The Reverend Horton Heat

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The Reverend Horton Heat
The Reverend Horton Heat performing in 2010
The Reverend Horton Heat performing in 2010
Background information
OriginDallas, Texas, U.S.
GenresPsychobilly,[1] rockabilly[1]
Years active1985–present
LabelsFour Dots, Sub Pop, Interscope, Time Bomb, Artemis, Yep Roc, Victory
Past members

The Reverend Horton Heat is the stage name of American musician James C. Heath (born 1959) as well as the name of his Dallas, Texas-based psychobilly trio. Heath is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. A Prick magazine reviewer called Heath the "godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly".[2]

The group formed in 1986, playing its first gigs in Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood. The core members are Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath on guitars and lead vocals, and Jimbo Wallace on the upright bass. The band signed to Victory Records in 2012, and released its 12th studio album, Whole New Life, on November 30, 2018.

The band plays rock and roll with influences from 1950s country, surf, punk, big band, swing, and rockabilly standards.[3]

Early career[edit]

Heath in 2006

Heath was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was raised with an appreciation of rock, electric blues and rockabilly. He was influenced by country music artists such as Junior Brown, Willie Nelson, and Merle Travis. He played in local bands until 1985 when he gained notice in Dallas as "Reverend Horton Heat", the moniker bestowed by the owner of the Deep Ellum neighborhood nightclub where he played.[4]

Adding bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Taz Bentley in 1989, Reverend Horton Heat recorded for Sub Pop at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle and Crystal Clear in Dallas, which made up the majority of material on Reverend Horton Heat's debut album, Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em (1990).[5] For the next album, the band recorded with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers producing at Ardent Studios in Memphis: The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat (1993).

Jimbo Wallace uses the slap bass technique.

Interscope Records joined with Sub Pop to co-release the band's third album Liquor in the Front (1994). Al Jourgensen of Ministry produced the album.

Chart success[edit]

Scott Churilla replaced Bentley as drummer in the mid-1990s, and the band released It's Martini Time in 1996. The album brought the band its first Billboard chart success,[4] reaching number 165 on the Billboard 200. The band covered the boogie standard "Rock the Joint", and the song "It's Martini Time" was a minor hit. Later that year, Heath brought his street preacher style to the television series Homicide: Life on the Street, and he appeared on The Drew Carey Show in 1997.[4]

The 2000 album Spend a Night in the Box was released through Time Bomb Recordings, with Paul Leary producing. The style was a return to straight-ahead rockabilly songs.[6] The album rose through CMJ's charts to peak at number 2 in May.[7][8]

The song "Like a Rocket" served as the theme for the 2002 Daytona 500 autosports race. The band featured the song on their next album, Lucky 7.[9]

Victory Records signed Reverend Horton Heat in 2012, and Scott Churilla returned to the band as drummer, playing for the next five years.[10] An album titled Rev was released on January 21, 2014. A YouTube video for a single on the album, "Let Me Teach You How to Eat," preceded the album on November 12, 2013. Rev rose to number 111 on the Billboard 200, becoming the band's highest-charting album. The band toured as opening act for Motörhead, and recorded rock and roll songs with Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, though the tapes are unreleased. Reverend Horton Heat also backed a number of other artists such as Unknown Hinson, Jello Biafra and Deke Dickerson.[11][12]

In 2017, drummer Churilla was replaced by Arjuna "R.J." Contreras, formerly of the band Eleven Hundred Springs.[13] Matt Jordan of West Virginia joined the band playing piano and organ as well as supporting vocals. They released the album Whole New Life in 2018.[14]

In 2021, Heath and Wallace teamed with drummer Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) to form a side project: The Jimbos.[15]

Commercial appearances[edit]

"Psychobilly Freakout", and later "Wiggle Stick", were both featured in video segments on the show Beavis and Butt-Head. The song "I Can't Surf" was part of the soundtrack of the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, published in 2001. "Psychobilly Freakout" was used on a commercial for Buell American Motorcycles and a slightly altered version was featured in the game Guitar Hero II and later on Guitar Hero Smash Hits. Their song "Baddest of the Bad" is featured on the soundtrack to Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. The 1997 video game Redneck Rampage also includes two of their songs, "Wiggle Stick" and "Nurture My Pig!". The song "Big Red Rocket of Love" is featured in the video games The Sims 3, MotorStorm and Need for Speed: The Run, and a slightly altered version of the song was featured in a 1999 television commercial for the Mazda Miata. The song "Pride of San Jacinto" is featured on the video game Hot Wheels Turbo Racing. The song "Let Me Teach You How to Eat" was featured in a 2017 Subway commercial. The song "Mad, Mad Heart" is featured in the video game Far Cry 5.


