Friday, February 19, 2010


Way, way back in the days of my well-mispent yout, I did a lot of listening to live music, particularly in Houston and Austin and occasionally in other cities like L.A. and NOLA. I was quite adept in those pre-internet days of knowing what bands I wanted to see and finding our where they were playing, which at times in those days was not so easy sometimes. The calenders in local music and news weeklies were often incorrect, and sometimes there was no ad for the club you might want to see an act at.
In Houston in the eighties it was The Public News, and occasionally a column by Marty Racine in the Chronicle about bands of interest. In Austin, there was the far more comprehensive Austin Chronicle, and in LA there were many local music 'zines but the LA WEEKLY was pretty comprehensive as well.
So when I was going to see my old friend Herschel Berry and The Natives gigging at various locales around Houston, sometime around 1984 or so, I happened upon a gig whether the Natives were playing with a then-Austin band at Chelsea's 804, then located logically enough at 804 Chelsea Street in the museum district of Houston.
Chelsea's is long gone, having closed sometime in the mid-to-late eighties.
But on this particular occasion I thought ole' Evan and his band, the same one as pictured above on my favorite Evan album, just plain rocked out. After his band played, Herschel introduced me to Evan and we were all out in back of Chelsea's getting some fresh air (Chelsea's, like many inner loop clubs of the day, had wholly inadequate air conditioning for any size crowd).
Evan had just been given some prestigious music award that year in Austin and we were congratulating him about it, and in a modest, aw shucks style that is Evan, said "Hell, you buy you an old piece of shit guitar in a pawn shop and play some rocking blues and they think you have talent!".
I picked up the above album a few days after that at a used record store. It's a great album with some really classic original tunes on it.
There's a bunch of great tunes on this album. "{Your} Love is Murder", "Life Sentence in Love, and my favorite My Baby She Left me (because I would not put my guitar down)" range from ballad to hard rocking blues. I often wanna do some dancing even when listening by myself when I hear "My Baby She Left Me". If you like Texas blues rock from that era, you'll love this. Some flavors of other styles of roots music (way before it was labeled roots music by music executives), this album is just excellent.
Here's My Baby She Left me on youtube from 1987...
Here's a link to Evan's website, such as it is:
The Amazon site has a short bio on him:
Johns (b. 1955) had fronted several bands in the Virginia/DC locale, coming to the attention of guitarist Danny Gatton and eventually doing vocals and writing the title track to Gatton's Redneck Jazz album. He formed The H-Bombs in the late '70s, recording an eponymous four-song EP on the tiny Deco label. After moving to Austin, TX, Johns joined The LeRoi Brothers in the early '80s. Johns was nominated for a Grammy for guesting on the Big Guitars from Texas album, a compilation of Austin's best. He re-formed The H-Bombs, carnival-barker voice and crazed guitar chops intact, and has continued into the '90s with a spate of frenzied, off-kilter albums ever since. ~ Cub Koda, All Music Guide
(Above content from All Music Guide at Amazon link above)
Here's what Robert Christgau says about the above album :

