Henry Wild Dog

‘PROTO-PUNX’ INFLUENCES & THE PSYCHEDELIC-PUNK CONTINUUM (1986)

Punx No. 2 (1986)

Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn published the final issue (Vol. III, No. 1) of Houston’s first punk fanzine, WILD DOG, in August 1981. Published by Khosrow Amirazodi, PUNX magazine emerged from its parent ‘zine STUDIO X as one of several Houston underground publications filling the void as the underground music scene evolved from garage and experimental noise to hardcore.

Although this article in PUNX No. 2 appears less polished than previous writings, Weissborn contributed this editorial, “Proto-Punx…And Other Bizarre Facts About Animals,” as part of a series of important historical musings chronicling Houston’s early music and alternative press movements.

“Mus[i]cologists concede that Texas was an extremely fertile spawning ground for punk rock in the 60’s,” Weissborn wrote in 1986. “In particular, the 13th Floor Elevators loom large in the punk rock hall of fame.” A seminal punk and Texas underground influence, Roky Erickson and Elevators Tommy Hall and Stacy Sutherland set off the wave of acid rock that eventually peaked in the middle 1960s in San Francisco, “where the wave finally broke and rolled back,” leaving its high-water mark of a generation.

In addition to their contemporaries the 13th Floor Elevators, Houston’s own psychedelic rockers, the Red Crayola (later Red Krayola), also made a comeback in the New Wave, according to Weissborn. Red Krayola was formed in 1966 by a band of art students led by musician and visual artist Mayo Thompson from the University of St. Thomas.

In his “Proto-Punx” essay connecting the psychedelic and punk scenes, Houston’s Wild Dog had this insight to offer about urging on the underground momentum:

“Punk rock has always been ephemeral. This is its beauty. Here today, gone tomorrow. Anyone can do it. Bands come and go, but their legacy lives on forever on record. The challenge beckons.”

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(Original zine courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Houston’s Wild Dog Dancing to Austin’s Big Boys at the Island (1980)

Formed in 1979, The Big Boys led the vanguard of Austin’s emerging hardcore punk scene alongside fellow agent provocateurs The Stains (later named MDC) and The Dicks.

Ben DeSoto, an award-winning local photographer, activist, and chronicler of early punk imagery in Houston, captured these two photos of Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn in the crowd at a Big Boys show held at the Island, Houston’s Main St. punk venue, in 1980.

This is Henry Wild Dog in his element, heavily politicized from the beginning.

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(A Wild Dog stare from the middle of a Big Boys crowd at the Island, 1980. Photo by DeSoto; Source: The Island – Punk Rock Houston)

George Henry Weissborn, Jr., who is completely unknown to many outside of Houston, was born in New Orleans in 1955. His family moved to Houston shortly after and he was raised in southwest Houston. At the age of 14, Henry’s adolescence was informed by the thriving countercultural scene happening in Houston in the late 1960s. In an article dated November 14, 1978, published in the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar, Henry cited his reading of SPACE CITY! in 1969 as the catalyst for his involvement in the Yippie! movement. While most of the evidence shows that the Youth International Party (YIP) had waned drastically from its late 1960s roots, Henry Weissborn proudly carried the flag in Houston as a student activist.

An avid collector, writer, and archivist, Henry amassed one of the largest personal collections of grassroots literature in the city. He joined the Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Federation and the YIP, and he led a three-member Direct Action Committee on the UH campus through the mid- to late-70s. He collected pamphlets, literature, and handwritten letters from a number of similar groups throughout the country. In all, Weissborn documented the latter phase of the counterculture as it moved from the hopeful days of the late 1960s through to the Watergate era of distrust and the crushing blow of Reagan-inspired conservatism throughout much of the early 1980s. Among his archives are the street view of Houston’s underground with runs of SPACE CITY!, ABRAXAS, and MOCKINGBIRD–three renditions of alternative press in Houston that focused primarily on continued psychedelic awakening, civil rights activism, and an end to police brutality.

Henry Wild Dog also channeled that anger through his pen. In 1976, he was a junior studying Sociology at the University of Houston. At 21, he was connected internationally to a wide network of anarchists, socialists, and activists. His archives show that he avidly wrote letters, sent self-addressed stamped envelopes, and requested copies of virtually every newsletter, quarterly, and mail order catalog he could get his hands on that would provide him a means to expand his garage rock and punk collection of albums and ephemera and introduce him to new noise in the most obscure regions, not just the East and West Coasts. Weissborn was experienced on both an academic and esoteric level.

By most accounts, Weissborn was a card carrying member of any social justice cause he joined. His activist publication, ULTRA, evolved into WILD DOG zine after he helped organize a Yippie outdoor concert turned punk rock debut at the Paradise Island. Communication and political action remained common drivers throughout Henry Wild Dog’s life.

He passed away unexpectedly in 2008.

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(Henry Wild Dog (in white shirt), 1980. Photo by DeSoto. Source: The Island – Punk Rock Houston)

Dead Kennedys Shut Down the Island (1983)

The Dead Kennedys headlined the last show at the Island in Houston on May 14, 1983.

According to “A History of Houston Punk Rock Fanzines” by Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn, which was published in PUNX, the Island officially closed in April 1983.

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(Flyer designed by Tom Bunch; courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

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.)

R. Crumb, Helen Wheels and NYC Punk (1981)

Houston’s Henry Wild Dog was a prolific letter writer. And by prolific, we mean he has a mind bending collection of correspondence with more than a few punk icons from the early underground music scene nationwide. Out of a stack of ZIGZAG magazines, we culled out a manilla package with Henry Wild Dog’s scrawl titled, “The Helen Wheels Band Promotional Materials,” including flyers, letters from Helen to WILD DOG zine, Houston’s own first wave punk rock fanzine, an original WILD DOG galley proof featuring the band, and this R. Crumb print dated 1976 and autographed by Helen Wheels in 1981.

Our favorite underground cartoonist of the day, R. Crumb was a fan and friend of the fierce Helen Wheels (Robbins), heralded as one of the “original punks” and “one of the best unrecorded acts in rock ‘n roll” during the formative years of the first wave. According to her record label’s promo flyer for “Postmodern Living,” the band’s premier EP, Helen was a performing staple on the NYC punk rock scene since 1977 and well known before that for her songwriting with Blue Oyster Cult.

Even today, examples of Helen’s early work and music are scarce. We did come across a video of Helen from a NYC punk rock archival project courtesy of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, whose punk-era concert footage is being digitized at NYU.

What follows are some reviews from the height of her career courtesy of the archives:

“Heavy is Helen Wheels, who you probably don’t know (but you will). The only way you might forget Helen Wheels would be if someone gave you a frontal lobotomy. Of course that someone could very well be Helen herself. In other words, Helen is unforgettable.” — Creem

“A total original with brains, boas, tattoos, and a long history of outlaw lovers.” — Damage

“Wheels looks like a punk interpretation of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle…Her songs have real flair.” — Newsday

“A cross between Johnny Rotten and Blondie.” — Cashbox

“That woman is a ball-bearing bitch strutting around and wielding an array of formidable looking daggers…offstage Helen Wheels is a charming young lady who’s highly intelligent and very articulate when it comes to her music, which she views as an art form.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

“Helen makes love to one of her daggers as she sings — The New Wave of Sex.” — Penthouse

“Gutteral, erotic, soft-textured hard rock with depth. You’ll get a rush off her will.” — Wild Dog

And from Crumb…

“Helen Wheels has the toughest ass in show business, if not in all America.” — R. Crumb, cartoonist in Punk