Track for track: Live performances A LITTLE BAR IN TEXAS With a trill from the bouzouki and a churrr-wang from the guitar, this song turns into a folk dance about a fictional Denton bar (the Tyrannosaurus Rexus). Bone Doggie rasps out “Opa!” between folksy verses. “You’re a bastard, Will O’Grady/Get’cher mitts off my old lady/Well she was with me when I first come in!” Pretty soon, a pint of Guinness is emptied over someone’s shoes — and “the bodies start to flyin’ everywhere.” Live, the band picks up the pace with each chorus.
BABY GOT SWING A song the Asylum Street Spankers would do if Tom Waits had taken over the band. Swing-rock spiked with absinthe-flavored rockabilly, this song is that reliable tribute to that one very special pair of batting eyelashes. Christopher Morehead takes the ax for a walk during a solo, and bassist Greg Beach keeps the whop-adoo rhythm razor sharp.
Continued from 13 >> Turner High School. “I got here as fast as I could,” he says. “I got here and just loved this little town.” Bone Doggie is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, but music has been a part of his life for a long time. For decades, Doggie charmed roadhouse crowds with his bass. “I went from playing bass in rock bands to playing Irish bouzouki. I was a big, big prog rocker. Big,” he says. “Yeah. I played bass and I was [expletive] good at it. “I’ll tell you exactly when I knew when I was done with that scene. I was at a gig. Two words: ‘Comfortably Numb.’ Pain threshold. I blew out an amp. I was done. “A big part of it is my Irish roots, but it’s also that I’ve never been a fan of pop music. I like stuff that’s different, stuff that isn’t popular.” American music of the 1920s and ’30s is far from popular, and Bone Doggie says he got obsessed with it around 2004. When he started developing a solo act, it seemed that the music of Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants to America bore a relationship to the Delta blues. For Doggie, both “green grass,” which is Irish traditional music, and bluegrass, the amalgamation of Irish trad and the folk music of Irish immigrants, shared a musical vessel with the blues. All three share an intensity, and all three have an ancestral
inheritance from acoustic jammers. (Imagine scrappy Irish railroad workers unwinding with guitar and hand drums, and American slaves recalling their motherland on the upturned bottoms of whiskey barrels.) All of that mixed with the prog rock in Doggie’s blood. Something fresh was hatching. Eventually, Doggie started jamming on bouzouki with John Thomason on guitar, playing Civil War music and 1920s tunes. They added two hand drummers. The jams happened at Thomason’s place on Hickory Street. “The Hickory Street Hellraisers began there,” he says. “I started doing open-mic nights at Banter, and I’d never ever done them. I was never a frontman. I never sang. I could sing with a gravelly voice. I knew I could do that,” Bone Doggie says. The open-mic nights connected the frontman with Beach and Morehead. By that time, Bone Doggie was stewing up a sound that mashes swing music with blues, folk, green and bluegrass and lots of theatrics. He was also writing music for the first time. The Hellraisers were becoming a pub band that would draw drinkers to the stage even though they showed up to do anything other than listen to music. “I was doing open mic, doing stand-up, and Bone Doggie asked me if I still had a bass,” Beach says. Beach moved to Denton from California
with his family when he was 7. He went to the University of North Texas to pursue a degree in jazz studies and master the trumpet. “Somewhere along the way — and I know this is going to sound weird — I kind of just lost my love for it. I put the trumpet down,” Beach says. “When I saw the Hellraisers, I was immediately a fan for the same reason as the other guys in the band. The energy. The passion. When you go to a Hellraisers show, you can’t help but move.” It was energy and passion that made Bone Doggie chip a tooth on a microphone at the Abbey Underground, one of the band’s regular venues. Doggie says he played through the set with a bloody mouth. “It probably added to the overall effect,” he says. “Though the Duchess says I did lisp through the rest of the night.” Morehead knew Carrek “Bam Bam” Coleman, Doggie’s son and longtime bassist, from open-mic nights at Banter, too. They’d played together and before long, Morehead was opening for Bone Doggie. “I loved it,” Morehead says of his first glimpse of Hellraisers action. “I just loved it. It was completely different. It wasn’t quite folk. It wasn’t quite rock. I listen to everything, but I grew up listening to punk and glam. I’m into the theatrics.” The band dresses the part, wearing steam>>
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HARD ROAD WALKIN’ Most Hellraisers songs are about dancing on that thin line dividing damnation and redemption. This song betrays Doggie and Co.’s blues-rock chops. A cheer for the everyman struggling to make rent and groceries, it’s an optimistic call for a stroll on the bright side. Our only prayer is that it’s never co-opted by a future presidential campaign. With guitar licks worthy of Springsteen and drumming that suggests Keith Moon, it’s too pure to wear a jingoist brand.
Photo by David Minton
Little d After Dark
Monthly entertainment magazine of the Denton Record-Chronicle.