A Real Barn Burner: The Flamin' Hellcats At Continental Club

The Flamin' Hellcats performing at Rudyards in Pre-COVID days.
The Flamin' Hellcats performing at Rudyards in Pre-COVID days. Photo By Nick Gaitan
The Continental Club has always been a home for the best rock and roll around and a real musicians venue where artists not only play often, but also come out in support of each other.

The club has also been a hub for rockabilly and Latino artists from the city and in a fitting reflection of this, Houston’s own The Flamin’ Hellcats will perform with special guests Shame On Me on Saturday, April 24.

“It should be a barn burner,” says lead singer and guitarist Jaime Marroquin enthusiastically. The Flamin’ Hellcats made a name for themselves in the '90s and early 2000s as a fast playing, hard partying band that would leave ears ringing for days.

The band, originally formed in 1992, doesn’t play too often these days as Marroquin has a full time job selling cars and bassist Lawrence Cevallos is busy with other bands, mainly playing bass with The Broken Spokes.

“They thought the same thing I was thinking, that I would get a job and I'd be miserable,” says Marroquin of his transition from the stage to the showroom. “But as soon as I found out that I could sell cars, all I do is talk about how badass the Hellcat car is, I can't believe I get to do this shit.”

An obvious assumption would be that the band was named after the fast car, but the name actually came from the WWII fighter plane the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the origin of the band name Led Zeppelin who famously joked they would go down like a lead balloon.

Marroquin clarifies with a laugh that the band name was not meant to symbolize that they rocked, but that they sucked and would go down like a ill fated Flaming Hellcat.

He says that they frequently get asked about the band being together or not due to the time between performances and albums to which he replies laughing, “I’m not sure if the band is together. We’ve broken up like 30 times, it’s like a bad relationship but we are all buddies,” he laughs.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the band reunited for a one-night benefit show at the East End Brewery in an attempt not only to raise funds for a friend but also to gauge the interest remaining in the city for their live show.

To their surprise, the entire venue was packed and the next day they were flooded with messages about the show and from disappointed fans who couldn’t get in. “We were sort of patting ourselves on the back,” says Marroquin. “I guess we still have a little bit of a draw.”

The Flamin’ Hellcats brand themselves proudly and accurately as “101 percent Texas Vato-Billy”, a slogan which caught the attention of another rockin’ Texan, Billy F. Gibbons.  They are made up of Houston kids, all from Milby High School’s marching band and all from Mexican descent, which Marroquin explains is not a prerequisite to join the band but simply how the chips fell.

The band has funneled sounds and influences from ska, punk, rock, and swing with a Latino kick and built their fan base around their unforgettable and high energy live performances. The Flamin’ Hellcats successfully captured the ‘90s rockabilly revival combined with the long tradition of cross pollination between Texas music and punk rock made most famous by The Clash.

In their heyday, The Flamin' Hellcats could be found playing in and around Houston and were frequent headliners at the now-defunct rock and roll clubs that lined Washington Ave.  They even ended up on the soundtracks for Varsity Blues and The Third Wish. 

He credits his musical influences to an old car he owned in Lubbock that had the station stuck on KTXT, which exposed him to artists like Nirvana, Tracy Chapman, Screaming Trees and Reverend Horton Heat who the band went on to play with multiple times.

“None of that at the time was being played on regular radio, which I would have been listening to if at the time I wasn’t being forced to listen to KTXT.”

Marroquin chuckles remembering how a teenage Cevallos who was working as a stock boy at Kroger’s approached him boldly telling him that he would play in his band one day. “We’ve had the band forever and he's been my bass player for the longest.”

“As soon as he played, they just sounded perfect,” says Marroquin of his songs. “Other bass players are great, but Lawrence is just perfect to me.”

Marroquin started the band in Lubbock and admits he has gone through his fare share of drummers saying, “We are the Mexican version of Spinal Tap.” After the passing of their former drummer Dallas Jay Hinojosa, also known as DJ Hellcat, the band tried out countless drummers with no luck.

“We are the Mexican version of Spinal Tap.”

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One day, they asked Guillermo Cavazos to sit in with them and when he played each song note for note Marroquin and Cevallos were shocked and amazed.

“He nails all the songs,” says Marroquin of that initial practice. “I mean songs that we would get into arguments with other drummers about missing the breaks and missing the drum beats, he nails it all.”

Marroquin describes looking at Cevallos in disbelief and asking him what was going on when Cavazos told them that he had practiced drums alongside DJ Hellcat for years previously and that’s how he knew their songs.

“It’s perfect,” says Marroquin of the partnership. “He’s just not impressed with us which makes it work.”

“I was working on another project and I had all these new songs written and part of me was just like, damn it, I just wish the Hellcats were doing this.” The band is working on a new album tentatively and ironically titled Better Late Than Never due out later this year and hopefully a sign of more live shows to come.

When asked if the new album will be in line with the classic Hellcats sound of fire and fury Marroquin says, “We really can’t change. If I go play with another band, it’s still going to sound like the Hellcats cause it’s me. When the three of us get together the music may change a little bit, but you can always tell it’s the three of us. It’s just fun. I forget how much I love playing and then we get together and I just lose myself.”

The Flamin' Hellcats will perform with Shame On Me Saturday, April 24 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main. Doors open at 6 p.m. show starts at 7 p.m. outdoor, seated and masked concert, first come first served, $10 cash at door.
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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