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THE BIG BOYS
The Big Boys (left to right—Tim Kerr, Chris Gates, and Randy “Biscuit” Turner) achieved cult status internationally for their explorations of funk-influenced punk and were pioneers of the skate punk and hardcore punk genres. Photograph by John H. Slate.
THE BIG BOYS. The Big Boys, a punk rock band, formed in 1979 in Austin, Texas. The founding members were Randy "Biscuit" Turner (vocals), Tim Kerr (guitar), Chris Gates (bass), and Steve Collier (drums). Later drummers included Greg Murray, Fred Shultz, and Rey Washam. The quintessential Austin punk band, the Big Boys achieved cult status internationally for their explorations of funk-influenced punk and later became exponents of the skate punk and hardcore punk genre.
The Big Boys were a vital link between the punk rock music scenes of the East and West coasts and bridged many punk sub-genres, but endeared themselves especially to the skateboarding punk scene of the 1980s. Their unique sound and eclectic influences, from jazz to garage to English Oi music made them both one of the most innovative bands of the United States punk scene but also one that defied classification.
Lead singer Randy Turner’s soul-inspired vocals set him apart from many other singers within the punk genre, and his onstage antics, costumes, and theatrical props contributed to the larger image of the Big Boys as aggressive music with a fun sensibility. Gates’s jazzy but stable bass work provided a grounded counterpart to Kerr’s signature chiming, ringing guitar. The Big Boys also defied punk sensibilities and occasionally incorporated brass instrumentation on funk-inspired songs with the Big Boys horns, comprised of Gates’s brother and high school classmates.
While many of their songs were anthems to pleasure (“Fun, Fun, Fun” and a cover of Kool and the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging”), many others centered on interpersonal relationships (“Complete Control”), apathy (“Apolitical”), or mindless aggression (“Brick Wall”). Never chained to ideology, Big Boys lyrics wavered from inspired rants and polemics to psychological issues such as fear and paranoia.
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From their first self-issued 45 single (“Frat Cars 7” in 1980) through 1983’s Lullabies Help The Brain Grow, their records were pressed in small runs and not extensively distributed, though later compilations such as Wreck Collection (1988) and The Fat Elvis (1993) and The Skinny Elvis (1993) on larger labels brought their music to wider audiences worldwide. Tours of the West and East coasts brought the band national punk scene attention but did not result in mainstream recording contracts. All avid skateboarders, appearances in California’s Thrasher magazine and a signature Big Boys skateboard deck cemented their status as pioneers and champions of the skate punk genre.
Internal disagreements and desires for other musical explorations precipitated the band’s breakup in 1984. Members have continued with many bands. Tim Kerr went on to play with Poison 13, Bad Mutha Goose, Monkeywrench, Jack O Fire, Lord High Fixers, and the Total Sound Group. Chris Gates played in Poison 13, Junkyard, the Charter Bulldogs, and Chris Gates and Gatesville. Of their drummers, Rey Washam played with Jerry's Kids, Scratch Acid, and Ministry. Original drummer Steve Collier moved from drums to guitar and formed Doctors' Mob, whose first album was produced by Chris Gates. Randy Turner performed with Cargo Cult, Swine King, and the Slurpees before his death in 2005.
The influence of the Big Boys includes covers and tributes by a long list of bands both obscure and well-known. Bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, MDC, Suicidal Tendencies, and many other local groups can claim direct influence from the Big Boys.
Austin American–Statesman, August 19, 2005. Big Boys (http://www.soundonsound.org/), accessed September 8, 2015. Big Boys Interview, Suburban Punk #7 (Fall 1983). George Hurchalla, Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1992 (Zuo Press, 2005).
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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, "The Big Boys," accessed February 20, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgb09.
Uploaded on June 3, 2014. Modified on October 24, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.