What the HPMAs Looked Like in 1995
Carolyn Wonderland was the queen of the 1995 HPMAs.
Photo courtesy of Bismeaux Records
Think for a minute about how long 20 years is. It may be halfway to retirement for some people (if only), but the people who just graduated from high school this past May or June weren’t even alive yet. If the demographic surveys we glance at every so often are to be believed, a healthy portion of our readership was either college age or a few years in either direction. Looking at it another way: The top-selling album of 1995 was Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View at just north of 7 million copies, more than 2 million ahead of runnerup TLC’s CrazySexyCool. Make of that what you will.
Because this year’s awards are tonight, we thought it might be interesting to dig up the HPMA winners from 1995 and see what and who stood out. The first thing is how much smaller the scene seemed back then, but then the same could be said of Houston itself; if it’s in fact possible to think of a major American city as “small,” that is. Something else that stood out is that although a lot of places have come and gone, the real bedrock of the scene — places like Cactus Music, Rudz, Fitz, The Big Easy and the Mucky Duck — remains intact. Finally, one more lasting impression is of the faint digital footprint left behind by the acts who wouldn’t be around for much longer than ‘95, sometimes bordering on nonexistent. Back then it was still possible for those who didn’t make it to just disappear from the scene, virtually without a trace. That didn’t last much longer either.
BEST NEW ACT
The Jinkies: Brash and Beatlesque, the Jinkies were for a time touted as Houston's great rock hope, with local fans believing they had what it took to make the Big Time. That dream ended when leader Carlos Deleon moved to New York in early '98, but in their wake the Jinkies left one worth-seeking-out CD, Everest, and a lot of spilled beer.
Hadden Sayers Band: The fiery blues-rockers with a serious soulful streak were indeed one of the top acts in town until Sayers’s wife got a job in Ohio and a series of setbacks led him to give up music for a while in favor of restoring an old rustic cabin. Happily, he restarted his career with 2011’s excellent Hard Dollar and is a regular visitor.
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BEST ALTERNATIVE ROCK
Crazykilledmingus: Hard rockers with undeniable similarities to Jane's Addiction and Pearl Jam, but also the “punk-funk” remnants of the Big Boys as well. In August 1995, CKM had recently put out their third release, steadyhead * faster, and had a local fan base big enough to fill up the big room at Fitz, but their days were numbered. A full set from Fitz that year, with better than average sound, has survived on YouTube.
BEST METAL/HARD ROCK
deadhorse: At the time of their '95 HPMA win, deadhorse were still regrouping (as it were) from the less-than-amicable departure of singer and guiding spirit Michael Haaga. The group would split in '96, but rebooted in mid-2011 and, now fronted by ex-DH superfan Mike Argo, are again bringing their hybrid-friendly thrash — or “horsecore,” of course, of course — to a whole new generation of headbangers.
BEST COVER BAND
Toy Subs: Long-running rockers who can still play it all, from the '60s to the '90s and beyond.
Carolyn Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys: With apologies to Miss Molly, Carolyn Wonderland was Houston's queen of the scene in 1995. She left for Austin after releasing 1998’s Miss Understood, and quickly fell in both at legendary club Antone’s and with Bismeaux Records, the label run by Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson. Peace Meal followed in 2011, and then Live Texas Trio earlier this year. Her real home, though, is the road; Wonderland appears at the Rio das Ostras Jazz & Blues Festival in Brazil this weekend. See her next in Houston (for free) September 17 at Discovery Green.
Paul English: For many, many years, the prolific pianist and educator was synonymous with jazz in Houston; he also had a hand in running several of the city's leading jazz venues, including Cezanne, Ovations and '95 Jazz Venue winner Cody's. According to 2015 HPMA Best Jazz nominee Tianna Hall (who calls English “my best buddy and my mentor”), lately he has been working on a number of commissioned classical works and periodically joins her for gigs at Heights-area wine bar Corkscrew.
Planet Schock!: No sense looking for an update on these guys; by the time the HPMAs rolled around, they had been kaput for four months.
The Hunger: This made the Hunger three-time winners in this category, and they were definitely on the rise. The next year, the group released the Universal-distributed Devil Thumbs a Ride, which for a brief moment looked like it might make the Hunger into industrial-pop stars right up there with Stabbing Westward or Gravity Kills. It didn't, but the album has held up quite well through the years; so has keyboardist/singer Tom Wilson's successful Clear Lake-area venue Scout Bar, where the Hunger often plays on major holidays.
Global Village: This plus-size ensemble with a healthy connection to P-Funk's mothership was one of Houston's most popular groups for many years through the mid-'90s, long enough ago that little trace of them survives on the Internet.
