The North Texan Online UNT North Texan contents UNT North Texan feature stories UNT North Texan eagle tale UNT  North Texan alumni news UNT North Texan feedback
MoreUNT North Texan time tracksUNT newsUNT North Texan contact usUNT North Texan past issues
Denton Rocks!  by Kelley Reese
Spring 2002      

story extras

More photos

web links


Bowling for Soup



Polyphonic Spree

The Hundred Inevitables

other features

Larry McMurtry’s Dream Job

Fat in America

Denton Rocks!

Connecting People and Pets

photo of the band Slobberbone


Brent Best is a bona fide rock star

That fact surprises the unassuming frontman of Slobberbone more than it does anyone else. And it should.

After all, when Best (’93) and Tony Harper (’95), the band’s drummer, first started playing together as students at North Texas, they were just having fun — hoping for some free beer (their first real gig was in a liquor store) and concentrating on making enough music to fill 20 minutes during a party. When things got a bit more serious, the bass player, Brian Lane (’94), would make fliers and stick ’em on every light pole and kiosk on Fry Street and around campus.

And because it didn’t matter, they settled on their name while watching a dog chew a toy — a decision that haunts them today with much-begged questions about its origins.

“If I’d known we’d do anything other than play around for fun, we might have thought about the name,” Best says. “I certainly never expected to be insured and bonded with Slobberbone LLC receiving paychecks and paying other people.”

But that’s just where he finds himself eight years down the road — touring regularly across the United States and Europe, playing to crowds ranging from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand (as part of the Dutch Freedom Day Festival in Amsterdam last year), recording a fourth album and building a legion of loyal fans.

Emerging underground

A town with far more bands than clubs, Denton has always been an incubator for musical talent.

And it seems to produce musicians, like Slobberbone, who concentrate on having fun and sounding good rather than being successful.

In the early 1990s, the underground sounds of Denton bubbled to the surface and people noticed — albeit not for the first time, since Denton’s musical prowess is a cyclical phenomenon.

The main clubs of Denton at the time — the Gravity Room, the Library and later Rick’s Place — were hosting funk bands of the Goodfoot, Whitey, Billygoat and Ten Hands variety. Just beneath that surface, in the living rooms and back yards around campus, another group of bands began playing by their own rules.

Led by the likes of Baboon, Brutal Juice and Caulk (a trio occasionally dubbed the “Fraternity of Noise”), these bands began to get noticed.

When the Gravity Room became Dr. Smith’s: The Main Event (today it’s Muther’s), pretty much any band with a demo had a venue to play a show.

“We decided the cover charge, ran the door and sold homemade T-shirts,” says Andrew Huffstetler (’93), vocalist for Baboon.

Diverse sound

photo of the band Centro-matic

That freedom bred a determination and confidence that allowed the bands to do whatever they wanted musically.

And with the help of Sam McCall (Brutal Juice) and a four-track recorder, almost every band in town could cut an album to shop to labels.

Over the years, Denton’s musical output has not only been good, but also diverse — creating a broad tolerance for all styles of music.

And that’s why Adam’s Farm, a trio dedicated to playing up-front Americana-style rock ’n’ roll, would easily share the bill with CornMo, an accordion-playing soloist who sang about kolaches with stolen fruit, and the Grown Ups, a horn-driven ska band.

It’s also why the shooting-star fame of Tripping Daisy visited the cafeteria of West Hall — the dorm where the group’s bassist, Mark Pirro (’93), and guitarist, Wes Berggren, both lived and first met.

Denton’s pinnacle ’90s band was perhaps the Dooms UK — a group
that captured the very spirit of Denton, especially as every Denton musician seemingly played with them at one time or another.

“Possibly my most ‘Denton’ moment
happened when I was walking home from work one evening and the guys in the Dooms drove by and asked if I was free,” says Will Johnson (’97), founder and frontman of Centro-matic.

“And not an hour later I was at some gig in Dallas on stage with the band playing accordion, and I’d never played accordion before
in my life,” he says.

Denton bound

photo of the band Bowling for Soup


That dedication to pushing the boundaries is what fostered the fertile musical ground Wichita Falls band Bowling for Soup sought in 1996 in its move to Denton.

“I remember at that time it seemed Denton had just taken over the entire Metroplex scene,” lead singer Jaret Reddick says. “And I knew that if we were going to try to make it in music, we needed to be there.”

Because the music they were playing was divergent from the main sounds in town at the time, they were warmly received and have called Denton home ever since.

Their second major label release — Drunk Enough to Dance — debuts this summer in America after first coming out in Europe to support their UK tour.

It will soon be followed by the fourth release from Slobberbone.

And with each album that hits the market and each new band that begins to play, Denton’s musical legacy grows.

Music town

The bands of the ’90s followed the likes of the New Bohemians, Sara Hickman (’86), Brave Combo, Little Jack Melody and others.

Just as before them, stars like Pat Boone got their start on the North Texas Main Auditorium stage with the Aces of Collegeland, who played on campus for more than 30 years. And in the early ’40s, jazz legends Herb Ellis, Jimmy Giuffre, Gene Roland and Harry Babasin were playin’ around in their house on Normal Street.

The scene today is as viable as it ever has been. And according to those it spawned, it always will be.

“It’s a proud community full of hard-working, humble people who are committed to making music for music’s sake,” Best says.

“And this town’s too small and too full of talented people to start feeling too large — if you do, you’ll be shown to the city line.”

Check out the Denton Music Guide

UNT home UNT calendarCampaign North TexasNorth Texas Exesathletics