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Reverend Horton Heat ready to light up Wildwood Saloon
Rockabilly band bringing new fire to road shows
Jim Heath met his musical soul mate 35 years ago and hasn’t let go.
Heath, aka Reverend Horton Heat, saw bassist Jimbo Wallace belt out Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” in a Texas club and was hooked. A rockabilly union commenced that has never wavered. Drummers come and go, but vocalist-guitarist Heath continues to write, record and tour with Wallace.
“Jimbo is a total throwback like me,” Heath said while calling from his Allen, Texas, home. “When I first saw Jimbo on bass, I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He’s been with me all of these years and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.”
If you go
What: Reverend Horton Heat
Where: Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon, 4919 Walleye Dr. SE, Iowa City
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, March 5, 2023
Tickets: $20 advance, $25 door; wildwoodsaloon.com/
Band’s website: reverendhortonheat.com/
“Roots of the Rev (Volume 1),” which dropped Feb. 24, includes “Twenty Flight Rock” and a number of other rockabilly classics from the ’50s.
“We selected a bunch of songs that have a connection with our sound,” Heath said. “We had a blast playing some of our favorite songs. We had old-school fun while recording with very few microphones, with just a few overdubs. These songs are perfect to play live.”
Reverend Horton Heat will deliver the raw and powerful tunes Sunday, March 5, 2023, at the Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon in Iowa City.
“What Jimbo and I have in common is that we’re both grateful. It’s been that way for 35 years,” Heath said. “We’re grateful whether we’re playing in front of a big crowd or performing in front of 300 people in a club. This is our life. It’s not a life for everyone. I remember how hard it was when we were starting out. ‘
Heath laughed when recalling what it was like when he and Wallace were a pair of struggling fledgling recording artists.
“I remember washing my hair in a Burger King bathroom and sleeping on the floors of strangers’ homes,” Heath said. “We did whatever it took to get from town to town and save some money.”
Sub Pop signed The Rev, releasing the band’s debut album, 1990’s “Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em,” which earned critical acclaim.
Chart success followed with “It’s Martini Time,” which hit 165 on the Billboard 200 in 1996. That album, loaded with incendiary cuts, was buoyed by the fiery single “Rock This Joint.” The straightforward rockabilly tunes won over a loyal fan base.
“We have a dedicated group of people who follow us,” Heath said. “They come out tour after tour and they share a bond with us, which is loving this style of music. They also know what to expect from us.”
Some younger audiences might not be aware of what the trio, which also includes drummer Jonathan Jeter, delivers. While the contemporary sounds of electronic dance music pulsated across the packed fields at Coachella in 2016, Reverend Horton Heat kicked off a set of retro rockabilly at California’s most significant arts festival.
“The cool thing about Coachella is that they know they need real bands to play their event,” Heath said. “You can’t have a music festival with just dance music and YouTube sensations. You need more than that.”
The Rev offers tunes that typically are about escapism. Fast cars and even faster women with a beer chaser is typical Reverend Horton Heat fodder.
“I think people always need to get away, and now they need to get away more than ever with all of the craziness going on in the world,” Heath said. “You come out and see us and we’ll take you away for a little while.”
Heath can't imagine continuing on without Wallace.
“It wouldn’t be the same without Jimbo,” Heath said. “He's the most gung-ho person I’ve ever met. When the tour is set, he doesn’t ask about what cities we’re going to. He just wants to go out there and play music. It never gets tired for him or me, even after all of these years of being on the road.