Jerry Warden and Rick Perry know heavy metal. Warden has been promoting it for more three decades in the area, and Perry has been playing it. Warden is a metal historian who holds secrets to some of DFW's legendary metal acts and venues, while Perry is the one Texas guitarist who could ignite the neck of Dimebag Darrell's guitar with pulse-driving riffs. So when they say their old band, Warlock, was one of the best the North Texas metal scene has ever produced, there's reason to believe it isn't about ego. Either way, fans will soon find out for themselves: After an untimely demise more than 20 years ago, the band plans to reunite and deliver unreleased recordings to fans as early as next year.
"Rascals was the very first metal club in all the DFW metalplex," Warden says, staring at one of his old handmade fliers with names of various local metal bands written in bold lettering. "Before that, they wouldn't ever let no fuckin' metal band play anywhere. It was all rock 'n' roll. We opened this up in the spring of '85 and blew the whole damn thing up. And then in '86, I moved over to this place we called the Tombstone. In '87, I started booking."
Yes, Warden knows about heavy metal. He's the godfather of the DFW metal scene. Playing first in Megaton, a cover band, then later in his own band Warlock, he's also spent time as a radio host on KNON-FM 89.3. And those are just some of the many reasons why this old metalhead deserves the title.
"You know, Jerry," Perry says. "Well, he's, you know, one of the founding fathers of the DFW metal scene."
"I didn't really get involved with the metal scene," says Warden. "There was no metal scene."
Nowadays, more gray covers Warden's braided beard and the bald spot in the middle of his mess of long hair is becoming more prominent, while Perry carries more weight on his small frame and wears his hair shorter than he did in his younger years.
Today, Warden's an entrepreneur whose band's brush with fame still haunts him after all of these decades, while Perry seems as if he's finally learned to accept it. But it's like a football player dropping a touchdown pass with only two seconds left on the clock. It's that moment in time that comes around only once in your life when you're faced with a choice that requires you either to make a sacrifice to succeed or to allow the negative elements pull you down.
"Man, this is the honest truth right here," Warden says. "We [Warlock] were the No. 1 metal band in the 'plex, man. We basically handed it over to Rigor Mortis and Pantera." In-fighting, indecision and the stress of the choice hammered what seemed like the final nail in the band's coffin. But now they plan to pick up the pieces and re-establish their historic lineage by releasing a compilation that will include their '86 demo and "Name Your Poison," a song from their '85 demo, as a bonus track sometime early next year.
"We're ready to get it out," Warden says, "and you tell me if every damn metalhead won't want one in their collection."
Growing up in Arlington in the '70s, Warden listened to bands like Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Then along came this band out of Australia called AC/DC, and the young Texas metalhead was hooked.
When the gods of metal came to earth in the form of Judas Priest, the birth of thrash metal wasn't far behind. In the early '80s, the New Heavy Metal Review, which highlighted upcoming releases, hit stands. Each week Warden would rush to the local record store to order them.
"My records aren't here right now," Warden says, staring at another flier, this one illuminating a Warlock gig in '82. "They're in storage because I seem to have a stability problem with my personal life."
"Heavy metal was in its infancy," Perry says. "I had just started becoming aware of it whenever I saw Jerry and all those guys camping out for concert tickets. They all had the leather jackets with all the buttons and patches on it. Man, those guys look like real British headbangers."
Warden's first band was Megaton, a group that played mostly cover songs of Iron Maiden, but they kicked him out later because they found a better singer. Warden, though, didn't let his removal ruin his rock star dreams. In '81, he formed Warlock with his brother David (guitar), Casey Orr (bass) and Hardin Harrison (drums). This new band was everything he'd hoped Megaton would be, and until '86, they dominated the metal scene with their unique brand of music -- one part Judas Priest and another AC/DC.
Pantera, Eruption and Iron Cross soon joined them, but the local clubs wouldn't allow metal music to be played at their venues. So the bands learned cover songs. It was the days before Phil Anselmo led Pantera, when singer Terry Glaze was still glamming it up and Dimebag Darrell wore an afro.
"Them dudes," Warden says. "Let me give you some funny ones they were playing: Billy Squire's 'Everybody Wants You,' Loverboy's 'Working for the Weekend' -- oh, they were good at that one, man." He smiles and starts to sing, "Everybody's working for the weekend. Everybody wants a new romance."
In '82, after building a stage in the middle of a pasture and christening it "Heavy Meadows," Warden started promoting metal shows. Creating homemade fliers was just one of the ways he advertised his new venue. Bands like Iron Cross, Eruption and Pantera all were lining up to fit the bill and slay fans with their brand of metal. The following year the party almost ended for Warlock. Perry recalls the incident, laughing now. "Jerry called me up and said, 'Perry, the band broke up. Harden got in a fight with David and stabbed him in the tit, so David threw his drums in the lake.'" Orr and Harrison left to form Rigor Mortis, which would later include legendary metal singer Bruce Corbitt and guitarist Mike Scaccia, while Perry and Warden hired bassist Eric Roy and drummer Les Choate to take their places.
"Honestly, the only times I saw Warlock was when they did a couple of shows with Rigor Mortis," Corbitt says, "but they were gone when the local underground scene really exploded with a thrash wave of Rigor, Gammicide [Perry's band], Rotting Corpse, Hammer Witch, Talon, Morbid Scream, etc."
And while Rigor Mortis were busy making a name for themselves among DFW's metal scene, Warlock were dominating it with Perry's pulse-driving riffs. "Rick defines heavy guitar," Warden says. "[Dimebag] Darrell, Mike [Scaccia], those were great players, but this was the wall-of-sound dude right here."
From the early to the mid-'80s, Warden and company were slaying the DFW metal scene, playing local hits like "Gutter Rats," a tune that blasted through the speakers; "End of the Line," a Judas Priest-inspired tune; and "Iron Jaw," nothing but power metal. Warden has opened or landed several venues since Heavy Meadows, including Rascals and the Tombstone Factory, a notorious place where police cars and helicopters were guaranteed to appear before the end of the night.
"We were so dumb," Perry says. "We made a bunch of money at Rascals, went to the recording studio, and made these demos, and then we just played them for people we knew and in our car."
Then, in '85, their big break finally happened when they won a local cable channel's Battle of the Bands competition. The grand prize was an MTV-style professional music video, but the stress of the shoot was too much.
"Dude, we're doing the video shoot," explains Perry, "and me and [Warden] are arguing about what song we're going to do."
The video crew sent the producer, who said, "Look man, we're going to have to leave. If y'all are ever able to get your shit together, we'll come back out one more time." "But we just never could get our shit together," Warden says.
In September of '86, the band finally split up. Perry wanted to take the music in a new direction, a heavier one, but Warden was feeling nostalgic about the early stuff. "I feel like I fucked him over on that," he says. Rigor Mortis soon took the top spot, and Perry and bassist Roy went on to form Gammacide, while Rigor Mortis took over the No. 1 spot and eventually signed a record deal with Capitol Records.
"How stupid can you fucking be, man?" Warden asks. "We were leading the pack, and we just handed it to Rigor Mortis."
Warden joined the ranks of KNON and started the first metal show, and then in the '90s, he went to prison for assault and spent the next 15 years reminiscing about the past.
After Gammacide's demise, Perry became a blue-collar worker, started a website for his old band and released a CD that sold more than 1,000 copies. That's when he realized people were also asking about Warlock.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Once Warden was released from prison, he and Perry forgave each other and decided it was time to release their old demos.
"People want this," Warden says, "and we were just crazy for not releasing the demos properly."