Long-running, genre defying Austin Music Hall of Famers the Hickoids are firing back up this summer after largely taking the past fifteen months off for the pandemic. Having only played a few livestreams for charity during that time the band is prepping for the “C’mon Back” Tour of the Southeast and Mid-South with some recording in Tupelo, MS (birthplace of Elvis Presley) scheduled along the way.
The Hickoids have had a long and checkered career. Originally formed in 1984 in Austin and conceived by original guitarist Jukebox and singer Jeff Smith as hardcore country meets hardcore punk the band quickly began touring Texas and then the United States. The band played their first show opening for Black Flag and the Meat Puppets in San Antonio in March 1984 and would share the stage with seminal Austin bands such as Scratch Acid, The True Believers, Poison 13, The Offenders and The Butthole Surfers while leaving traditional music fans and musicians scratching their heads as they took “Best Country Band” honors in the Austin Chronicle’s Annual Reader’s Poll in 1985. Musically they had more in common with West Coast counterparts Tex & The Horseheads, The Screamin’ Sirens and Blood on the Saddle, playing many California dates with these bands while also hosting shows for them back in Texas.
The Hickoids self-released debut LP “We’re In It For The Corn” (the first-ever album project of Austin mainstay producer Stuart Sullivan) quickly sold out and was picked up by Toxic Shock Records and later licensed by Red Rhino/Fundamental in England and Musical Tragedies in Germany. The band recorded a second EP titled “Hard Corn”. Not long after its release Jukebox departed the fold mid-tour in Seattle, leaving rhythm guitarist Davy Jones to take over all six-string duties.
By now it was 1987/88 and the band continued traveling as a four-piece with multiple tours of the Midwest and East Coast of the U.S. The music had changed from the denser, guitar dominated sound of the original band and was now looser and more humorous, in opposition to many of the acts of the nascent grunge movement they were often billed with. They recorded a second album with producer Spot of SST Records fame (Minutemen, Husker Du, Descendants, Misfits). The result was “Waltz A-Cross- Dress Texas”, a collection of goofball anthems including “Brand New Way (Of Living)” and “Queen Of The Bar-B-Q” that were culled from true-life experiences and probably frightened anyone with a family or job who was listening. Soon the band were becoming notorious no-shows and collapsing under the weight of their individual struggles with alcohol, drugs and the law, not to mention their shared and perpetually poor finances. The band broke up in San Francisco almost immediately after the release of “Waltz” in 1989, reforming in different configurations for a couple of more tours. Curiously, Nine Inch Nails opened one of the Hickoids final Dallas appearances before the band finally called it quits in early 1991.
Fast forward to 2006. Grunge has come and gone. The LP and cassette are dead formats and the CD looks on its way to being DOA. Country music is now just pop music with a cowboy hat and new stars are minted by reality talent show “American Idol”. Smith has relocated to San Antonio and he and Jones both have jobs and no longer drink. After having played only a half-dozen reunion gigs as the Hickoids in the past 15 years they begin writing new songs in earnest with the goal of putting the band back in the van and studio and on the map once more. It’s a tough slog. They throw away a lot more songs than they keep. They attempt to record “Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit”, the long-ago titled follow up to “Waltz A-Cross-Dress Texas”, while also beginning to tour around Texas and the western half of the US again. In 2011 they abandon the original recordings and decide instead to make an album of Brit-rock covers titled
“Kicking It With The Twits”. The version of “Bennie & The Jets” from the album receives their widest airplay to date on over 100 NPR stations. After having funneled some 25+ players through the band over the years they solidify the lineup in late 2011 to its most permanent edition of Smith on guitar and vocals, Davy Jones on guitar, Rice Moorehead on bass, Lance Farley on drums and Tom Trusnovic on guitar. They set to recording “Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit” once again towards the end of 2012, this time with Grammy winning conjunto producer Joe Trevino (Flaco Jimenez, Steve Jordan, Westside Horns) at the helm.
In March of 2013 they visit Europe for the first time on the “300 Years of Punk Rock” Tour with Saustex label mates The Grannies, playing shows in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and The U.K. In August 2013, some 20 years after its first mention in print, “Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit” is finally released. In October the band hosts their annual four night, floating club mini-festival “The Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta” with guest acts that include Rosie Flores, David Yow and the Old 97’s. The shows are packed and the album is receiving good notices. In late November while en route to the studio to record a compilation track Smith receives word that his old partner in crime Jukebox has passed away in Colorado. New Year’s Eve the band plays to a packed House of Blues audience in Dallas as the opening act for the Old 97’s. Two weeks later they perform to a sold-out house at Austin’s Moody Theater as part of Alejandro Escovedo’s “United Sounds of Austin” show that also features Lucinda Williams, Roky Erickson, Terry Allen and Joe Ely. In March 2014 the Hickoids are inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame and Smith signs a European distribution deal with Rough Trade for the Hickoids and his Saustex label. March 28th, 2014 the band play a show in Austin to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their first advertised appearance. In a typically self-effacing quip from the stage Smith says “It’s hard to condense thirty years of follies, faux pas and f*ck ups into an hour of music so we’re just going to play a regular show…”
Then, in May 2014, on the eve of a month long European tour tragedy strikes as Smith’s long-time musical partner Davy Jones is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Cody Richardson is called in to fill in on the tour while Jones begins treatment back home. This would break a continuous string of over 600 shows the two had played together as the Hickoids. After returning to Texas the band records a half-dozen track with Jones and begin playing a long string of fundraisers for Jones, culminating with a living celebration of his career called “Plaidstock” in May 2015 that featured music by many of Davy’s friends and bands from around the country that the Hickoids had toured with over the years. The event would draw in excess of 500 paid attendees and raise almost $18,000 for Jones but in a bittersweet turn would also be his last ever public performance. Davy bravely fights for his life but finally succumbs to the disease in November 2015. Jones would be posthumously inducted to the Austin Music Hall of Fame in March 2016 and a large, free public memorial for Jones was held at South Pop in April 2016 featuring a full-slate of bands and Davy’s artwork. The sale of some of his artwork and battered record collection at the event would yield a donation of $8,000 to The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (H.A.A.M.)
In October 2016 Saustex released the final recordings of Jones with the Hickoids as a mini-album titled ‘The Out Of Towners’ and played a string of East Coast dates and also returned to Holland and Germany for 10 shows in support of the record. 2017 was dedicated to some regional touring that included a stop in Nashville to deliver some of Davy’s outfits and other ephemera to The Country Music Hall of Fame and a ten date tour of the wilderness frontier state of Alaska, aptly titled “The Fiasco in Alaska”. Keyboardist Harvey McLaughlin began appearing with the band around this time, eventually becoming a permanent fixture. 2018 brought their longest U.S. tour since the 80’s and included their first ever Canadian dates and the show that the double LP live album ‘All The World’s a Dressing Room’ is culled from. 2019 saw the band tourSpain, France and the Eastern Seaboard of the US before everything went dark some months later.