Trash Twang and Thunder features 12 sizzling instrumentals by six of Austin’s most renowned musicians: Denny Freeman, Evan Johns, Frankie Camaro, Don Leady, Mike Buck and Keith Ferguson. The Album received prestigious recognition and was widely recognized by the industry when in 1985 it was nominated for a Grammy Award. That same year N.A.I.R.D. presented the Big Guitars an Honorable Mention Award.
DON LEADY. As a child in Cool Valley, Missouri, Don got an Arthur Godfrey ukulele, and he’s been twanging the strings ever since. Choosing the guitar after piano lessons proved hard on his knuckles (the nuns who taught piano in his grade school rapped them for every mistake he made), he teamed up with Steve Doerr in the early ’70s, and spent the next ten years touring the country with him, playing on the streets and in every conceivable form of dive. In 1981, they moved to Austin, and after a short time backing up Lou Ann Barton, they became the LeRoi Brothers, re cording an EP for Amazing, an album for Jungle, and an EP for Columbia. Shortly after the Columbia release, Don quit to form his own unit, the Tailgators, with former Fabulous Thunderbird Keith Ferguson. Don was a natural choice for this record because of his love for demented rock ‘n’ roll and his energetic single-note picking style. On various tunes, he used a vintage Telecaster, and a 1965 Telecaster, along with Denny Freeman’s ’63 Stratocaster.
DENNY FREEMAN. One of Texas’ best-kept secrets, Denny Freeman is a veteran of some of Texas’ best, most trail-blazing and popular bands. A Dallas native, he migrated to Austin the same week as fellow Dallasite Jimmie Vaughn, and a few days after they unpacked, Denny and the future Thunderbird were in a legendary band, The Storm, together. From there, he moved to Southern Feeling, which featured Angela Strehli and W. C. Clark, and then he went on to the Cobras, a band that was one of the first to serve notice to the nation that Texas had more than Willie and Waylon to offer. The Cobras, a solid blues band with a killer horn section, featured some of Texas’ best players and singers during its existence, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Angela Strehli, and Paul Ray, and toured extensively, but the record deal they dreamed of eluded them. After they broke up, Denny went with Lou Ann Barton’s touring band, and then came back to Austin, where today he plays in Angela Strehli’s band. Even though he’s one of the best blues pickers in the state, Denny says that for this project ”I tried to keep the bluesiness out, although if there’s any on the record it must’ve crept onto it through my fingers.” A last-minute addition to the project, he played a reissue Stratocaster and considers himself honored to be playing in the company of three such eminent contemporaries.
EVAN JOHNS. Washington D.C. is another hotbed of legendary guitarists, contributing such masters as Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, and Nils Lofgren to the national scene. To those names we should add Evan Johns, who replaced Don Leady in the LeRoi Brothers, moving to Texas to do it. Having long covered similar ground as the LeRois with his D.C. band the H-Bombs, he was a natural for the job, and considering his reputation for maniacal behavior, he just had to wind up on this record, too. Although he’d been a fixture on the D.C./Baltimore club circuit, when the call came from the LeRois audition, he was all too ready to leave. When you play my kind of music in D.C., he has said, you wind up playing with some great guitarists, but I was getting sick of playing with people ten years my senior. And look at them! Good as they are, they’re still playing the same old clubs, and nobody’s ever heard of them. His insane songwriting and ebullient stage presence has transformed the LeRois, and he feels that the new alliance has given his career a new lease on life. For this record, he says, you’re not hearing my usual crash-and-burn trademark sound. My playing’s either real nasty or real swingin’, but Duane Eddy I’m not… In keeping with his wild-man image, for some of these songs he chose a Sears Silvertone guitar and a Telecaster.
FRANKIE CAMARO. The baby of the band, Frankie Camaro is no junior partner. Born in Virginia to Cuban parents, Frankie found fame in Bloomington, Indiana playing in such bands as QAX Pistols and Mars Needs Women. Naturally, since he was a good 1,000 miles from the nearest wave, he decided that he wanted to focus his considerable talents on surf-pop music, and thus was born his present band, Moto-X. Influenced by Link Wray and Jon and the Nightriders, they became very popular in Indiana, but Frankie, realizing that greener pastures (and closer beaches) existed in Texas, began moving the band to Austin a year ago. Until they all arrived, he was lead guitarist with Dino Lee’s White Trash Revue, one of the most shameless and unbelievable spectacles in the entire State of Texas. Thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of guitar instrumentals, as well as his expertise at composing them, he was a natural for this record, and the sounds he squeezed out of his Gibson Les Paul Junior were just what the doctor ordered.
MIKE BUCK. Making his debut on chainsaw in addition to continuing his legend as one of the Lone Star State’s premier drummers, Mike Buck has been pounding the skins since early teenager hood, when he played various dives in his home town of Fort Worth. Strippers and stars, Buck’s backed both, but came to national prominence as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. After leaving them, he went on to join the LeRoi Brothers, a position he still holds. No stranger to the outer limits of rock ‘n’ roll, he has also recorded with the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and is an avid collector of horror film memorabilia.
KEITH FERGUSON. Another former Fabulous Thunderbird, Keith Ferguson is undoubtedly Texas’ best left-handed electric bassist. He’s won his Stripes over the past fifteen years playing with some of Texas• best-known musicians, including Doug Sahm, Johnny Winter, and the Storm, and his 1954 Fender Precision bass provides the bottom for this aggregation of virtuosos. Was a member, with Don Leady, of the Tailgators, Keith Ferguson collects tattoos and is an expert on Tex-Mex culture of all sorts.
Buy or Download: Big Guitars from Texas – Trash, Twang & Thunder
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Ten Great Guitarists (You May Have Never Heard Of) – Billy Gibbons – Guitar Player, March 1986
Austin Album Rounds Up Top-Notch Guitarists – John T. Davis – May 24, 1985
Austin Stars Vying for Grammy – John T. Davis – January 10, 1986
Produced and Engineered by Vince McGarry
Executive Producer: Bruce Sheehan
Concept, Concern and Coordination: Gary Rice
Recorded and Re-Mixed at Austin’s Riverside Sound
Chainsaw provided by Quality Rental Equipment, South Austin, Texas.
Riot provided by Fred Cantu
Yells, special effects, insanity, hoopla and bat-craziness: Jacky Newhouse, Michael Maye, Joe Doerr, Mike, Gary, Frankie, Evan, Rev. Tone.
Special thanks to Ray Hennig and all the folks at Heart of Texas Music,
The Continental Club, Antone’s, Dick Dale, Link Wray, Broderick Crawford, Jack Webb, Vic Morrow, Bruce at Treasured Tracs, Louis at Waterloo, Jody Denberg, Louis Black, Paul Ray, Larry Monroe, KTXZ, Herschel Cunningham, Jody Lazo, Lowell Smith, Ron Horick, Frank at Yesterday’s, Dixie, and Connie.
Very Special Thanks to Mr. Crumley.
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