Edgar "The Big E" Salazar is a DJ, but not of the sort one would expect to find as a graduate of Madison High School on Houston's southwest side. Back in the late '80s at the predominantly African-American school, when his classmates were into Eric B. and Rakim, Too $hort and NWA, Salazar favored the punk styles of Black Flag, Corrosion of Conformity and Minor Threat.

The burly, tattooed Salazar, who is a welder by day and a doorman by night (among many other trades), chuckles: "It was pretty wild back then," he says one recent day at the Satellite Lounge as a twangy guitarist tunes up on stage during a sound check. "I was a kid running around with blue hair, and they would mess with me. At least it was the school colors. But I managed to pull it off, I guess."

During high school, Salazar had little time and less esteem for the rockabilly music that has come to be his driving passion in the years since. "I remember growing up saying, 'Ahhh, Elvis sucks,' " he recalls. "[B]ut I never gave him a chance. I was listening to punk, and you're kinda anti-everything. But I actually sat down and gave it a chance, and I was like, 'Wow, this is cool. This is how it all started.' "

Salazar's odyssey from teen punk to adult rockabilly cat began with a baby step into the waiting arms of the Cramps. "A friend of mine got into psychobilly, which is like '50s [rock] with punk attitude. Your hair's a little exaggerated, you know, with the sides shaved off, pompadour's a little exaggerated, maybe green or blue. I got into that, and then I got into the roots of where it all started. And then from there, I was hooked."

Just then the twangy guitarist, who had been tuning up throughout our interview, was joined in a foot-tapping cascade by the bass and drums, and The Big E and I were exiled to the FabSat's outer orbits. Salazar discussed his projects, which include guest co-hosting (with the Luxurious Panthers' Buddy Demon) a weekly hour on Rad Rich's KPFT show, deejaying at various hops around town (like Thursday nights at the FabSat) and staging live shows anywhere that will allow him to put a band on stage. Then there's the CD Big E's Lone Star Record Hop, which he compiled. It features 19 tracks of the best of the best of active Texas rockabilly, including old-timers like Ray Campi and Mack Stevens, right down through the Road Kings, John Evans and Southern Backtones.

"This is just a hobby for me," he says. "This is just for love of music. The way I see it is if I wasn't doing this stuff, I would probably be spending all my money going to these shows anyway. I've always done shows, but it's always been at dives like Live Bait, or we'd pull some booths out over at Prince's burger joint over on Westheimer and have bands there. We used to do it over at Blue Iguana. That was fun, man. Mr. Chadd Thomas used to be doing this kind of stuff, but since he got his band going, he ain't doing it anymore. So I just picked up where he left off."

Now, Salazar knows the stakes are raised. His 30th birthday show -- billed as "Rocket, Baby, Rocket" and set for Saturday, July 7, at the Satellite -- is his most ambitious undertaking to date. It promises much more than just music. The whole rockabilly lifestyle will be represented, quite literally head to toe. There will be plenty of amped-up rhythms for your dancing feet, as well as two booths of vintage threads to clothe your body. To top it all off, six-time Dallas Observer Best Barber Rob Vilarreal will bring his rockabilly Chop Shop to town, offering up pompadours and flattops and plenty of grease to keep your quiff stiff.

Where one hears rockabilly, hot rods are not usually far off, and this will be no exception, with two car clubs slated to attend. Not to be outdone, an equal number of motorcycle clubs also plan to represent. Manufacturing this American-made vehicular music on stage will be the Luxurious Panthers, the Fabulous Harmonaires (doo-wop from Dallas), Alvis Wayne, Matt Hole and His Hot Rod Gang, and Chadd Thomas & The Crazy Kings. DJs Lucky LaRue, Johnny DeLuxe, and The Big E himself will take turns spinning in the FabSat's booth.

This will be "a lot harder because the Satellite's not a dive," says Salazar. "We'd have like 40 to 50 people at those other places, and it would look like a sold-out show. Here, you put 40 people in, and you aren't doing a dent. We're just gonna give it a chance and see if it works, and if it doesn't, we'll just go back to doing the dives."

Still audible on the FabSat's back porch, the twangy guitarist was now in Chuck Berry overdrive as the interview came to a close.

"I see rockabilly as both a music and a way of life. The way I got my house -- the '50s oven and the '50s toaster, two-tone floors. I like vintage stuff."

Scuttlebutt Caboose

While it's always sad to lose a true American original like John Lee Hooker, his was as pleasant an exit from this earth as can be had. He went to bed in good-as-can-be-expected health and never woke up. In life, he got the Mercedes-Benz, the mansion, the Dodger season tickets and the adulation that so many blues folks get only in death. He was heard to say recently in a radio interview: "I've thought about it, and there's nothing I haven't done that I would like to do." How few of us are lucky enough to be able to say that when the Reaper calls? Not that his music will ever die, anyway. Hooker's haunting 1940s King recordings like "Devil's Jump," "Goin' Mad Blues" and "Nightmare Blues" (available on the Fremeaux & Associates CD Blues: 1948-1949) are Hooker (and American music) at his best, which was always Hooker alone with the primal, mesmerizing boogie he invented. Scratch beyond the sampled-to-clichédom "Boom Boom," and "Boogie Chillun" and the not-bad-as-these-things-go1990s superstar collaboration era, and you will find treasures beyond measure among his 900-plus recordings…Sadly, the recent peripatetic activity of the rediscovered 93-year-old Cuban sonero Compay Segundo has ceased, perhaps permanently. The constant touring in the wake of his 1997 Buena Vista Social Club rebirth took its toll. Segundo collapsed and was hospitalized for several days, with what was described as "severe exhaustion." Cuban doctors say that Segundo, whose authoritative tres lick on "Chan Chan" kicked off the whole BVSC phenomenon, likely will never perform again. Coupled with the December death of another Buena Vista mainstay, vocalist Manuel "Puntillita" Licea, one realizes all too well how timely Ry Cooder's trip to Cuba was. From the Department of Extremely Qualified Information: Segundo is believed to be the oldest musician to have ever sold one million copies of new recordings…ToneZone Records' Bobby Joe Rose reports that Houston's Bamboo Crisis will be touring eight U.S. cities in late June and early July with Femmes of the Flesh. Most dates are on or near the East Coast…Billy Gibbons recently showed up to co-host Clint Broussard's KTRU Wednesday-night blues show. Gibbons had the joint rockin' with vintage Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor and Hop Wilson tunes, among many others pulled from his vast collection…Martha Turner will grace the stage (backed by Eugene Moody) at Miss Ann's Playpen, 3710 Dowling, during a very special "Bar-B-Que and The Blues," beginning at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July. A mere $5 gets you a seat and a plate o' 'cue…Albums that give Racket goose bumps: Cincinnati rockers Ass Ponys' Lohio, Marino De Rosas' masterpiece of Sardinian guitar Meridies, Mark O'Connor's ode to Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt Hot Swing, Los Hombres Calientes' New Congo Square, Vol. 3. Also, three releases from some of the great voices in America: Tracy Nelson's Ebony and Irony, John Boutte's At the Foot of Canal Street and Toni Price's soon-to-be-released Midnight Pumpkin, which is as good as anything released anywhere this year.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax