03.11.12

Beware of Bugs!

Posted in Cancer, Rock 'n' Roll at 1:38 pm by George Smith

“Beware of Bugs!” was the warning/announcement on an album by obscure Texas 70s rocker, Nitzinger.

John Nitzinger meant Bugs Henderson, another Dallas-Ft. Worth guitarist/songwriter well known in that regional rock scene.

Bugs Henderson was in the grand tradition of Texas blues guitarists although not nearly as well known as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter and — much later — Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Cancer took him this weekend, making it two weeks in a row that the disease has struck down older American rock musicians.

News of his passing from the the Dallas Morning News:

Local blues guitar legend Bugs Henderson, the fiery blues-rocker with the wicked six-string sting, died Thursday night from complications of liver cancer. He was 68.

Henderson’s death at his home in Jefferson, Texas comes a mere four days after a huge benefit with a slew of well-known musicians was held at Palladium Ballroom to raise money for his medical expenses. Henderson had no health insurance and the cost of his care was mounting. Henderson did not attend that Palladium benefit because he was at home under hospice care.

Henderson, who was born in Palm Springs , Calif. but grew up in Tyler, Texas and spent a part of his life living in Dallas, was not only beloved in the United States as well as overseas, but he was also respected for his signature blend of blues, rock and funk. He was a sweetheart of a guy, too. I only interviewed him once by phone, but it was a relaxed, joyful and genuine conversation.

Thank heaven for hospice care. It’s the only thing left when the end is certain.

Henderson achieved some recognition, first as the guitarist for Texas garage band, Mouse and The Traps, an act with regional hits.

The songs would grow in stature as a niche audience for Sixties pyschedelia and garage punk grew in the late Eighties. Today they’re all preserved — in the cloud, so to speak, on YouTube.

Mouse and The Traps’ best tunes were Maid of Sugar — Maid of Spice, the electric Bob Dylan rip — A Public Execution, and Lie Beg Borrow and Steal, embedded below.


Dig the hepcat sitar line, mimicked on what sounds like banjo, prior to the fuzzed up riff.

Henderson also wrote material used by Bloodrock, a gritty and somewhat frightening-looking Texas rock band that hit the singles charts once, in 1971 with “DOA,” a song about going through the windshield, distinctively performed over the wailing of an ambulance or police car siren.

After Bloodrock, Henderson became second guitarist for Nitzinger, another Fort Worth act that hit that momentarily hit the big time with a trio of major label records, all of them far too hairy and unpalatable for any real success in the American pop market.

Here’s “God Bless the Pervert” with John Nitzinger and Henderson on guitars, from that band’s One Foot in History. It would appear to be in part inspired by Charles Whitman, the Texas Sniper.

But the meat of Henderson’s career was spent growing old with the blues. You can visibly age, lose your hair, even be pretty ugly, and continue to play it for those toiling and slogging toward the end along with you.

“The Big D Shuffle” is emblematic of Henderson’s music and the Texas brand of player’s blues rock. Everyone has to have an instrumental showcase, perhaps several, and Henderson’s shuffle (his Texas band was called the Shuffle Kings) is true to the tradition.

Anyone who likes ZZ Top’s “Apologies to Pearly” will be immediately satisfied.

If the music you’ve played has the span exhibited in the excerpts, you’ve done a real good job.

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