BEST REGGAE/WORLD BEAT
D.R.U.M.: Baba Ifalade’s group fusing reggae with Afrobeat, whose apt acronym stands for Divine Rhythm United Motion, won this category many, many times through the late 2000s. D.R.U.M.'s Web site is still active, the band less so, although their most recent recording, Loveternalightruthealingrowthappieness, is still for sale.
Pierre Blanchard & the Zydeco Dots: Blanchard is no longer associated with the Dots, but the group has now won this category more times than anyone can count. They may again this year.
BEST COUNTRY & WESTERN
Sisters Morales: Lisa and Roberta Morales’s bilingual blend of country and folk made them one of Houston’s most popular rootsy groups for at least 20 years. Lisa is still a regular Duck visitor, while Roberta is plying her trade a little further west.
Shake Russell & Jack Saunders: Although they rarely perform together as a duo anymore, the two quintessential Texas troubadors are still very much at the center of Houston’s singer-songwriter community.
Mango Punch!: Walter Suhr’s swinging salsa group is still shaking it. See them at Galleria-area restaurant 51fifteen on August 28.
BEST ACT THAT DOESN'T FIT A CATEGORY
Beans Barton & the Bi-Peds: Opportunities to see the Bipeds are few and far between these days, but highly recommended should one arise.
LOCAL MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
BEST FEMALE VOCALIST
Miss Molly: A fixture at events like “Party on the Plaza” back in the day, the R&B singer reportedly got married, but remained at least semi-active into the late 2000s; opening for Big Brother & the Holding Company in 2007, for example. This Facebook page appears to be trying to coax her out of (semi-?) retirement.
BEST MALE VOCALIST
Brian Torres, Mango Punch
Joe “Guitar” Hughes: An alumnus of the Upsetters (also featuring Grady Gaines and, long ago, Little Richard), Hughes also led the house band at Shady’s Playhouse for several years and for a time played lead guitar for Bobby "Blue” Bland in the 1960s. He was one of Houston’s most beloved musicians for many years, and later in life developed a loyal following in Europe. He passed away in 2003.
Chris King, Carolyn Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys
Leesa Harrington, Carolyn Wonderland & the Imperial Monkeys
BEST HORN/HORN SECTION
Marie English, The Basics: English, who also played keyboards for Jerry Lightfoot, Dr. Rockit and Tommy Dardar, drew a wealth of tributes from the local music community when she passed from knee-surgery complications in April 2013. “"Marie was an exceptional piano player and musician, said Rick Lee, leader of Rick Lee & the Nite Owls. “She could really play the blues, along with any other kind of music."
Carolyn Wonderland/Eric Dane
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Walking With Colleen,” Jerry Lightfoot: A tribute to his recent bride by one of Houston’s most important and colorful musicians from at least the early ‘80s on. Lightfoot passed away in 2006; longtime Houston Chronicle pop critic Marty Racine pays tribute here.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Raisin' Cain, Jesse Dayton: The never-idle Dayton moved to Austin and followed Cain with solo albums Country Soul Brother and One for the Dance Halls, plus a well-received duets album with ATX honky-tonk singer Brennen Leigh, Holdin’ Our Own. More recently he worked with Rob Zombie on the music for Zombie’s film House of 1,000 Corpses, established a popular residency at Austin’s Broken Spoke, toured in a trio with John Evans and Mike Stinson, and this summer has been acting as a fill-in guitarist for X.
BEST RECORD STORE
Cactus Music & Video: The store moved a few blocks south to Shepherd Plaza in late 2007 (and eventually dropped the “Video” from its name), but Cactus is as vital to Houston's music community as it's ever been, if not more so.
BEST ROCK/POP VENUE
Fabulous Satellite Lounge: Apart from Walter’s, Dickie Malone’s Fabulous Satellite Lounge was the last great live-music bar on Washington Avenue. Luckily, the Continental Club has been more than able to fill the roots-rock/Austin-friendly void created when the Satellite closed in early 2003.
BEST BLUES VENUE
The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club: A landmark not just of the music scene but the city itself, the Big Easy has become a beacon to blues lovers from far beyond Houston, but the staff still runs it with the utmost local charm.
BEST JAZZ VENUE
Cody's: Before Scott Gertner moved his rooftop SkyBar into the since-demolished building at 3400 Montrose, Cody's was the room with the view and home to the best players around; Cody's eventually branched out into Rice Village and Galveston's Strand district, too. From a 2005 thread on the Houston Architecture Forum:
I remember that it also had two balconies outside, one was very large and held about 45 or 50 people while the other was quite small but quaint. Both had great views of Downtown. I also remember that you would ride an elevator from the ground to the top, and the elevators opened right into the club. It was kind of shocking.
BEST FOLK/C&W VENUE
McGonigel's Mucky Duck: See above Big Easy blurb, only substitute “singer-songwriter” or “folk” for “blues.”
BEST LATIN/TEJANO VENUE
Elvia's Cantina: Now appears to be a Church of Scientology outpost.
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