Heath has a signature guitar from the Gretsch Guitar company, the 6120RHH. One of his favorite vintage guitars is a 1954 Gibson ES-175, which he rarely plays on the road since its wiring buzzes in certain venues. His favorite amplifier was the Fender Super Reverb but is now the Gretsch Executive.[16]

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Jim Heath: guitars, vocals (1985–present)
  • Jimbo Wallace: upright bass (1989–present)
  • Jonathan Jeter: drums (2020–present)

Former members[edit]

  • "Swingin'" Jack Barton: upright bass (1985–1989)
  • Bobby Baranowski: drums (1985–1989)
  • Kyle Thomas: drums (1989)
  • Patrick "Taz" Bentley: drums (1989–1994)
  • Tim Alexander: piano/keyboards (1996–present)
  • Paul Simmons: drums (2006–2012)
  • Scott Churilla: drums (1995–2006, 2012–2017)
  • Matt Jordan: piano (Sep. 2017– Feb. 2019)
  • Arjuna “RJ” Contreras: drums (2017-2020)


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions
US Heat
US Indie
1990 Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
  • Release date: November 1, 1990
  • Label: Sub Pop
1993 The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat
  • Release date: April 20, 1993
  • Label: Sub Pop
1994 Liquor in the Front 18
1996 It's Martini Time
  • Release date: July 2, 1996
  • Label: Interscope Records
165 9
1998 Space Heater
  • Release date: March 24, 1998
  • Label: Interscope Records
187 14
2000 Spend a Night in the Box 23
2002 Lucky 7 15
2004 Revival 34 24
2005 We Three Kings
  • Release date: October 4, 2005
  • Label: Yep Roc Records
2009 Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat
  • Release date: September 1, 2009
  • Label: Yep Roc Records
14 44
2014 Rev 111 2 26
2018 Whole New Life
  • Release date: November 30, 2018
  • Label: Victory Records
4 19
"—" denotes releases that did not chart





Video games

Film appearances[edit]

  • Love and a .45 (1994) "Loaded Gun" was performed by the Reverend Horton Heat in the film, but does not appear on the soundtrack album.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Knopper, Steve (December 13, 2013). "The Reverend Horton Heat Return to Psychobilly". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  2. ^ Williams, Jonathan (December 1, 2005). "Feature – Reverend Horton Heat". Prick magazine. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Reverend Horton Heat – Live at the Roxy – Los Angeles – Review A+".
  4. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Reverend Horton Heat." AllMusic. Retrieved May 11, 2005.
  5. ^ "Jim Heath Is Reverend Horton Heat".
  6. ^ "Spend a Night in the Box - the Reverend Horton Heat | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  7. ^ "CMJ Radio 200". CMJ. Vol. 62, no. 667. May 22, 2000. p. 46. ISSN 0890-0795.
  8. ^ "Rev. Horton Heat, Hank Williams III Play Hootenanny". MTV.
  9. ^ "Lucky 7 - the Reverend Horton Heat | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  10. ^ "Scott Churilla Leaves Reverend Horton Heat; "We Need a Drummer"".
  11. ^ "Reverend Horton Heat, 'Spooky Boots': Exclusive Song Premiere". Billboard. December 17, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Reverend Horton Heat on Lemmy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins—and Paul Pigat!". March 7, 2016.
  13. ^ "174 - Arjuna "RJ" Contreras: Drumming for the Reverend Horton Heat, Grooving at Fast Tempos, WDP Documenting His First Year in Nashville". June 28, 2018.
  14. ^ "Reverend Horton Heat Unleashes Spirited 'Whole New Life': Album Premiere". Billboard. November 28, 2018.
  15. ^ "The Jimbos Add a Jimbo - Reverend Horton Heat | Official Website".
  16. ^ Heidt, John (April 2008). "Jim Heath: A Reverend By Any Other Name". Vintage Guitar. 22 (6): 24.
  17. ^ "The Reverend Horton Heat Album & Song Chart History – Billboard 200". Nielsen Company. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  18. ^ "Reverend Horton Heat Album & Song Chart History – Heatseekers Albums". Nielsen Company. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  19. ^ "Reverend Horton Heat Album & Song Chart History – Independent Albums". Nielsen Company. Retrieved October 26, 2010.


External links[edit]