Echoes and Reverberations: Loco Gringos Vivir Para Siempre en Nuestros Corazones
For more photos, album art and show posters, check out our slideshow here.
Dallas bands are usually judged within the context of their efforts and accomplishments. Some spend stupid money on hair care products and aspire to a label deal; other bands actually rehearse and wanna make an important artistic statement.
Then you had the Loco Gringos. They were here to make you feel good about being drunk. Born out of the ashes of The Devices, the Loco Gringos were brilliant because they were never trying to be anything other than what they already were.
They belonged to us; we belonged to them. Our committed relationship was meaningful and real.
And so I figured that reconnecting with a few folks over our shared memories of the Loco Gringos--who'll be reuniting somewhat to play a show on Saturday, January 10, at Lakewood Bar & Grill--would be a decent and respectful way to start the year for Echoes and Reverberations. Jump here for a colorful Gringo historical retrospective.
Christopher Dirkx (The Telefones): "We gigged a bunch with The Devices; both with The Telefones and The Teenage Queers. Those were the DJ's and Hot Klub days, 1979-82. There were many wild gigs and after parties back then, usually including a late night meal at the original Guadalajara's Restaurant."
T. Tex Edwards (The Nervebreakers): "I remember back when it was Thom Edwards from The Nervebreakers and Tom Foote of The Devices; we were drinkin' buddies at The Hot Klub. He wasn't Pepe yet, and Jerry Dirkx of The Telefones was the only one that ever called me 'Tex' back then."
"Grant": (aka "Pancho Cuervo", Loco Gringos original bassist, then guitarist): "Through a few all nighters, inspired by the popular intoxicants of the day, we came up with the concept for the band. We wrote the lyrics to 'Fruit Fly' and 'Burrito Electrico' during this time. The band was originally called Los Psychedelic Gringos. We had the crazy Mexican theme going from the beginning."
Jay Tynes (beer wrangler, aka "Tubb Rex"): "My first exposure to Loco Gringos was in the mid-'80s in East Dallas. It was like a breath of fresh air. After reading books like On the Road and The Electric Kool-Acid Test, I was ready for adventure and excitement. I longed for a scene that, in my mind, had taken place long ago."
"Grant": "When we got back from Austin, a friend gave me an old Ibanez bass (the same one hanging over the front door at Club Dada for years). While Don had been the bass player in The Devices, he also was a closet drummer. We agreed to give it a go as a three-piece with Don on drums and Tom taking on lead vocals and guitar. That first night we knew we had something cool happening."
Jay Tynes: "It was like someone had rolled up Hendrix, ZZ Top, and Red Hot Chili Peppers into one great band; then took all the best parts of Beat Poetry, the '60s, funk and punk rock, and then stirred it all in some kind of crazy dysfunctional gumbo. That somehow worked and made everyone who was a part of it feel special."
"Grant": "We played our first gig at the Knox Street Ice House; it was the only time they ever had a live band. They certainly had no idea what they where in for. Our second gig was opening for Buena Vistas at Theatre Gallery. A week later we played Circle A Ranch. From there on, the thing just rolled."
Brad Featherstone (Peyote Cowboys): "When the Loco Gringos were starting, they played a party out at a ranch in Lancaster. I remember being blown away by Tom's ('Pepe Lopez') guitar skills. After they were done playing, I told Tom that I would get him an opening slot for us at a forthcoming Theatre Gallery gig, and that show turned out to be a real stepping stone for them. Our band broke up not too long after, but they definitely went on to bigger and better things. I couldn't have been happier; Tom had been a friend of mine since the old Hot Klub days. Over the years, Pepe never forgot that show they opened for us, and would constantly introduce me as the guy who 'broke' the Gringos. I still miss him very much; his death was one of the contributing factors to my leaving Dallas permanently."
Mike Dillon (Billy Goat/Ten Hands): "That whole time period was amazing. I remember stumbling into a Loco Gringos show at Theatre Gallery. They were burning the concrete burro. It was sort of like ending up at a Bad Brains show; it opened my eyes to more than what we were being taught at music school."
Toby Sheets (producer/musician): "The best Loco Gringos shows were at the Prophet Bar because it was such a small room and the ceiling was so low; when they set the donkey on fire, the room was 130 degrees and smelled like chemicals. Add to that a packed house of people standing on the tables and chairs, the high level of alcohol consumption--it all combined to create a great energy!"
