Seriously Fun: Los Straitjackets Return To Houston

Los Straitjackets will perform on Friday, September 22 at The Continental Club.
Los Straitjackets will perform on Friday, September 22 at The Continental Club. Photo by Jim Herrington
The delivery of a good joke takes commitment. For Los Straitjackets, what started out as a sort of gag, four suited up and masked guys based out of Nashville playing rock and roll instrumentals, has turned into an almost 30 year stint.

“The funny thing about this band is when the band started I thought it was just going to be for fun,” says founding guitarist Eddie Angel. “I thought we'd play once a month in Nashville and our friends would come out and laugh at us. Ironically, all the other bands I was in, the ones I took seriously, crashed and burned and the one I thought was just for fun became my job.”

Los Straitjackets will return to Houston on Friday, September 22 to perform at The Continental Club where local guitar goddess Allison Fisher & Her Swell Band will open the show.

The last time Los Straitjackets were in town, they served as the backing band for fellow Yep Rock label mate and longtime friend Nick Lowe. Los Straitjackets have worked on several EPs with Lowe over the years and released their own album of Lowe songs on What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets.

The two are once again set to collaborate on the release of a new, full length album together and are planning to tour next year in support of the project. Separately, Los Straitjackets are currently working on their own new album and their first since 2019.

Being an instrumental rock band can definitely have its limitations in the mainstream media, but among lovers of music famous and non-famous alike, it has continued to provide the band with a cult following and opportunities to work with some of their heroes who admire the bands ability to play quality rock and roll, surf and garage rock and beyond.

“The last two summers we've been opening up for Elvis Costello on tour and that has been really great. It’s sort of a pinch myself scenario because those were my favorite artists when I was a kid so it was kind of surreal doing it.”

Angel recalls with joy hearing stories from the Rockpile days and the long and evolving friendship and musical partnership between Lowe and Costello. “I saw Elvis Costello around 1979 and it blew my mind. I was telling people for 40 years that the two best shows I ever saw were Elvis Costello and Jerry Lee Lewis.”
When Angel started the band along with Danny Amis, the one who introduced the masks and used to serve as the band's announcer with his staged and exaggerated Spanish accent, they only had one goal.

“When we first started our philosophy was, we wanted it to be fun and entertaining so those were our two things and then I think we came up with some good songs and then we toured a lot so I think when we put all that together, it gave us a career. We just both had a knack for writing instrumentals.”

For all these reasons, despite changes in the lineup throughout the years Los Straitjackets have maintained their reputation for quality throw back rock and roll.  The current lineup includes Pete Curry, Greg Townson and Chris Sprague.

Amis, who left the band for health reasons in 2010, was a long time admirer of Mexican culture. When Los Straitjackets went to take the stage for their first gig in Nashville, Amis presented the band with a box of luchador masks brought back from one of his many trips to Mexico.

Angel recalls how the guys all went back and forth sort of chickening out on taking the plunge to wear them or not when they decided to go ahead and do it, if not only for a laugh. “We knew right away this was a winner. We can't take those off.”
Despite the band not having any members of Mexican descent, both guitarists bonded over their admiration for Mexican rock of the ‘60s, a time when bands like Los Teen Tops and Los Rebeldes Del Rock brought American rock and roll to the youth of Mexico.

“It’s almost like punk rock or something,” explains Angel. “I mean that in the sense that it’s raw and guys who just do it. They might not be the best musicians but they come up with this really good sound and they come up with some really good rock and roll.”

Angel first picked up the guitar at the perfect pre teen age of 12 and learned from playing mostly instrumentals and his constant exposure to his older siblings love of early rock and roll.

“Elvis. All Elvis all the time in my house so my brain was wired to play like Chuck Berry and ‘60s garage music so it all comes to me naturally,” says Angel of his playing style and early influences.

“Elvis. All Elvis all the time in my house so my brain was wired to play like Chuck Berry and ‘60s garage music so it all comes to me naturally."

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Angel describes a linear dream and trajectory in his life to strictly play music for a living doing anything he could to make that his reality leading him to the opportunity to play with greats like Ronnie Dawson and being one of Tex Rubinowitz’s backing Bad Boys.
“He was my mentor and in 1980 and it was his idea for me to play instrumentals,” says Angel describing how Rubinowitz would play a Link Wray tape before every show at a time when not everyone was familiar with the guitar rock legend.

“One day he said, ‘Eddie, I think we should work up a few instrumentals for the show.’ and honest truth I thought to myself, that's a terrible idea! Nobody wants to hear instrumentals. I thought, that can’t be cool. That's the stuff I did when I was 12 but another lesson learned,” he says laughing.

Los Straitjackets will perform with Allison Fisher & Her Swell Band on Friday, September 22 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main, 8 p.m, $25-40.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes