Hard Rock Music Archives
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Butthole Surfers (1980-present): a Punk band from San Antonio, Texas, USA.
riginally founded as The Ashtray Baby Heels by ex-accountant and son of US children's TV presenter "Mr. Peppermint" Gibby Haynes (vocals) and Paul Leary (born May 7, 1957; guitar), Butthole Surfers came about when both of who met at Trinity College in San Antonio. The pair then recruited King Coffey (drums) and Alan ? (bass); Coffey was not an original member from the very start but was in place by the time they got serious as an act. In 1983 they signed to Jello Biafra's (of Dead Kennedys) label, 'Alternative Tentacles'. Around the mid-1980s they gigged heavily in Britain due to lack of interest at home and followed this up with appearances with BBC radio's John Peel that got them listed in the UK charts. The group specialized heavy psychedelic sounds with futuristic art-Punk, most notably Gibby who was always offensive and disturbing to the max, while their strange stage act featured nude dancer Kathleen who would simulate sex with him covered in green Jello, not to mention his urinating in plastic baseball caps, and a particular story called "president Carter's creamy briefcase?!?" There were other obscenities as well but for purposes of world history we will let the historians of the future explain them (if they dare).
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After a couple of EPs and a mini self-titled set in 1984, they debuted properly with 1985's Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac featuring Terrence replacing Alan? Mark Kramer (of Shockabilly) stepped in to replace Trevor (who had subsequently replaced Terence) for Rembrandt Pussyhorse (1986). Jeff Tooter Pinkus took over bass from Kramer who had left to form Bongwater. Locust Abortion Technician (1987) came complete with a cover of Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf, humorously titled as Sweet Loaf. As a tribute to the Led Zeppelin's untitled "symbols" and their Stairway To Heaven albums, Butthole Surfers would release their 1988 follow-up, Hairway To Steven, featuring the track titles removed and replaced with obscene drawings. The album also featured Theresa Nervosa (Naylor) as second drummer and the arrival of the aforementioned nude dancer Kathleen.
In 1990 Theresa would be gone for Pioghd (1991), an album that finally saw them chart at 61 UK The album featured another cover track, this time of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man. But 'Rough Trade', their new label, was going through some rough times that would see it go bankrupt soon after, so after Gibby guessed for Ministry on their Jesus Built My Hotrod track on their The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs album, they would get a deal on major label 'Capitol' to release Independent Worm Saloon (1993), an album that clearly demonstrated them at their high time by gaining a 73 UK.
During the tenure of Butthole Surfers several of the members would conduct side projects: P (featuring Gibby with Johnny Depp (guitar/bass; yes the actor), Bill Carter (bass) and Sal Jenco (drums)) that released a 1996 self-titled album. There was also Jackofficers featuring Gibby, Jeff and Kathleen who released the 1990 set Digital Dump, Paul Laery's self-titled endeavor, The History of Dogs (1991), and Drain with King Coffey and David McCreeth (ex-Squid) for Pick Up Heaven (1992) and Offspeed And In Three (1996).
In 1996, 'Capitol' released Electriclarryland, which made 31 on the Billboard 200 and received heavy MTV rotation; the single Pepper topped the Billboard Modern rock Tracks chart. Despite improved sales over the past album, their relationship with the label was getting hard. A planned 1998 project, After the Astronaut, was scrapped and the band split with their manager acrimoniously. In 1999, they won their lawsuit against 'Touch and Go'.
In 2000, Nathan Calhoun took over as bassist. Having resolved their dispute with 'Capitol', Butthole Surfers re-recorded most of the abandoned After the Astronaut's songs for Weird Revolution, on the 'Hollywood Records/Surfdog Records' imprint in 2001 to reach number 130 on the Billboard 200; it was their most electronic album to date.
The line-up of Haynes, Leary, Pinkus and Coffey did a 12-show tour of mostly western US States and one appearance in Canada from August 26, 2011 to September 11, 2011.
As of 2016 the group are on hiatus.
Footnote: The band started out by playing under a different name at each gig (too many to name) but chose Butthole Surfers from the name they used at a show that they actually got paid for.
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