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The Enablers take Nino Rota and Dick Dale out for cocktails

NCM and the Telefones were the best of the bands that played the Hot Klub--Dallas' answers to the Buzzcocks and Gang of Four, funny and edgy and catchy and innovative; songs like the Telefones' "The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla" and NCM's "Spazz Age," both of which are available on the Tales from the Edge Vols. 5-6 disc, hold up better than most anything on the Rhino New Wave Hits of the '80s series. And Caldwell, who owned VVV Records and its namesake record label, was among the most important catalysts of that scene, releasing NCM's singles and the now-legendary Live at the Hot Klub album.

Just as the Hot Klub was beginning to creep toward its end in the early '80s, Chaney was hooking up with bassist Gary Lance, guitarist Kim Herriage, keyboard player Greg Richards, and drummer Buddy Berry to form Feet First. Their 1986 album--the reggae-and-pop-driven In a Great Big Room, which featured the long-lost classic "One-Sided Conversation"--was the first (and only) release on the Deep Ellum Records label. Lance introduced Chaney to Chris Dirkx, with whom Lance worked at the Melody Shop record store in NorthPark, and Feet First and the Telefones began sharing bills.

Not long after the dissolution of Feet First, Steve Dirkx and Caldwell began putting together Whiteman--a pastiche of the island rhythms of which Caldwell was enamored, funk, spoken-word rap, and synth-organ new wave. Chaney, who had played keyboards and sung in Feet First, played the congas in Whiteman; and in the band's early incarnations, VVV Records employee Mark Griffin was also a member, and the things he would pick up from Caldwell--the spoken-word narrative-styled vocals, the cut-and-paste music-making, the laconic funk--he'd later use in MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

"Literally, I'm sure a lot of the stylistic influences on what I do came from being in Whiteman and just listening to Neil's crazy stories," Griffin says. "Contentwise, what we do [in MC 900 Ft Jesus] is quite different, but I've got to give him credit for the concept."

By the time Whiteman Again was released in 1992 on VVV Records--it was a tape produced in the very-limited quantity of 100, each cover hand-watercolored--the lineup consisted of Caldwell on organ and vocals, Steve Dirkx on bass, Chris Dirkx on drums, Chaney on congas, and Phil Bush (ex of Princess Tex) on guitars. (Griffin, by then well-established as MC 900 Ft Jesus, mixed the tape.)

The Enablers are, more or less, a toned-down version of Whiteman; many of Whiteman's songs--including "Sonia," "Give people their dope," "Perfect Silence," "Free bird," and "Time Was"--are included in the Enablers' sets, although in versions less than recognizable.

"There's some different things we like that we're able to draw on in this band that we weren't able to draw on in Whiteman," Chaney says. "That's things like '60s pop, like Dionne Warwick songs, and '60s movie music--the Nino Rota and the spaghetti western stuff and some surf."

The threads connecting these musicians and their bands past and present are so intertwined they can never be separated; it's like a family tree on which sisters married brothers married cousins married parents--everyone owing something to the guy sitting next to him on the stage.

"Whiteman--that was a big deal for me," Caldwell says by way of explaining the Enablers. "That was so much fun having Mark there. Mark and I had never played in a band before. I had never played with Bart, either. I had hung out with Chris a lot--we jammed a lot. To me, that's when it all happened because we spent a great couple of years together doing that, and when you connect with somebody that strongly and deeply and that well for a long period of time, you never lose it. You never do. And that's why he wants to keep playing with us and we want to keep playing with him. It feels great."

Ty one on
Local country-boy-made-good Ty Herndon, the subject of a recent profile in these very pages on the occasion of his major-label debut What Mattered Most, was busted June 13 in Fort Worth's Gateway Park for allegedly exposing himself to an undercover cop and masturbating in front of him; according to Fort Worth police, he also was in possession of a controlled substance after cops hauled him into jail and found 2.40 grams of methamphetamine in a plastic bag concealed in his wallet. And--even CNN couldn't conceal its glee about this small fact--this all happened just as Herndon was scheduled to perform before a group of 400 police officers.

Two days following the bust, the singer left a message on his mobile-phone voice mail apologizing for his addiction, saying he's "gonna be away about a month here dealing with some personal problems and getting my life into shape." On Monday Fort Worth police charged Herndon with drug possession and indecent exposure.

And even though Herndon vehemently denies the indecent exposure charges--he calls them "a bunch of shit" and promises to "fight that to the ground," claiming he was only taking "a leak"--already local country radio station KPLX-FM (99.5) has taken his singles out of heavy rotation. Allegations of drug use and homosexual behavior don't play well in the Bible Belt, and Herndon--who just recently was at the top of the country singles charts--is quickly on his way to becoming a forgotten would-be superstar, no matter how "supportive" fans might appear at first.

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