Formed in 1982, the True Believers married big-beat rock to rockabilly rhythms, a refreshing change in a pre- SXSW Austin music scene dominated by country music and the blues.
A quintet, the group featured three guitarists; brothers Alejandro and Javier Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham, bassist Denny DeGorio and drummer Kevin Foley.
Alejandro Escovedo formed the group after a stint with the Austin cow-punk group Rank and File. Previously he had founded the pioneering San Francisco punk group the Nuns, and after leaving the Nuns had played in no-wave art rocker Judy Nylon’s NYC band Snatch.
Brother Javier founded the pioneering southern Cali punk group the Zeros, while Jon Dee Graham had played in the popular Austin bands the Skunks and the Lift. Drummer Kevin Foley had played with Al in the Judy Nylon Band, while bassist Denny DeGorio had played with the Jefferson Airplane’s/Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen.
With that three guitar attack and a reputation for blistering live shows the group developed a rabid following. Known as The Troobs to their fans, the band also opened for groups like Los Lobos, Green on Red, Love Tractor, and Rain Parade
While they were popular locally, major label A&R reps felt that the band lacked commercial potential and passed on signing them, leaving them instead to the roots music label Rounder Records. Given a a shoe string recording budget of $10,000 the band managed to convince producer Jim Dickinson (yes, that Jim Dickinson) to leave his Mississippi home to produce their debut full length. Recorded over a three-day span True Believers was a glorified demo, but though a bit rough it attracted the attention of EMI-America, who had a distribution deal with Rounder. It also attracted the attention of Rolling Stone who gave it 3-1/2★s and Spin who published a piece about the group.
With a $130,000 advance from EMI the group took a break from touring and began recording album #2 with producer Jeff Glixman (The Georgia Satellites). His suggestion that the band replace their current rhythm with another one to make the sessions more commercially viable lead to intense band in-fighting. In the end DeGorio and Foley were let go, to be replaced by bassist Gordon Copley and drummer Mark Shaffer.
Record #2, however, would never see the light of day, falling victim to a merger between EMI and Manhattan Records. Two weeks before it’s scheduled August 1987 release the newly formed EMI/Manhattan Records dropped from their roster the True Believers, along with, Peter Wolf, The Del Lords, Brian Setzer, The Neville Brothers and Nona Hendryx.
Unable to afford the cost of the masters, Record #2 remained unheard for years. With Hector Muñoz on drums and J.D. Foster on bass the band struggled along, playing live shows, but in late 1987 Javier Escovedo left the group and the True Believers packed it in shortly afterwards.
Following the group’s break-up Alejandro Escovedo released a number of critically acclaimed solo albums while also playing with
glam-punk firebrands Buick MacKane and Texas singer/songwriter supergroup the Setters.
Javier Escovedo played guitar with Will & the Kill, and later worked with the bands the Lost and Sacred Hearts. Jon Dee Graham has worked as sideman with John Doe, Simon Bonney and the Gourds, while his song "One Moment to Another" was recorded by Patty Smyth.
In 1994 Rkyodisc released Hard Road, bringing together the True Believers’ self-titled debut and the unreleased Record #2.
While the self-titled debut might still sound like a demo at times, what songs like "The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over," "Tell Her,"
and a rollicking cover of the Velvet Underground’s "Train Round the Bend"
may lack in polish, are redeemed, in spades, by the band’s sheer enthusiasm.
The real difference between the self-titled debut and Record #2 is that it gets the
band’s wall of guitars on tape with a lot more authority and force,
but the new rhythm section of bassist Gordon Copley and drummer Mark Shaffer doesn’t sound much different then the rhythm section they replaced. Still, on songs like the rocker "She’s Got" or the mid-tempo "One Moment to Another" the True Believers do sound a lot tighter and strike with greater impact.
Singles & EPs:
"The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over" Bands On The Block (LP) Matako Mazuri Records 1985
"Foggy Notion (Search And Destroy)" It’s So Hard To Be Cool In An Uncool World (LP) I Wanna Records 1988
"Alone in a Crowd" Tales From the Edge, Volumes 9 & 10: Deep Ellum: History Bites!-eight Arms to Hold You (2xCD) Reel George 1994
Instruments & Performance:
True Believers/Marianne (as True Believers)
Ry Cooder – Blue City – Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD)Warner Bros. Records 1986
Hard Road (1994)
Playing Time: 74:28
1. Tell Her 3:09
2. Ring The Bell 2:56
3. So Blue About You 4:40
4. Rebel Kind 2:22
5. Train Round The Bend 2:38
6. Lucky Moon 2:42
7. Hard Road 4:04
8. We’re Wrong 3:28
9. I Get Excited 3:05
10. Sleep Enough To Dream 3:53
11. The Rain Won’t Help When It’s Over 3:08
12. She’s Got 4:28
13. All Mixed Up Again 2:23
14. One Moment To Another 3:59
15. Who Calls My Name 3:07
16. Outside Your Door 6:23
17. Wild Eyed And Wound Up 3:55
18. Nobody’s Home 3:30
19. Only A Dream 3:35
20. Home 3:27
21. Please Don’t Fade Away 3:36
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