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TURNER, RANDALL JOSEPH [BISCUIT]

Randy ''Biscuit'' Turner
Randy "Biscuit" Turner, iconic skate punk pioneer, helped put funk into punk with his soulful musical stylings and imaginative costumes. Photograph by Dixon E. Coulbourn, Courtesy of John H. Slate.

TURNER, RANDY “BISCUIT” (1945–2004). Randy Turner, musician, artist, and actor, known as Biscuit or Mr. Biscuit, was born Randall Joseph Turner on November 25, 1945, the son of Nellie Mae and Oliver Turner. He was raised in Gladewater and attended public schools, graduating from Gladewater High School in 1967. Turner’s future performance career was foreshadowed by his participation in the winning first-place entry in the University Interscholastic League’s One Act Play contest in 1967. After brief studies at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University–Commerce), Turner moved to Austin in 1970.

Turner supported himself with many different jobs throughout his adult life, including retail, food service, street vending, a foundry, and warehouse work. His artistic pursuits, however, were art, music, writing, and occasional acting. Turner’s contributions to Texas music and art were epitomized by his outrageous performances as the lead singer for the seminal Austin punk rock band the Big Boys, and he was an important figure in the development of Austin as a major city in the American punk rock music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Through the Big Boys, Turner helped forge the skate punk and punk funk genres, introducing funk rhythms into hardcore punk and influencing later bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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Wearing wildly imaginative handmade costumes ranging from Dada-absurdist to full-scale drag, Turner’s visual impact was complemented by his soulful, melodic voice. His own presence was matched by his prodigious output of eclectic art (primarily surrealistic collages), poetry, and song lyrics. Turner’s artwork appeared in hundreds of band flyers and cover art for a number of recordings, and his work was displayed in both group and solo shows. Occasionally his thoughts found form in essays such as “The Flies of Texas are Upon You.” His work in local theater and revues in Austin included Esther’s Follies and Big State Production’s Our Town.

Randy Turner joined Austin’s Big Boys as lead singer in 1979 until their dissolution in 1984, followed by the fronting of groups Cargo Cult, Swine King, the Slurpees, and the Texas Biscuit Bombs. His work in the Big Boys was praised by fellow musicians as diverse as X's Exene Cervenka, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye, producer Steve Albini, and the Misfits’ Glenn Danzig. Turner and the Big Boys’ love of skateboarding led to being featured in Thrasher skateboarding magazine and videos, and they had their own Turner-designed skateboards. Perhaps most importantly, Turner embraced and preached the ethos of “Do-it-Yourself” and joined his Big Boys bandmates in preaching the mantra, “Now start your OWN band.”

Randy Turner was found dead from hepatitis C complications in his home on August 18, 2005. He was cremated, and a service was held in Gladewater on August 27, 2005. Turner was later honored by the Austin City Council when they designated October 8, 2005, as “Randy ‘Biscuit’ Turner Day.” In 2011 he was inducted into the Austin Music Memorial.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, August 19, 21, 2005. Austin Chronicle, August 26, 2005. Margaret Moser, “Randy ‘Biscuit’ Turner,” Austin Music Database, Austin Chronicle (http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/AMDB/Profile?oid=oid:422218), accessed June 14, 2011.

John H. Slate

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John H. Slate, "Turner, Randall Joseph [Biscuit]," accessed October 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftu36.

Uploaded on March 21, 2015. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.