With a name as unique and memorable as Reverend Horton Heat, you would think that his stage name came to "The Reverend" - a.k.a. Jim Heath - in a flash of inspiration. You would be wrong.
"I worked at a place as a sound guy. The guy who owned the place called me 'Horton.' I'm still not really sure why," Heath said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Winston-Salem, N.C. "He heard me playing and singing, and he gave me a gig. As I was setting up, he walks up and says, 'Your stage name is going to be Reverend Horton Heat.' So I told him, 'No, I don't think so.' But he had already had flyers printed up and advertised it. So I had people showing up to my first show, calling me 'Reverend.'
"I was so sort of desperate that I just rolled with it."
The Reverend Horton Heat (Jim Heath), leader and founder of the rock trio of the same name, will bring his band to Altoona’s Aldo’s Lounge on April 12.
Heath, now fronting a rockabilly trio named Reverend Horton Heat, has rolled along with that name to a great deal of success, including 10 albums since 1990 and a respected name in the genre. That doesn't even mention his songs being used in many movie and video game soundtracks and on TV.
Reverend Horton Heat will bring its brand of high-energy rock to Aldo's Lounge in Altoona at 7 p.m. April 12. The small club has had some success in the past year with pulling in established national acts, previously featuring Michale Graves, former lead singer of The Misfits, and Marky Ramone, of punk legends The Ramones.
According to the owner of Aldo's Lounge, Rich McGarvey, the national acts have begun to get some word of mouth out about Aldo's.
If you go
Who: The Reverend Horton Heat
When: 7 p.m. April 12
Where: Aldos's Lounge, 623 N. Fourth Ave., Altoona
Tickets: $20 in advance (until Wednesday) and $25 at the door. Tickets available at Aldo's Lounge and Custom Skin Art, Altoona or by calling 943-9907.
"We've been pulling in some nationals lately and after we got Marky Ramone last year, he forwarded us the contact information for the Reverend Horton Heat," McGarvey, who bought Aldo's last June, said. "We've had Michale Graves of the Misfits here twice, and he's coming again in May. He really loves coming here."
Unfortunately, there's been an unexpected downside to having big acts come to a venue with a capacity of under 400.
"What we've found is because not a lot of places around here do something like this, some people think we're joking," McGarvey said, the exasperation apparent in his voice. "After the [Marky Ramone] show, we had a lot of people say, 'He was really here? I should've come!' I said, 'Why would I advertise something that wasn't real?'
Still, he said he understands the confusion: "We just don't get this kind of stuff here in Altoona."
Heath says the small club doesn't bother him in the least.
"We still do all sorts of small places," he said. "What matters to me the most is the enthusiasm of the people and the sound of the room. A small place that has an enthusiastic crowd and a good sound system - we just love it."
It should be a natural fit for Reverend Horton Heat's music, too. According to Heath, his biggest influences would seem far more at home in bars than arenas.
"I really love mid-century American stuff - all different music from that era," the 54-year-old Texan said. "I love the early country stuff. I actually got into that whole era of music by getting into the blues, the Chicago blues. I really love all sorts of stuff from that era. I really like Henry Mancini. ... Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. ... It's just the stuff that I love."
Reverend Horton Heat is often thrown into the category of "psychobilly," but Heath doesn't really embrace that label.
"I, personally, have never described our sound as psychobilly," he explained. "I have a song called "Psychobilly Freakout," and I think I got credited with that [link]. We got started as a more of a rockabilly band. ... Psychobilly is more of a European thing.
"In general, it's high-energy rock and roll. We're a rock and roll band."
"Psychobilly Freakout" is the band's first single and the rapid-fire guitar work that Heath does in the song has made it popular over the years. The song has been featured in two "Guitar Hero" games - as one of the tougher songs in both - and was featured last year on the CBS show "Hawaii 5-0." In total, the band's music has appeared in at least nine video games and in movies like "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" and "Auto Focus."
"The video games are cool," Heath said. "It's good for us to do that kind of thing. It kind of brings extra, different types of people to our shows.."
Then he added with a laugh: "I can't play my own song on 'Guitar Hero' That's not really my thing."
With Reverend Horton Heat's back catalog still getting play, what about new music from a band that hasn't released a studio album since 2009? Well, the group signed a three-album deal with Victory Records in November, and Heath says they're working on putting out some new music.
"We're recording right now," Heath said. "We're slowly doing some studio stuff right now. We have about five songs recorded and not mixed yet. ... Our plan right now is to be finished by the end of July."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.