Evan Johns and the H-Bombs [Jungle, 1987] B
Consumer Guide Reviews:Evan Johns and the H-Bombs [Jungle, 1987]Johns is a local hero, a rock and roll crazy who lives for the music and whose undeniable gift doesn't do justice to the magnitude of his devotion. After years of fringe rockabilly in D.C., relocating to Austin has brought out the Doug Sahm in him. On "guitars, vox organ, lap steel, upright and electric bass, slide, harmonica, and lead vocals," he rolls out tune after generically catchy tune in his somewhat raspy drawl. Most of them are about purty girls and hellacious wimmin, but I can't even claim he deserves the latter, because the specifics just aren't there--the words are unfailingly good-humored and never anything more, including funny. My favorite cut is an instrumental named after its entire lyric, "Hey Whew!," but those so enamored of authenticity that they fake it can fool their collector fans by covering "Life Sentence in Love" or "Love Is Murder" or "Moonshine Runner" or "My Baby, She Left Me." B
So Mr. Christgau finds this album "simple". I found it to be a rocking album and of course, as a live act they were just unbelieveable. After that first time I saw them opening for Herschel Berry (or vice versa, it's been so long...), I saw them numerous times in Austin and Houston.
BiographyBy the year 1980, noted Washington, D.C., musician Evan Johns had formed the H Bombs and released their first album. Their popularity swiftly grew and before they knew it, they were sharing stages with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and the Ramones. Johns moved to Texas in 1984, and shortly thereafter, the band moved to Austin to join him and reunite. The reunion was successful as the band went on to release a good number of albums on labels such as Rykodisc and Jungle. ~ Diana Potts, All Music Guide
Here's some youtube links for Evan:
Here's the Trouser Press bio on Evan with information as recent as 2005, placing him living in Vancouver, which is a mighty nice place to live.
EVAN JOHNS AND HIS H-BOMBS (Buy CDs by this artist)Giddy Up Girl EP10 (Deco) 1980Even Johns and the H-Bombs (UK Jungle) 1986Rollin' Through the Night (Alternative Tentacles) 1986 + 1992Bombs Away (Speedo/Rykodisc) 1989Please Mr. Santa Claus (Rykodisc) 1990Rockit Fuel Only! (Rykodisc) 1991EVAN JOHNS AND THE H-BOMBS"Showdown at the Hoedown": Recorded Live at the 8 X 10 Baltimore, MD 3-16-1984 (Can. Jellyroll) 2005
Jerry Lee Lewis worshiper (who claims to have blown his hero off the stage on a good night!) and certified lunatic of the geetar, Evan Johns simply personifies the most incendiary and rebellious elements of rock'n'roll. A teenaged Virginia hellion who apprenticed in the DC bar circuit under the legendary Danny Gatton, Johns formed the H-Bombs in 1979 and made the reelin' rockabilly 10-inch Giddy Up Girl in 1980. The four songs are roughly recorded, but blueprint the searing six-string mayhem that has marked Johns' best work.
It wasn't until a move to Austin, a stint with the LeRoi Brothers and a Grammy nomination for his featured participation in the Big Guitars From Texas Trash Twang and Thunder compilation LP that Johns' name began to spread across the land he'd already criss-crossed time and time again. Rollin' Through the Night, a 1982 session unreleased until Jello Biafra came across it four years later, is the pinnacle by which Johns — and any other purveyors of roots-surf-guitar-billy-boogie — must forever be measured. With second guitarist Mark Korpi's taut speed runs setting the pace, EJ provides fireworks galore on cuts like "Madhouse," "Sugar Cookie" and "Do the Dootz." Put this album on a 90-minute cassette with The Best of ZZ Top and drive till you die happy. The '92 CD reissue (in which Alternative Tentacles owner Jello Biafra credits a "record reviewer from Trouser Press magazine" for introducing him to Johns' work) adds three previously unreleased cuts.
Released the same year, Evan Johns and the H-Bombs gathers three years of scattered sessions for a predictably less-focused set, highlighting Johns' love of Tex-Mex, blues and country, as well as head-stompin' rock.
The H-Bombs backed Eugene Chadbourne on the berserk, twisted Vermin of the Blues before making the relatively polished and consistently superb Bombs Away. Producer (and Springsteen sideman) Gary Tallent manages to squeeze the band into a clear, vibrant framework without obliterating the trademark hog-wild spirit of Johns' best outings. The seasonal and primarily instrumental Please Mr. Santa Claus is a holiday postcard that features a polka, the fiddle-fueled "Little Cajun Drummer Boy," a raging "Telstar" and plenty of free-style pickin' throughout.
Rockit Fuel Only!, while allowing for the broad stylistic whims of its creator (like a surprising compassionate piano ballad, "Prove It to Each Other"), also rocks harder than anything since Rollin' Through the Night. "Juvenile Delinquent," "Boogie Disease" and "Little Scene Setter" are among the rip-it-up corkers that keep Evan Johns among rock'n'roll's guitar elite.
Resident in Vancouver since 2002, Johns has lately been revving it up again, launching the Jellyroll label and putting his music back on the market. In addition to a number of CD-R EJ homebrews, the imprint's first commercial release, Showdown at the Hoedown, documents a scalding 1984 date with Gatton. (Great sleeve note: "...the newest instrument on stage was a 64 Stratocaster.") The sound is for shit, but the playing is absolutely frantic, as if their van was double parked in front of a police station. Speed, enthusiasm and ferocious rock determination fuel this platter, which contains a lot of the essential Johns canon, like "Madhouse," "Sugar Cookie," "Giddy Up Girl," "Rollin' Thru the Night" and "Do the Dootz." The gentle Johns instrumental track tacked on as a bonus is a bit of a moodbreaker, but affords proof that he's still at it, albeit in a far more sedate vein.


  1. Back when Mom was working at Blythe Spirits (back when it still existed), there was an Evan Johns show where the Smithereens just dropped by. They'd finished their show at Numbers and decided to check out what their buddy was up to. It ended up as a pretty fine little jam, even if I didn't get to hear "Boogie Disease" that night...

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  3. This has to be my old friend whose name begins with "N" and whose sister Lori was one of my bandmates in the Bicycle Thieves, way back when. I remember your very cool mom also. I'm going to try to email you, because I'd like to have you do some guest posts on the history of the Bi-Peds.