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Strap in for the Cowpunk Ballad of T. Tex Edwards

The Nervebreakers in the year they tried to hijack the radio, T. Tex Edwards in foreground
The Nervebreakers in the year they tried to hijack the radio, T. Tex Edwards in foreground

The gig is flying a bit under the radar, but Saturday the Big Top hosts T. Tex Edwards, one of the legends of early Texas punk. Known as one of the earliest cowpunks, Edwards was butchering George Jones songs when Jason and the Scorchers were still sloppin' hogs in Iowa.

He has always specialized in goofball eccentricity and exhibited a big jones for country murder ballads done in a spirit of deranged delight. As a teenager, Edwards was the vocalist for the now legendary Nervebreakers, a post-garage Dallas ensemble that feared no band. Although they never hit the big time nationally, Nervebreakers are probably best known for backing Roky Erickson at Dallas' Palladium in 1979, a performance eventually released as Erickson's Dallas Live album in 1992.

But young as they were, the Nervebreakers were already seasoned pros by the time punk hit big time. When the Ramones played Dallas in 1977, the Nervebreakers were there opening and showing the New Yorkers that the world wasn't just their oyster. It got better, according to Frank Campagna as he described the band on the discogs.com Web site.

In 1978 the Sex Pistols set out to swindle America but it was the Nervebreakers who stole the show at the Longhorn Ballroom. In 1979 when the Clash were calling here at Dallas Palladium, Nervebreakers let them know they weren't in London anymore."

While the Nervebreakers -- Barry "Kooda" Huebner, Bob Childress, Carl Giesecke, Michael Haskins and Edwards -- would dissolve before fame could find them, they remain under-recognized heroes of an exciting musical period in Texas.

Hickoids front man and Saustex media honcho Jeff Smith says the Nervebreakers should have been much bigger than they were.

"If Texas had had the fanzines and scene that New York, San Francisco, London, and L.A. had, those guys would probably be much bigger than just an historical footnote in the whole punk revolution," Smith surmises. (Smith, who resides in San Antonio, says he missed the Sex Pistols/Nervebreakers date "because my brother swiped my tickets.")

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The 'Breakers one big song was "My Girlfriend Is a Rock," which actually made some waves on radio in San Francisco, Boston and a few other cities. But it wasn't enough to keep the band together.

Edwards eventually formed another dangerous band in Austin in 1984 called Out On Parole but, in spite of some favorable critical notice for their 1989 album Pardon Me, I've Got Someone To Kill, he and his conspirators again found little beyond musical anonymity except in some in-the-know punk circles. Packed with titles like "L.S.D. Made a Wreck Out of Me" and over-the-top covers of Leon Payne's Houston classic "Psycho" and Porter Waggoner's spooky "Rubber Room," the album didn't make much of a dent, but was reissued as a CD by Saustex in 2007.

Edwards comes to town Saturday as the entertainment part of this weekend's "Carnival of Ink" graphics fair. The Hancock Brothers open.

Edwards will have plenty of heavy firepower behind him in his band, Purple Stickpin, comprised of guitarists Davy Jones and Tom Trusnovic of Hickoids fame, Le Roi Brothers bassist Pat Collins, and drummer John Belley, whose father was guitarist in garage-rock hitmakers the Human Beinz.

10 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at Big Top Lounge, 3714 Main.

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