Musicians Off the Record: Randy "Biscuit" Turner

Randy “Biscuit” Turner was a pioneer of the punk rock scene in America in the late 1970s and early 80s. As frontman for the Austin-based band, the Big Boys, Turner galvanized a burgeoning community of Texas musicians, poets and artists with his effervescent on-and-off stage charisma. The Big Boys, who fused hardcore punk with funk rhythms, gave a face lift to the entire live music scene in Texas and widely influenced alternative music acts across the country like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Hailing from Gladewater, Turner was born with the gift to incite and create in everything he touched. His career began at East Texas State, where he found the college life peculiar at East Texas State and thus moved to Austin in the mid-1970s to expand his work as a visual artist and comic actor. A founding member of Esther’s Follies, Austin’s premiere comedy troupe, he was instrumental in creating the punk do-it-yourself philosophy. At Raul’s nightclub near the University of Texas campus, Turner helped make Austin a notorious hotbed of punk activity as vocalist for the Big Boys.

The Big Boys, comprised of fellow skateboard aficionados Tim Kerr and Chris Gates, plus a series of drummers, were the primary reason punk spread across Texas and were the first such act to gain a regional following upon the release of a split single and live album (recorded at Raul’s) with the Dicks.  There would never be a more eccentric and memorable character to influence the genre in Texas than the outrageously costumed Turner, whose legacy was capped with an induction into the Austin Music Hall of Fame. “(People in Austin) pat me on the back when I do something weird,” Turner said.

Offstage, Turner was a gracious master of ceremonies wherever the artistic, fringe element congregated. Turner tirelessly encouraged up-and-coming bands while performing with Cargo Cult, Swine King and the Texas Biscuit Bombs.  Not only was Turner the proverbial godfather of the Austin funk-punk scene, he was a noted visual and fine artist whose works have been displayed in galleries across America. “If I went blind tonight, I would go jump off the river bridge,” Turner said referring to his reliance on art, color and creation, which he hoped would leave behind as big a legacy as his music.       His peers, among them Henry Rollins, Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch, also recognized him for his poetic genius. Turner had a lasting effect in Austin’s theatrical community as well, where he worked as a set designer, actor, and costumer.

This interview for “Musician’s Off the Record,” Turner’s final interview, took place in his home on Wednesday evening, August 10, 2005. A week later, on August 18, he passed away in his residence.