Houston Music

Houston Acts You Should Probably See ASAP

Note: Because there ain't a whole lot else going on, today Rocks Off is revisiting some of our favorite stories of 2014. Happy Holidays!

The passing of Texas Johnny Brown last year hit me and a bunch of people pretty hard, so the September 12 death of Crusaders pianist Joe Sample was another slap in the face that many of Houston's musical heroes are closer to the end than the beginning. The latest bad news is that bluesmen I.J. Gosey and Little Joe Washington, as well as monumental drummer, educator and community leader Bubbha Thomas, have been in poor health. [Note: since this article was published, Little Joe passed away November 12 at age 75

All of this brought on some surveying of the local landscape and wondering how much longer some of our oldest artists have, and in turn the following list of artists that you need to get out and see while you still can. Nothing morbid here, just the cold, hard facts of time marching on. As Houston's Mike Stinson sings in one of his new songs, "Time is a relentless marching whore." Believe me, I'm on the front lines.


BEANS BARTON & THE BI-PEDS Pre-dating performance art when founded in the psychedelic late '60s as Bruiser Barton and the Dry Heaves -- they opened for Captain Beefheart when he swung through Houston promoting Trout Mask Replica -- the current incarnation played its first gig on the ides of March 1986 at Blythe Spirits. Barton recalls the band's high point as being selected for SXSW in 1988, and their low point as actually playing SXSW in 1988.

During their operatic stage show, Barton removes half a dozen costumes of the characters he portrays in his songs while sitting on a throne and singing, and paints when he's not singing. The Bi-Peds recently concluded a run of sold-out shows at Frenetic Theater performing Barton's The Sink Hole That Ate Spawn Lake, described as "a musicalamity in two acts," and will reprise the production there in January.

JEWEL BROWN Jewel Brown was winning talent contests at the Club Matinee while in junior high. She left Houston for L.A. before moving on to sing in Jack Ruby's Dallas nightclub. But the silky-voiced diva ditched Dallas when Louis Armstrong requested her to join his world-touring ensemble. After a decade with Satchmo, Brown began to sing at major venues in Las Vegas before returning to Houston, where she bought a beauty salon with her brother and later became an insurance broker.

Brown teamed with Milton Hopkins for the well received Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown album in 2012. Her singing appearances are rare these days and certainly not to be missed.

GRADY GAINES Few in the local scene can match Gaines' resume. Little Richard's original sax showman, the 80-year-old Third-Warder is one of the godfathers of rock and roll, also touring the world with Sam Cooke, James Brown, Little Willie John, Joe Tex and Jackie Wilson. Gaines picked up the saxophone after hearing a Louis Jordan record through the open window of a home when he was delivering papers.

Sixty years later, except for a five-year period driving a Skycap at Hobby Airport from 1980-85, he's made his living with his horn and remains in demand for parties and weddings today.

List continues on the next page.

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William Michael Smith