Houston Punk

Wild Dog Records: Teenage Punks Vast Majority Talk Anarchist Sounds (1979)

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.
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(Original galley 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)

Mydolls: Punk Idealism and Missing Teeth at the Island (1980)

Houston’s female fronted Mydolls was formed in 1978 by guitarist and vocalist Trish Herrera and bassist Dianna Ray. Linda (Bond) Younger, guitar and vocals, and drummer George Reyes complete the original lineup, which continues to perform today, nearly four decades later.

Inspired by protopunk legends from the early New York scene, Mydolls recorded their first single, Nova Grows Up/Therapist, in 1980. Their second 45 release, Exorcist/Imposter (1982), and 12″ album Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick (1983), also were produced on Houston independent label CIA Records, which was founded by Houston punk progenitors (and friends of the band) Really Red.

In 1986, the year Mydolls originally disbanded, PUNX magazine out of Houston published a three-part series on the “History of Houston Punk.” Part 3 focused on the year 1980, featuring short narratives from the city’s founding punks and first wavers, including Mydolls.

‘My Personal Anarchy’ (below) was contributed by Trish Herrera, recounting the female punk experience in Houston.

I was a rebellious back-up singer from Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Having been strip-searched and arrested for not putting on my blinkers when changing lanes, I was fairly oblivious to limitation.

“Mydolls’ friendship developed into 5 and a half years of expressing repressed emotions about our fucked up system. Being new and inexperienced became beneficial…we were oblivious of breaking rules. We didn’t care if we were viewed as fashion risks until one day Dianna’s teeth were knocked out by some Island tourist jock who shoved her, face first from the back of the dance floor, claiming she was a ‘fucking waver.’ This incident gave new perspective on the punk idealism, originally being ‘acceptance of any human being’…overlooking the problem that not many of us know how to behave as human beings.

“We always wore black as a memorial to the symbolism in Dianna’s missing teeth, and it stuck.”  

NOTE: According to an interview in Maximum RockNRoll #356 published in January 2013, Dianna Ray lost her two front teeth watching the Butthole Surfers perform at the Island in 1982.

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(Media courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Wild Dog Zine: Island Owner Phil ‘Hix’ on Stolen Mics and Broken Glass (1979)

“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 Hicks spoke 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.”

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(Original galley; first page out of six courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

Imagery of Revolt: AK-47’s The Badge and the Machine Mandala (1980)

One of the most iconic records to come out of the first wave Houston punk scene, AK-47’s The Badge Means You Suck (/Kiss My Machine, 1980) was a protest anthem against Houston’s Police Department (HPD), which had a documented history of racism and extreme violence during the 1970s. Nine victims are named on the cover of Badge, among them 23-year-old veteran Joe Campos Torres and 21-year-old activist Carl Hampton. The HPD tried unsuccessfully to sue the band after the flipside’s release in 1980.

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(Original artwork by Jimmy Bryan; original signed lyric sheet courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)

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.)

Hymnal No. 1 and 2 (1981)

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.

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(Images courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)