T. Tex Edwards is an unsung pioneer of cowpunk and honky tonk murder ballads who started out in the '70s with the punk band Nervebreakers. Thom "Tex" Edwards' whiskey-soaked vocals already had a slight country twang to them back in 1978 even as the band performed their goofy anthems while supporting the Sex Pistols in Dallas. Drawing influence from the Flamin' Groovies and the Cramps rather than the more political end of the punk spectrum, Nervebreakers were equally at home lampooning "You're the One That I Want" from Grease as they were playing it straight (relatively) with the Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." Their original material was rousing and funny, and "My Girlfriend Is a Rock" was even a minor hit in San Francisco. The band never released a full-length record in their lifetime, even though they had an almost legendary local reputation. A live performance of them backing Roky Erickson at the Dallas Palladium in 1979 was released in 1992, and a posthumous CD recorded in 1980, We Want Everything, was finally released by Get Hip in 2000.
Edwards' first post-Nervebreakers outfit, Tex & the Saddle Tramps, left scarce but vital documentation, such as the churlish rocker "Move It!" that later would appear on the Loafin' Hyenas record and be covered by LeRoi Brothers. Still most of the T. Tex legend from the early to mid-'80s remains only in the recollections of those fortunate enough to catch him performing his offbeat brand of incorrigible country live. His growling redneck delivery is at times unhinged, but it's instantly recognizable, highly addictive, and consistently manages to hit the narrow margin between parody and reverence, often accomplishing both.
He formed Out on Parole in Austin in 1984, and Loafin' Hyenas in Hollywood in 1986, but it took until 1989 before things finally started moving forward. His first solo album -- as T. Tex Edwards and Out on Parole -- was a stroke of demented genius that caused a stir when cult label Sympathy for the Record Industry released it yet proved more an inspiration than the chart-topper it should have been. Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill was a collection of "psycho-country" covers done with a relatively straight face and high musical pedigree -- LeRoi Brothers/Fabulous Thunderbirds alumni Mike Buck was the driving force behind the album. It's not only Johnny Cash who wrote dark country and western songs of adultery and murder; Pardon Me collects obscure, nutty gems from the likes of Johnny Paycheck (the title song), Porter Wagoner ("Rubber Room"), and Lee Hazlewood ("Girl on Death Row"), not to mention the twisted genius of Leon Payne's "Psycho." The same ground would be covered in the following decade, sometimes with song selections oddly similar to Pardon Me, but rarely with the same gravelly brilliance.
The 1990 release of the Loafin' Hyenas' only LP was mostly ignored despite strong original material and another killer band. Songs like "Can't Find the Door Knob" and "Scratchin' Fleas" utilized Tex's distinctive vocals perfectly, and the drunken abandon of the band was captured, bottled, and released only in France and Japan. Further recordings followed under various guises and numerous small labels. T. Tex and the Big "D" Ramblers, DisGraceland, and T. Tex and the Sickoids were a few that made it to record, and one-off projects like 1999's 18-song Texicated Tape were mostly circulated among the faithful.
After a long silence, the full-length Up Against the Floor was released in 2007. The Swingin' Kornflake Killers backed a slightly toned-down Edwards on a selection of offbeat covers (David Bowie's "Black Country Rock" and Conway Twitty's "Lonely Blue Boy") as well as equally memorable originals like the instant standard "Ain't No Bars in Heaven." A while later Nervebreakers announced they were regrouping after their "slight" 27-year hiatus. T. Tex remains a pioneering, under-appreciated, and often neglected chronicler of the offbeat and eccentric traditions of country rock & roll. ~ JT Lindroos