Musicians Off the Record: Davy Jones

Davy Jones is a distinctive Texas artist whose physical guitar prowess helped spark Austin’s alternative music scene in the 1980s. Having arrived during the capital city’s punk heyday, Jones emerged as a formidable talent while handling guitar duties for the Next. Unconventional in its structure, Jones intense playing routinely invokes fervent, spontaneous responses from overwhelmed audiences. Today, he is best known for his work with legendary Austin cowpunk group, the Hickoids, and its predecessor, the Ideals—a self-described “poor man’s ZZ Top.”

The Hickoids played in a musical language all their own, a combination of unconventional country and hardcore punk cheerfully described as “hardcorn.” With multi-instrumentalist Dick Hayes, drummer Wade Driver, vocalist Jeff Smith and Jones, the Hickoids developed their own, separate culture within the music community, one that enabled the fringe element to sustain a sense of unity.  The infamous, semi-annual Woodshock punk rock fests were a logical extension of that pride, with the Hickoids serving as its quintessential headliner. Their emotional, pulsating hillbilly rhythms resembled nothing its listeners had ever heard.

“I’ve been listening to (Iggy Pop and the Stooges) ‘Raw Power’ every day of my life for the last 30 years,” Jones explains. To Jones, punk was an attitude of freedom and rebellion, a precious avenue of escape. “I always felt like hippie, punk . . . the do-it-yourself-thing” was critical, he remarks, but laments the commercialization of punk today. With bands playing by formulaic “rules”, the genre has grown unadventurous and is “something that’s become culturally ensconced.”

Never one to compromise his playing, Jones recalls the arrival of punk in America. “Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols brought punk back to us, but the original punk rocks were American bands,” he claims. Jones contends that punk was huge in the states, but “because of one show on MTV, the only thing people know about music in the mid 80s is jangle pop. That’s how history is made.”

As in other cities around the country, there were often conflicts associated with punk. In Austin, Jones recollects skirmishes between college fraternity members and punks at Raul’s club on Guadalupe Street. Now he sees like narrow-mindedness in the community’s ethnic divide. “It’s easier for everyone to get along now” but Austin, if anything, sweeps its social problems under the rug. “When people stopped being afraid of black people, Sixth Street started to grow,” Jones states. As for his own musical legacy, Jones remains one of the most widely admired figures on the alternative rock circuit, but reminds that “I’ve always done it for love . . . the original punk rock aesthetic.”