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Glamorous Youth

Sharon Osbourne put the local kids of Pure Rubbish in front of millions on MTV. Then things fell apart.

Chrome later repaid the Dunivans' generosity by wangling the whole family backstage passes to meet his friends -- the Ramones -- on what was to be their last show in Houston, which took place at the Bayou City Theater in 1994. And so we have the following Passing of the Torch scene:

"I remember thinking that was, like, the best back then. They were my favorite band," Derek remembers.

"That day was one of those vivid memories, you know?" Evan says. "I remember all these weird little details about that show. I remember we sat up top and we were listening to the Ramones and watching all these people down below just going insane. And then walking backstage. Joey signed my ticket stub--"

The master plan hangs on the studio wall.
Jeff Fitlow
The master plan hangs on the studio wall.
Beatles or Stones? For Derek and Jarrett, the answer used to be a no-brainer.
Jeff Fitlow
Beatles or Stones? For Derek and Jarrett, the answer used to be a no-brainer.

"And he bought us a Coke!" Derek interrupts.

Evan continues. "Yeah, he was like [decent Brooklyn Ramones impersonation], 'You guys wanna soda or sumthin?' Everybody else was getting sloshed, and we were back there drinking Cokes."

At the time, Derek was about four foot eight, Evan a few inches shorter. The late Joey Ramone was six foot six. The whole scene brings back shades of the old Mean Joe Greene "Hey, kid…Catch!" commercial, which of course the boys don't remember since they weren't born yet.

More moments like these were to come, but for now Derek and Evan had some woodshedding and studying to do. Building on the Merle Haggard and B.B. King records their parents used as lullabies, they started poring over their father's huge collection of LPs and rock histories, one of which furnished their band name: Pure Rubbish was Mick Jagger's assessment of rival British Invasion band Herman's Hermits.

Punk Daddy was amazed by how fast his children caught up with and then exceeded his talents. The whole family calls Derek "the Sponge" for his ability to absorb. At first, Derek was the drummer and Evan was the guitarist. Then, like Eddie and Alex Van Halen before them, they switched. By 1996, the boys had enlisted another kid -- female bassist Morgan Donor, the stage name of the daughter of local musician David Thompson -- and were backing their father in local bars, opening for the likes of Poor Dumb Bastards, Carolyn Wonderland and the Jinkies. It was at one such show in 1997 that they came to the attention of former Houston Press music editor Hobart Rowland, who called them "Houston's anti-Hanson."

"The boys can actually play," Rowland wrote. "And they're naturals on-stage. Even when they flub their parts, they conduct themselves like professionals. Actually, they ham it up like born entertainers. At the Zocalo show, Evan donned a latex mask of a Mohawked ghoul, wearing it while playing a cover of the Ramones' 'Pinhead.' Derek tried his hand at balancing a toy fireman's helmet on his head, until a tepid breeze sent it scooting across the stage."

One night at Instant Karma the band got the first in a series of Big Breaks. Pure Rubbish opened for Atlanta raunch-rock band Nashville Pussy, and Nashville Pussy was impressed enough to ask the band -- still fronted by Punk Daddy -- to tour with them. Pure Rubbish agreed to the tour, with the stipulation that they would play only shows that fell during their summer break from junior high. While most of their contemporaries were at camp or playing Little League, Pure Rubbish was touring the country's raunchiest rock bars with a band whose name most kids would get sent to their room for merely saying.

Getting a band like Nashville Pussy in their corner was vital. Very few bands get signed to major labels by sending out demos blind. It's not what you play, it's who you play in front of. Nine times out of ten word of mouth is the key to success in this business, and Pure Rubbish is no exception. Nashville Pussy discovered them in Houston and invited them on tour. When Nashville Pussy shared a bill with Motörhead, they raved about the Houston kids. Thus Pure Rubbish got to do some shows with Motörhead, and Lemmy -- the fierce English rocker whose decades-long indulgence in Jack Daniel's, hard drugs and the favors of groupies is the stuff of rock Olympus -- was impressed.

"The first night we ever played with Motörhead was at First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince filmed all the Purple Rain stuff," Punk Daddy remembers. "I'll never forget that night. Lemmy took the kids in his dressing room and gave them a pep talk. He was like [growling English accent], 'Stay off the needles, kids. I've had a lot of good friends and they ended up dead because of needles.' He took 'em under his wing right from the git-go. Next thing I knew I opened up a magazine and he was like, 'Best band I've seen in ten years.' Shit! You can't buy that kind of publicity."

Lemmy sang their praises not just to reporters but also to his community of hard-living limeys in Los Angeles. Most important, Lemmy mentioned Pure Rubbish to Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.

A showcase gig was arranged at Instant Karma, and Sharon jetted in from L.A. just to see them. "That was Derek's debut as a singer," says Punk Daddy. "I did a few songs, Derek did three or four. Next thing we knew she was on the back porch calling Ozzy saying she's got to sign these kids. A couple of weeks later, negotiations started."

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