Jim Heath (Rev. Horton Heat): "The Loco Gringos were as much a 24/7 party as they were a band. Their shows always included tons of kitschy Mexican artifacts, bales of hay, and a grocery cart filled with corn dogs that they sold at their shows. They all lived together at this old house they called Gringo Manor."
Sean Bailey (Trees/Toadies road manager): "I remember seeing them open for the Butthole Surfers at Theatre Gallery in '86. It was an awesome set--hay being thrown around, burrows and donkeys, as well as corn dogs being passed out to everyone. Back then, everybody seemed to get so hammered that shows were a free-for-all, and still no one ever seemed to hassle each other. It was family-style, if you will."
T. Tex Edwards: "I had moved away to Austin, then to Hollywood. I saw the Gringos when they came out there to play. Now they had dreads, and they gave me a cool 7" single called 'Nurture My Pig' with 'Fruit Fly' on the back. In 1990, I moved back to Big D and sat in with them at Trees."
Bill Wisener (Bill's Records): "The Loco Gringos 7" single was completely sold out in about a week. They only printed 500 of them, and, after, they were gone I would have people come in and say they would be willing to pay anything to get one. Then they did that self-titled album that was pressed on clear vinyl. That sold out really quick, too. And they also had a song on the Dallas compilation Dude, You Rock! They were legendary."
Amy Talkington (Writer/Director, The Night of the White Pants): "I remember hay. Raining hay. That was my favorite thing about a Gringos show: the hay. Bails of hay getting broken up and tossed around like Texas confetti. And the music, of course: The music was fun and it rocked. A Loco Gringos show was always a party. There is really no better way to put it."
Chris Motley (Booking agent, Club Clearview): "The band had a show at Club Clearview that was the same weekend as Pink Floyd at Texas Stadium. The Gringos wanted to put on a huge show with special effects, some kind of real low-rent hoot spectacle. As an homage to the flying pig, the centerpiece of the show was supposed to be a flying bale of hay. It didn't really work the way it was supposed to, but that didn't matter. They didn't need that shit. The Gringos still put on a kick-ass rock 'n' roll show and nobody left unsatisfied. A lot of Deep Ellum bands that did that, but none of 'em that did it near as fun as the Loco Gringos."
Toby Sheets: "I made it a point to go to every Gringos show I could; I was around 16 or 17 and spent many a night watching them set donkeys ablaze and then going to party at Gringo Manor afterwards. I don't know what impressed me more, the shows or the parties."
Get on over here, Pepe... and put it to the Ranger Man's daughter...
Barry Kooda (The Nervebreakers): "Tom once told me that he loved looking down from the stage and picking out the cutest little hottie, going home with her, taking off all her clothes and passing out on her."
Jim Heath: "You could go to Gringo Manor literally anytime of the day or night and there would be a party going on; unless they were on one of their infamous road trips in the bus painted like the Mexican flag. The parties were always fun. They usually featured plenty of beer, tequila, naked girls running around, people playing ping-pong or dancing to cheese-laden disco hits. For some reason, I don't remember a lot of things that happened during that era."
Amy Talkington: "There was the Gringo Manor. The Gringo hearse. The pig. Schaefer beer. Tequila. Corndogs. Hay. Dreadlocks. The Gringos were more than a band, they were a way of life, and they lived it."
Chad Lovell (Course of Empire): "What a blur: waking up on a lawn that had furniture in the front yard of the house, the hearse, etc. There was the infamous incident at Club Clearview: They wouldn't let Pepe in for his show because he didn't have any shoes on."
Russell Turns (Trees sound engineer): "Whitney, the first real door Nazi of Deep Ellum, was telling Pepe that he couldn't come in without any shoes. Pepe went to his car and got two Shafer Beer boxes and came back with those duct taped to his feet and he managed to get in. The next time I saw him, he was wearing a barrel with two belts as suspenders, holding the barrel to his body like a hillbilly jumpsuit."
