Tex Rubinowitz, Ready For Fame (Again)
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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'.
Rubinowitz has dedicated his adult life to rock 'n' roll. He says during his career there have been "three big pushes to make something happen." While he achieved enough popularity on the basis of just a few 45 rpm records to learn that "fame's a drag" (read: inconvenience), he has never been signed by a major record company. Rubinowitz is bright and dynamic and articulates his beliefs with the clarity of a well-spoken philosophy teacher. In any other profession it is possible he would be at the top of the ladder by now. But, like a priest with a cafling to the church, Rubinowitz is a rock 'n' roller. He has the mechanics to be a success - the vocal talent, a knack for writing songs - and, more important, he has the burning desire to make music. So it bewilders him that his albums do not sell on a larger scale; it is clear that he is frustrated by the imprecise, transient and ethereal processes of the music industry.

"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.
Arthur Lee Rubinowitz was born in Texas in 1944 to Stanley and Arthurea Rubinowitz. While on his way to becoming a full colonel in the Army, Stanley brought his family - which includes Tex's younger brother Ben - to the Washington area. They settled into a comfortable house in suburban Springfield, where the four remain together today. Stanley retired from the military, taking a position with the federal government. Arthurea, who was a schoolteacher and later a school principal, began a career with the Fairfax County school system. She eventually retired as an assistant school superintendent.

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.

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Rockabilly guru.
Rubinowitz's looks are as memorable as his name. He is tall, somewhere in the 6-foot-3 region, and slender and his dark brown hair has given way to an attractive, if premature, gray. He wears his hair short, with a sweep to the left. During a performance, he sports an authentic slicked-back ducktail that funnels into a long, tubular curl dangling past his forehead. He is generally seen in sunglasses: He forsakes his real-life nerdly Wayfarers for hipper aviator frames on stage. (Behind the glasses is a pair of clear blue eyes.) With his curl and shades in place and his acoustic guitar strapped around his neck, Rubinowitz certainly looks the part of heartfelt rock 'n' roller. And when he sings, the judgement is verified. Rubinowitz possesses a natural, deep-bodied baritone that rolls like Appalachian thunder.

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."

'Refreshingly honest'.
"Tex is a painfully honest person," says friend and rock writer Joe Sasfy. "It's refreshing to be with a person who is as honest as Tex." Sasfy, a music critic for The Washington Post and chief consultant and co-producer of Time-Life Music's "Rock 'n' Roll Era" series of albums, has known Rubinowitz since his early days. "He was one of the top local ads when he was playing with the Bad Boys a few years ago. The idea (of the new record) is to move a step beyond that," Sasfy says. "As an artist you need to expand your audience, he wants to move up a step." There are reasons for Rubinowitz not turning the ear of record industry executives, says Sasfy, but there is hope.

"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)."

Acting classes?
The album is out, the concerts are being lined up and Tex Rubinowitz is once again waiting for the figurative fish to bite. Meanwhile he stays busy building guitars and taking acting classes. "I have no intention of ever using acting," he says. "The classes are just another way to release myself as an artist." And though the thought of a stable job may cross his mind once in a while, it is hard to believe Rubinowitz, or anyone who could say this, would ever give up music: "I believe what makes most people feel good about music is still there," he says. "And that is sort of magic, a magic that happens between people and actually takes place. Pop music is one of the strongest things for pop art. When it really works it really can touch a lot of people and affect a lot of people for the good."

"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

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Courtesy of my friend Jimmy 'The Kid' Kirk