Jerry's kid

Being the son of Mr. Peppermint has always figured into Gibby Haynes' myth, as has a past that includes being an "A" student and basketball star at Lake Highlands High School and an accounting/economics major at Trinity University in San Antonio. Almost from the get-go, Gibby has been asked about his old man in interviews--"He's, like, the coolest guy in Dallas," he says on this particular occasion--and, in turn, Jerry has become something of a cult figure among Butthole fans who still find the images of father and son so much at odds.

Gibby was headed for the straight life till he and guitarist Paul Leary steered the van down the crooked path in 1981, formed a partnership that would eventually lead to the Butthole Surfers, and played a San Antonio art-gallery gig where surely they were embraced as the avant-garde: Nail Gibby to the wall and call it "art." But how Gibby got from one place to another is a story seldom explored and rarely told.

In the end, it couldn't be easy being the son of Jerry Haynes, watching your old man frolic on the TV screen every day with speech-impaired hand puppets. But at the same time, there was surely some pride and delight to be had in knowing your old man was famous while the other kids' dads toiled away in middle-class obscurity. Then there was the small twinge of enlightenment watching his father make an ass out of himself and become a celebrity in the process.

"Gibby--despite all of his, you know, stances--is really kind of naive and is extremely sensitive," Jerry says, "and I believe that he bought the Peppermint package hook, line, and sinker. He was just so proud, I think, and if you see your parent doing something, you think, 'Why not me? If they can do it, I can do it.' It becomes where you don't have to climb that wall because it's already been climbed for you. You just have to go out there and do it.

"I remember when he first got started in the Buttholes, he said one time there were a lot of kids out there who depended on him. He was serious in his music and what he did, and now he's not talking to his peers. His peers like his music, but who buys the Butthole Surfers records? The kids. And it takes guts for him to do that stuff. Maybe not so much anymore, but the first time I did 'I'm a little teapot short and stout' in front of the TV camera, Jesus, I might as well have been high. To me it was the right thing to do, and Gibby was never afraid to try something. He was adventuresome and not afraid to try something, and that's what his music was."

Gibby is Jerry's kid in every respect, as much a children's entertainer as his old man, as much a teacher as Mr. Peppermint--except Dad espouses education and morals, and Gibby catechizes about the finer points of belching into a microphone, watching a body decompose, and careening behind the wheel of a hot rod. Gibby's the smartest guy in the room, the prodigy masquerading as asshole redneck.

Father and son are different sides of the same coin--good and evil, light and dark, kindness and cock rings, what the kids should know vs. what they want to hear more about during recess. Jerry tells the children not to smoke and to do their homework, and Gibby's handing out joints and syringes behind the gymnasium when the bell rings; Jerry tells the kids to love each other, and Gibby's out back teaching the words to the Buttholes' "Kuntz."

"I guess there isn't much of a difference between what we do," Jerry says after contemplating this theory for a few minutes. "Only when I go in front of an audience, I don't say, 'Welcome to Dallas fucking Texas.'"

Jerry Haynes is probably the world's biggest and best Butthole Surfers scholar; he can recall the lyrics to most of the band's songs ("It took me three or four times, no more than that, to memorize the damn thing," he says of the Buttholes' surprise hit single "Pepper") and is able to expound, at length, about the function and purpose of his son's little rock-and-roll band. ("It's as much performance art as music," he says.) He can recount the band's career album by album, point to moments of evolution and maturity, act as both loving father and detached rock critic:

"The first time I heard them," he says, sitting in his Peppermint Place office, "my reaction was, 'Well, he's my son and I love him, but I don't know what the hell's going on here.' Then, when I could hear bits and pieces of the lyrics, I thought it was pretty good. I thought 'Moving to Florida' was funny...[and] they are getting better. They haven't sacrificed too much I don't think. Their mayhem has more meaning. It's like I'm a little better at Mr. Peppermint today than I was a few years ago."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky