to emerging scenes from coast to coast. This scarce publication from his archives remains an imprint of early North Coast punk.
“Watch CLE for more on the Eels, Mirrors, Tin Huey, Rocket from the Tombs, Milk, Devo, Styrene/Money Band, Pere Ubu, the Wolves, Friction, Cinderella Backstreet, Bizzaros, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks…” – Footnote to “Electric Eels: Attendance Required,” Issue 2
HYMNAL, a punk and hardcore fanzine originally headquartered in Houston, debuted in December 1981. The first three issues were based on the Houston scene, after which the publication relocated to Austin. Its fourth and final issue was published in 1982, with featured coverage of Houston and Austin bands.
The full run, Nos. 1-4, can be accessed in the private archives of Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn.
“Obviously, the scene we come from is gone. But we still believe in the whole thing…All the bands in L.A. that started out three years ago are still doing what they believe in and they don’t do it for money.” — Exene (interview with WILD DOG zine)
Henry Wild Dog sat down with members from L.A. band X in 1981, four years after its debut 45, Adult Books, was recorded.
In this exclusive interview, Exene Cervenka (vocalist) — with a copy of WILD DOG #4 in hand — and John Doe (bassist) discuss an appearance in the Decline of Western Civilization, Mexican punk bands in L.A. and Houston, feeling “creepy” about being on the road, the death of The Germs‘ Darby Crash and the band’s unwavering resolve to stick it out with an indie label.
Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn (1955 – 2008) was a poet, writer, activist, publisher, punk, and musician based in Houston, Texas. After his untimely death in 2008, at the age of 53, his house sat idle. For most of his life, Henry was a collector.
In 2012, his house was purchased by a developer, gutted, and then remodeled. In the process, more than 30 years of archived periodicals, personal writings, vintage magazines, posters, flyers, vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks, punk zines, and an array of additional ephemera were systematically being thrown out.
A chance encounter put us in contact with the new owner, and in a matter of 72 hours we found ourselves in possession of a legacy, not only to one man’s entire life but to Houston’s first wave punk scene and its musico-political roots.