Live: Herschel Berry and the Natives, Houston
Back in the 1980s, Houston was reeling from the still-fresh oil industry crash but its music scene remained vibrant. Clubs like Rockefeller’s, the Bon Ton Room, the Satellite Lounge and Fitzgerald’s were popular hangouts where one could hear some of the best rock and roll bands of the day.
And the kick was, most of these great musicians were all from Houston! One of the most crankin’ bands of all was Herschel Berry and the Natives, led by this wiry, pompadoured guy who always wore Wayfarer shades and rocked out of his mind most of the time. Herschel Berry’s rock and roll exploits were so wild they became part of Houston legend, and then … he just kind of disappeared.
On Saturday, the H-Town legend re-emerged with his band the Natives for an in-store performance at the great Cactus Music and Record Ranch. Herschel’s grayer and a little paunchier, but he seems to have lost none of his passion for stripped-down rock and roll. His new album, Art or Trash, is a treasure chest of dirty rock and roll and wild tales from the road. His Natives are anchored by Houston guitar god Rock Romano, and song titles like “She’s A Bitch (And She Makes Me Mad)” should say it all.
So, on Saturday, Herschel’s in-store was a little late getting off the ground because there were so many old faces and well-wishers on hand. Berry ripped into some of the tunes from the new album: “Mercenary Girl,” about a chick “with a truck full of artillery” who seeks to rid the world of oppression and “bear the arms of the righteous.” Later on, “The Rockin’ Professor” was more like the old Herschel: it’s about a woman who’s a professor at the university by day but at night she pulls on her cowboy boots and rocks out.
“Winos and Weirdos” is about some of Houston’s more colorful characters, and Berry said “Doctor Brown’s Cool Ray Hula” told the story of one of his wildest nights. Then, of course, they also did “She’s A Bitch (And She Makes Me Mad).”
They do a cover from the album, Buddy Holly’s “Love’s Made A Fool Of You,” then Berry asks for requests. Naturally, titles of Berry’s oldies sail back, and he picks some good ones. “Sleepy Women,” which he does for a lady right up front; then his stone classic (and my personal favorite) “It Rocks In My Head,” complete with snippets of riffs from the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Them’s “Gloria” and a couple others. Herschel wrapped it with a rockin’ “Tent City” then jumped into a crowd of well wishers.
Welcome back, man!
– Denny Angelle