Jeff Smith (The Hickoids): "Pepe had worn an old wooden apple barrel with straps during a couple of shows. One Sunday morning, after having raged all night after our show, the Loco Gringos and Hickoids--and 30 or 40 friends, fans and groupies--were all drinking beer and raising hell on their front lawn. Running over bales of hay with the lawn mower, singing loud, generally being a nuisance. Pepe walked out of the house barefoot, wearing nothing but the barrel, then went over and introduced himself to a family moving in across the street. He had a lengthy conversation with them, often pointing back to his house; I imagine welcoming them to the neighborhood and extending the invitation to drop by for a Schaeffer Beer. After talking with the neighbors, he continued down to Greenville Avenue and disappeared for three hours before eventually returning home. Always wondered what happened during that time. I would think a man wearing nothing but a barrel might have gotten into quite a bit of mischief."
Chris Motley: "One night, I was at Gringo Manor on the verge of blacking out. Thankfully, Serge (a friend of the band) steered me towards Pepe's room so I could pass out relatively safely. Well, I woke up the next morning in Pepe's closet. Shuffling blearily into the living room, I saw Pepe and a couple of folks sitting on the floor with some sort of board game. The pig dice were a key component, and so was a big jug of Burgundy. Why not, right? So I sat down and joined in. After a bit, I started feeling as if I was missing something, and it turned out that I was; it dawned on me it was Mother's Day. I was supposed to be at a big brunch for my mom and grandmother. Oops. Mom didn't talk to me for a few weeks after that one."
Talk to me if you need a beer/I'll talk to you if you need a beer/let's grab a couple of cans/...we'll talk about beer...
Toby Sheets: "I remember being upstairs in the tree house. Some frat guys showed up and had brought Coors Light. Everyone knew that Coors was forbidden at Gringo Manor; these guys wouldn't leave their beer, even though they were crashing a party they weren't invited to in the first place. I remember listening to the voices inside the house growing louder until finally you heard that familiar sound of full-on brawling. The frat guys were finally escorted out of the party, slightly bloodied. I remember thinking to myself just how cool these people were. It was magical."
Jimmy Parks (Manager, State Bar): "I remember one night at the Gringo Manor when skater David Dude (aka "Monster") was so blown away that he swung on a rope from the tree house straight into a second story window; all this time singing "My Sharona" by The Knack. Those were the days!"
Mike Dillon: "By the time I was in Ten Hands, Deep Ellum was changing into something else altogether. However, when I would see Pepe and his pals walking down the street, they were still a constant reminder of the tight circle of bands that played at Theater Gallery and Prophet Bar. Pepe would always take the time to hello."
Chris Motley: "If you went to a party at the Manor, all bets were off. There was nothing but the 'then and there' of the scene, and God only knew where you might wind up. But, to steal a phrase from the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, 'Buy the ticket, take the ride...'"
Jay Tynes: "We were in Las Vegas and went to some 99 cent buffet. All these dirt heads walking in, stinking after being in a van for days, sleeping on floors, drinking 24-7. I looked over and saw Lopez stuffing the back pockets of his overalls with bread. I'm thinking, 'Great, were all going to jail because Pepe's got a biscuit fetish.' So, anyway, he's sticking nickels into slot machines trying to get one to pay out. Pepe is fall-down drunk, making a big scene as he stumbles into tourists, yelling obscenities at the slot machines. I tried to get him in the van so we didn't get arrested. He's fussing and fighting me to get back to the penny slots; finally, one paid off and I crammed his drunken ass back in the van. That's when he digs in his back pocket and pulls out a flat piece of stale bread, looks up at me in a way that only he could, and said, "But, Tubb... I'm on a roll!"
Jim Heath: "One of the most infamous stories about Pepe comes from a gig that they did in Phoenix at a place called the Sun Club. Evidently, the local rag had written a bad review of the Loco Gringos record. At the end of their set, Pepe took a copy of that local newspaper article, laid it on the stage, then pulled down his pants and defecated on it. A wild scene ensued when the club owner got mad, yelling, 'No one does that in my club!' Pepe ran out when the guy said he was calling the cops. I'm not sure who decided to clean up the stage by wrapping up the problem newsprint, but the club owner yelled, 'Give that to me, that's evidence!' as he chased them around the room, Pepe was nowhere to be found; he was hiding in the dumpster out back. The funny thing was that we called up that club the next day to ask for a gig. (We didn't know what had happened the night before.) I told the guy, 'We're friends with the Loco Gringos!' thinking that would help. It didn't exactly help us..."
