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The Reverend Horton Heat

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The Reverend Horton Heat is perhaps the most popular psychobilly artist of all time, really rivaled only by genre founders the Cramps. The Reverend (as both the three-man band and its guitar-playing frontman were known) built a strong cult following during the '90s through constant touring, manic showmanship, and a twisted sense of humor. The latter was nothing new in the world of psychobilly, and Heat's music certainly kept the trashy aesthetic of his spiritual forebears. The Reverend's true innovation was updating the psychobilly sound for the alternative rock era. In his hands, it was something more than retro-obsessed kitsch — it had roaring distorted guitars, it rocked as hard as any punk band, and it didn't look exclusively to pop culture of the past for its style or subject matter. Most of the Reverend's lyrics were gonzo celebrations of sex, drugs, booze, and cars, and true to his name, his concerts often featured mock sermons in the style of a rural revivalist preacher. First performing as the Reverend Horton Heat in 1985, his backing band solidified around 1989 with bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Patrick "Taz" Bentley. Their initial recordings were released by that bastion of indie credibility, Sub Pop, at the height of the grunge craze; both 1991's Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em and 1993's The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat helped build an enthusiastic underground audience. That resulted in a spell on major label Interscope, starting with 1994's Liquor in the Front (Bentley was subsequently replaced by Scott Churilla). After two more for Interscope, 1996's It's Martini Time and 1998's Space Heater, Heat returned to recording for independents, still a highly profitable draw on the concert circuit.