|Tex Rubinowitz, Ready For Fame (Again)
The first time you hear his name you chuckle to yourself. Tex Rubinowitz. It is a comical-sounding name, one with built-in humor. Tex Rubinowitz. The humor stems from the contradictions. What is he, a cowboy rabbi? How many Jewish cowboys are there? But to area fans of rock and roll music, Tex Rubinowitz, who is neither Jewish (he was raised Southern Baptist) nor a cowpoke, is a legend. The singer-songwriter has had a hit record ("Hot Rod Man," which hit even bigger in Europe) that appeared on a movie soundtrack ("Roadhouse 66"). His bands have sold out nearly every nightclub in the region. His live performances have been hailed by critics as vibrant celebrations of nitty-gritty rock and roll.
Other musicians seek his counsel and engage him to produce their records. But despite the loyal following, Rubinowitz has been frustrated in accomplishing the crossover from local notoriety to national fame. At age 43, it would seem that Rubinowitz's biological metronome is winding down. But guess what? Rubinowitz, who says he has already had a comeback, followed by a "last-ditch effort," is gearing up once again.
Last month, after keeping it to himself for almost two years, Rubinowitz released his first album, titied simply "Tex Rubinowitz" (NC 001). He is putting together a new band of similar minded musicians whose first performance date is Sept.27 at the Twist 'n' Shout club in Bethesda, Md. This time, "it's a lark," he says, a lark fueled by a few particular frustrations. And from the way he sounds, This Could Be It, one way or another.
The third 'push'.
"I think rock 'n' roll is almost dead," he says at one point during a conversation over barbecue beef sandwiches at O'Brien's in Springfield, Va. "All the music you hear today is not rock 'n' roll, it's rock music. "There's a big difference between rock and rock 'n' roll. That's assuming if what you call the original music we heard in the '50s is rock 'n' roll. This music you're hearing now is nothing like that; it's closer to what Sinatra and those guys were doing. "It's contrived, it's not flat out." Here he is so revved up as to sputter. "Rock 'n' roll was always done flat out, somebody just totally committed saying I'm going for it right or wrong. "Most of them were wrong. Killed them. But at least they went for it." Rubinowitz, behind the wheel of his 1964 black Eldorado Cadillac convertible ("the last Caddy with fins," he points out), is still going for it.
The text on Tex.
In 1962, Tex, who was then a student at Lee High School, started playing the guitar. He graduated from Lee in 1963 and attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg for less than a year before returning home. In 1970, he began his career in music, playing small local clubs. "I didn't know what to do, I just knew I wanted to do it," he says. He made his first music-related dollar two years later. The Cassaloma Cowboys, Rubinowitz's first band, performed and recorded from 1975 to 1978; in 1979 he formed Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys, the band that would establish and perpetuate Rubinowitz's foothold in the music world.
Their singles, "Hot Rod Man" and "Bad Boy", received airplay on hundreds of progressive and college radio stations around the country. Their live shows consistently drew large audiences; the band set the house record at the defunct Wax Museum nightclub in Washington when some 1400 people (400 more than the legal limit) packed the place.
Although he does not seem weary or burned out, rock 'n' roll has interfered with Rubinowitz's "normal" life. For instance, rock 'n' roll has kept him from getting married: "I've been close three or four times," Rubinowitz says, his clear baritone softening. "I've always been a little obsessive about music... But my father didn't get married until he was in his early 40s." Then he adds: "To get married I have to get successful in music or get out of it." What will he do if he gets out of music? "Get a job," he says quickly and to the point. "Something blue-collar, like work at the Merchant Tire store or something like that."
"I think Tex got caught at a bad time in a sense that he has been classified as a rockabilly artist, and that kind of specific rock 'n' roll had crested in the minds (of executives)," says Sasfy. "But there is a lot of interest in roots rock 'n' roll, and I have always put Tex in that category, so you never know." As for giving up if the new album does not hit, Sasfy says, "I think he's totally serious. If he gets no interest in this, he won't do anything else. "But Tex is an artist and he's full of interesting creative ideas. I think he might put aside the specific goal of being a nationally promoted performer and do something else (within music)."
"And it affects them personally. It affects them in a way that they feel they have gained an insight about themselves and about reality. That's still there, that has nothing to do with the politics or the fashion or all the other things that have gotten tied up with pop music, which I think are ruining it and," he says softly, "probably ultimately will ruin it."
By Buzz McClain, staff writer for Fairfax Journal, 1987
Courtesy of my friend Jimmy 'The Kid' Kirk †