Mike Dillon: "I was on tour with the Billy Goat. It was December 1991. We were playing at the Sun Club in Phoenix. While loading in, the bar staff started speaking volumes on the power of the Loco Gringos. That was the kind of band they were. People always brought them up when you said you were from Dallas."
Ain't no corndogs when she's gone/only darkness when she's away/and I know I know I know I know I know I know (etc.)...
Everyone in the extended Gringo entourage had nicknames given by Pepe. Mine was "Chate". I think he saw a guy on Gunsmoke or Bonanza who had that name and apparently looked like me. That name stuck with me for years.
Chris Motley: "If you were looking for a party after last call on any given night in Deep Ellum, it was a good bet you could find it at Gringo Manor. One night, I was particularly gone on Mezcal and somehow finally earned a Pepe nickname ("Wildman") by actin' the fool, one way or another.
Don Foote (aka "Pablo Cruz", drummer for Loco Gringos): "I still have the back of a tequila poster where we named everyone in Pep's cabinet for when he was to be elected president. Usually, the cabinet position had something to do with the nickname. It was probably transcribed from the wall of the house on Richard Street; remember when everyone took to writing on the walls with magic marker? The last straw with our landlord was the dayglow paint on the outside--done after an all-nighter with The Hickoids."
Bob Scanlon (aka "Babachew Bob", band roadie): "The thing about Loco Gringo nicknames: everyone was named after Tequila brands or old Blues Heroes. Tom had a deck of cards that were "The Heroes of the Blues"; each card was a recording artist on Yazoo Records: Barbecue Bob, Blind Lemon, Memphis Minnie, Son House, etc, and he named a bunch of us on that deck. But he changed the names slightly for each. Hence "Babachew Bob", and not Barbecue Bob."
Jay Tynes: "The friendships I forged in the Loco Gringos world were very instrumental in my life. The Gringos were a special fraternity of groove you could never explain to someone that wasn't there; but when you run into someone with a Gringo nickname, you know you're in the company of a member of brotherhood. That bond will never be broken and to this day that loyalty is still inspirational."
Sean Bailey: "I remember a party at Pepe's, back when he lived across from Deep Ellum Live; people everywhere, on the roof, inside playing music, and all types of law breaking elements afoot; and, of course, plenty of corn beer! It has been so long, but I do remember them as being THE premier party band in Dallas."
Barry Kooda: "Tom and I were sitting in State Bar drinking his favorite: 'Fancy rice beer with the garnish' (Weise and Chambord) and a guy comes up, talking as if they had been friends for a long time. When he finally walked away, Pepe leaned over to me and said, "Who the hell was that?" Tom always treated fans as his best friends."
"I got a pig, baby... I got a pig/I got a pig that's pink and big..."
Jim Heath: "I was super flattered when they showed up at my birthday party and had made a card out of a Styrofoam sign they got from some low-rent taco stand. It had a picture of a little guy on a burro, riding through the cactus. They wrote 'Happy Birthday Jim' on it. I still have it. They also gave me one of their self-decorated sombreros that said 'Loco Gringos' with the names Pepe, Pancho, Pablo and Paco. That is still on the wall at my house. As Ernest Tubb would say, 'Thanks, thanks a lot.'"
Mike Dillon: "I was playing a show with Billy Goat when I got the word that Pepe had passed. Even though I was never was close to Pepe, I felt like his death signified the end of an era."
Barry Kooda: "Tom passed on June 16th, 1990. A week before, while sitting at State Bar, again, and we were discussing our life philosophy and I remember saying to him, 'But you're too old to die young.' I think he was 32."
For you numerology freaks, 6/16/06 was the 16th anniversary of Pepe's death. Half of 32. Figure that one out.
A year after Tom "Pepe Lopez" Foote died from an overdose of heroin, his friends gathered at Trees to revisit his memory once last time. Rev. Horton Heat was the headliner that night. The night inevitably descended into a drunken "open mic night" confessional. Somewhere, The Pepster was laughing his ass off at the whole spectacle.
On January 10, the Loco Gringos and their adherent "cult of personality" will gather one more time at Lakewood Bar and Grill to pour a little Schaffer's beer out on the curb for Pepe.
Come thirsty and bring a designated driver. -- Jeffrey Liles