L.A. Rockabilly’s Jimmy and the Mustangs are Back!
In the early 1980s, during the peak of the punk movement, Los Angeles became known as the place to go if a musician wanted to expand beyond the three-chord garage passion of the Sex Pistols and the Ska strains of The Clash. Ironically enough, Nashville-rejected country-western singer-songwriters like Dwight Yoakam found L.A. to be the place to launch their career. The seminal L.A. punk band, X began stretching their sounds into roots music, often without the notice of their young audience bent on rejecting the mainstream rock music of the day. But Huntington Beach teenager, Jimmy Haddox noticed.
When he formed Jimmy and the Mustangs at 17 years old, their look and their sound was all about hard-core Sun Records rockabilly. According to Haddox in a recent interview,
“We were in middle of the punk movement. I was the oldest member of the band. My bass player was 13. We played the backyard barbeques and house parties. There were so many punk bands out there, we decided to get into that hard-core 50’s sound from Sun Records. At the time, in 1980, we’d never heard of bands like The Stray Cats.”
The punk energy and the Memphis 50’s passion took the Los Angeles concert circuit by storm. The band emerged quickly building a fan base along the way that included music celebrities and rising stars. Most notably, Robert Plant hired them to play at his private party. In 1982, it appeared Jimmy and the Mustangs were unstoppable.
The band rocked the clubs and punk venues around L.A. so hard, the young punk audiences didn’t know what hit them. They became their own phenomenon — a delirious mix of rockabilly and straight-ahead rock and roll blended seamlessly with the figurative sweat off the brows of Joe Strummer and Sid Vicious. With hard-edged crashing guitars and songs rooted in early country and swing traditions, they seemed to be without rivals. Their live performances remain etched in the history of L.A. music.
Their first gig was in the opening slot of a sold-out show for The Go-Gos who were gearing up for a ride into mainstream pop music.
“They were instrumental in helping to get us started. After we opened for them, they took us around town and introduced us to key people. The bass player at the time, Margo (Olavarria), was in the band then. They really took us under their wing.”
The band continued opening for other significant influential artists like X, The Blasters, and Los Lobos at clubs like The Roxy, The Whiskey, and Club Lingerie. It wasn’t long before they were headlining their own sold-out shows at the same venues. Eventually, they toured with Chuck Berry, Stray Cats, and Joe Ely.
Probably their most famous show was the night at Club Lingerie in 1982 when Bruce Springsteen showed up, which resulted in an East Coast tour with Springsteen and his E Street Band.
“He was in town working on Born in the U.S.A. He said he had read about us. That led to some really great gigs.”
After the L.A. music scene began to cool off into the 90’s and the great bands were either signed or had moved on, Jimmy and the Mustangs future seemed less certain. They were signed to an independent label and released an album. But, soon Haddox’s life began to change direction.
“I started a family. We moved to Austin and built my own business outside of the music industry. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started dabbling in music again. Believe it or not, it was my oldest daughter who really pushed me to get back into music full-throttle. She saw the 1982 YouTubes. I hadn’t done anything in years, but I started recording some new songs. I’ve been working with these musicians for the last two years and I’ve written all new songs over the last year. I’m really happy with the sound. We’ve really got that rhythm thing going.”
So Haddox has begun a campaign through IndieGoGo to help fund the first real Jimmy and the Mustangs album in 35 years. With an eye toward the future, his intent is to begin a full tour after release. At present, the band is getting ready for future live shows at their hometown in Austin, TX.
The sound Jimmy and the Mustangs embraces today is similar to the hard-core rock and roll they championed so many years ago in those early L.A. days. But, with Americana music spreading its wings and flying as a genre of relevance today’s national roots audience is more than ready for the rock and thunder of Jimmy and the Mustangs. It’s very clear that Haddox is aching to get this music out there and to relight a flame that is waiting to be lit.