Psychobilly freakout: Reverend Horton Heat melts Reno

Tahoe Onstage
Reverend Horton Heat in Reno onstage at Cargo.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tim Parsons

Hold your horses — Reverend Horton Heat is drifting to a town near you.

Tuesday night, the righteous reverend, sometimes known as Jim Heath from Dallas, Texas, unloaded his brand of rockabilly at the Cargo in Reno, imparting some early rock and roll religion to 400 faithful, PBR-guzzling followers at the Whitney Peak Hotel.

With wild Mustangs still roaming the open range, Nevada provided the perfect stage.

By the end of the night, the Rev. Heat, under no duress from authorities, confessed that he had “shot a man in Reno,” covering the Johnny Cash ballad “Folsom Prison Blues” with a little more twang for the bang than most bands offer. That was about as slow as it got.

After opening with a five-minute instrumental (think Rawhide under the influence of peyote), Heath and cohorts Jimbo Wallace on upright bass and Scott Churilla on drums delivered the sermon for the night: “It’s a psychobilly freakout,” the Rev. Heat screached several times. If the ushers had passed the collection plate right then, the congregants would have been all in.

The Legendary Shack Shackers, a Southern Gothic Rock band with roots in Paducah, Kentucky, had delivered its own fire and brimstone message just before Heath and company took supreme command. Frontman J.D. Wilkes told a sorted tale of the Rev. Heat during one unruly concert. A disorderly fan in the pit raged out-of-control, and the reverend stepped off stage and whacked the fellow in the head with his guitar, sending him off on a stretcher and into an ambulance. Calmly, Heath returned to his pulpit and offered up “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’ ” to the gathering.

The opener was Lincoln Durham, who announced on Facebook before the show: “Wrecked the van into a 12-foot snowdrift, got pulled out by a snowplow and still made it to soundcheck early.”

Not bad for a psycho-punk-blues revivalist – a one-man band “who does not play well with others.”

Over the years, Reverend Horton Heat band has sold more than a million albums, the latest of which, “Rev,” was released in 2014 on Victory Records.

Life’s lessons were included in Tuesday’s sermon. Such sage advice as “Let Me Teach Your How to Eat,” and the observation that “She Likes the Smell of Gasoline.” The Reverend also noted “it’s a dark day for love and a cool day for pain” (some days are like that).

A sweet-pickin’ guitarist and singer, who goes by the name Unknown Hinson, joined the choir before the benediction. Stuart Daniel Baker is probably best known as the voice of Early Cuyler on the Adult Swim cartoon series “Squidbillies.” A real-life animated character from Twangsylvania, Unknown Hinson sang a tune of being “King of the Country and Western Troubadours” and also said he would “build me a rocket ship.”

After a bartender had summoned another load of PBR tall-boys, highlights of the night included a 5-plus minute drum solo by Scott Churilla and a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie,” when Jimbo Wallace stepped away from slapping his bass to play the guitar.

Another cow town, Petaluma, is next up on the reverend’s circuit. Rockabilly worshipers would be advised to have their hymnals handy. Amen.

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Back-to-back rockabillies Reverend Horton Heat and Jimbo Wallace.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
J.D. Wilkes
Heat said J.D. Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers is one of the greatest frontmen ever.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Rev Horton Heat 6

To play psychobilly, it's important the drummer can twirl his sticks, as Scott Churilla demonstrates. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
To play psychobilly, it’s important the drummer can twirl his sticks, as Scott Churilla demonstrates.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Bassist Jimbo is a standup guy.
Bassist Jimbo Wallace is a standup guy.

Rev Horton Heat Rev Horton Heat 7

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Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.

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One Response

  1. I attended the show in Petaluma CA at The Mystic Theater and I share your feelings and second that emotion! Great review Randy! Thanks for taking the time to give a $&#!

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