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MYDOLLS

Mary Manning
Mydolls.
Mydolls promotional photo, 1983. The group was among the first inductees into the Houston Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Photograph by Tracy Hart. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

MYDOLLS. The punk/post-punk band Mydolls was formed in Houston, Texas, in 1978 when Trish Herrera (guitar and vocals) and Dianna Ray (bass and chanting) began to write songs together. Soon after, Linda Younger (guitar and vocals) and Herrera’s cousin George Reyes (drums) joined. In 1985 Ray’s future wife Kathy Johnston performed with the Mydolls at their farewell show at the Orange Show (now Orange Show Center for Visionary Art), and she continued performing with them as a band member after they reformed in 2008 until 2011 when she died from myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). 

Largely self-taught, the Mydolls played their instruments unconventionally. Younger sometimes played only the top three guitar strings, while Herrera concentrated on the bottom three, or vice versa, thus achieving a layered sound. Reyes’s Latin and tribal-influenced drumming complemented Ray’s unconventional bass playing and chanting. The band began performing early in the Houston punk community, before the punk genre became more rigidly defined in the mid-to-later 1980s. Early in their careers, they performed with Houston bands Degenerates, Hates, Culturcide, AK-47, Party Owls, Anarchitex, Bevatron, and Really Red as well as with Texas punk bands including Dicks, Big Boys, Meat Joy, Beatless, Buffalo Gals, Stickmen with Ray Guns, Marching Plague, and Butthole Surfers. Their music was influenced by the Red Crayola, Wire, Velvet Underground, and the Raincoats. The band’s name came from the over-the-counter medicine Midol, used to relieve menstrual symptoms, and one of the most memorably-named double bills in Houston punk history occurred when the Mydolls opened for the punk/rockabilly band the Cramps. Mydolls performed with other touring acts, including Minor Threat and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The Mydolls released three recordings on Houston’s C.I.A. Records during the 1980s. Mydolls songs were included on compilations, Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death (Ward-9 Records, 1983), Sub Pop 7 (Sub Pop Records, 1983), and The Dog That Wouldn’t Die (C.I.A., 1986). A double-CD retrospective, A World of Her Own (named after one of their singles), was released by Grand Theft Auto in 2005. Their song “Imposter” appeared on French filmmaker Claire Denis’s 2008 film 35 Shots of Rum (originally titled 35 Rhums). In 2015 the Mydolls eight-song CD It’s Too Hot for Revolution was released on the Betsey label. 

Following their first single, “Nova Grows Up/Therapist/In Technicolor” (1980), the Mydolls traveled to London where they were greeted by native Houstonian Mayo Thompson of Red Krayola (aka Red Crayola), who worked in distribution for Rough Trade Records. On the same trip, John Peel interviewed the band on BBC Radio 1.

In 1983 the Mydolls performed in a bar scene in the movie Paris, Texas (1984)—the Cannes Film Festival award-winning film directed by Wim Wenders and starring Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski. Their single “A World of Her Own,” from their EP Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick, was on the movie soundtrack. The Mydolls performed at the movie wrap party at Dirty’s, a restaurant in the Houston Heights area. 

In addition to touring widely in Louisiana and Texas, the Mydolls toured the Midwest (1983). In 1984 the band embarked on their Go to Fish, East Coast tour. The nine-date tour, which began in Memphis, revolved around an October 14, 1984, performance at New York City’s Danceteria for the premiere of Paris, Texas at the New York Film Festival. The tour concluded in Nashville.

The Mydolls disbanded in 1986 and reformed in 2008. Since then, the band has performed locally and nationally and has played in festivals and events including Noise and Smoke (2008), Denton 35 (2015), Meow Con (2013), and Fabulosa Festival (2015). In 2013 the Mydolls were among the inaugural inductees to the Houston Music Hall of Fame. They opened for the Avengers in San Francisco in 2015 and in 2016 were featured in a music-based lecture series at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. As of 2018 the band still performed for benefits and was active in Girls Rock Houston. Mydolls donated their band archive to the University of Houston Archives Special Collections.   

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

David A. Ensminger, Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation (Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 2011). David Ensminger, “RIP Mydolls Guitarist Kathy Johnston,” Houston Press, September 7, 2011 (http://www.houstonpress.com/music/rip-mydolls-guitarist-kathy-johnston-6767715), accessed January 28, 2019. “Houston Mydolls get a break,” Dallas Observer, January 10-23, 1985 (https://mydolls1978.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/dallasparistxarticle2.jpg), accessed January 28, 2019. “Music News,” Public News, Issue 138, October 18, 1984. Mydolls (http://www.mydollsmusic.com/), accessed January 28, 2019. “Mydolls on Film,” Public News, Issue 95, December 22, 1983. Lance Walker, “Doll Parts: Mydolls,” Houston Press, November 12, 2008 (http://www.houstonpress.com/music/doll-parts-mydolls-6541224), accessed January 28, 2019.

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Citation

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Mary Manning, "MYDOLLS," accessed September 20, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgm31.

Uploaded on January 29, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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