Rocker, Texas Ranger

It is 9 in the morning, a time most musicians do not see unless their day jobs beckon or they wake up to find themselves in the unfortunate embrace of a sleepover mistake. Deep Ellum usually does not wake at this hour, either, save for the construction site that is sprouting high-priced apartments on Gaston; this is a neighborhood that looks best at night, when the trash and cement pockmarks and fratboys disappear into the dark.

But here it is exposed in all its early-morning brilliance and late-winter chill, and the four members of Baboon huddle on a street corner waiting to load their instruments into Trees. Attractive women, grimy punks, young would-be thugs and should-be college students stride past them, heading into the club. It's an accustomed scene at night, but an alien one in the light of day.

"This is just so...ridiculous," singer Andrew Huffstetler says of the setting and circumstances.

Baboon is here to capitalize on the good fortune that comes to a lucky few bands in a lifetime--the chance to appear on a top-10-rated network television show, to perform in front of unsuspecting millions who tune in each week to watch Chuck Norris kick a little bad-guy ass and spit out his pithy good-ol'-boy aphorisms. Walker, Texas Ranger doesn't demand much of its audience, which is why it's probably such a hit--and the most unlikely of venues for a band as brutal and loud as Baboon. (When the Flaming Lips appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210, or Juliana Hatfield guested on My So-Called Life, at least there was some logical connection.)

Baboon is the featured band in a scene that takes all day to film in the real-and-fabricated-smoke-drenched confines of Trees, providing the "raucous and discordant" (so says the script) entertainment in the background. But they are also the key to this particular episode, which features the murder of attractive young women and Hollywood's idea of a Deep Ellum crowd. If it seems slightly ridiculous on the surface--especially after a full day of shooting and reshooting, lip-syncing to a song the band hasn't even performed live in a year--the benefits far outweigh the annoying delays and the surreal atmosphere.

The band was hired after an ex-girlfriend of an ex-roommate of Huffstetler's (connections are everything in show business, baby) heard the series wanted a band to perform in a nightclub scene. After some calls were made by Walker personnel to a few Deep Ellum clubs, Baboon got the invitation. "It worked out well," says Barbara Blanchette, head of extras casting for Walker. "Plus, they didn't have jobs to go to today."

Oddly enough, the script makes several references to the band as a "long-haired, bare-chested, hard-driving band of the Guns N' Roses school"--which couldn't describe Baboon any less accurately than if it said they wore dresses and yodeled. "Yeah," says drummer Steven Barnett, laughing at the Hollywood clichs. "That's us." At one point, the band was even going to be called Mach 10.

"We went to meet with the director [Michael Preece], and it was obvious he was sizing us up," Barnett says. "He didn't know what to expect. He asked us if the kids are into it, and we're like, 'Yeah, this is what's happening these days.' Andy said, 'This is how alternative bands look,' just to get on his good side. I mean, everyone on the show drives pickup trucks, rides horses, and wears cowboy hats. What else could they expect?"

This particular episode, titled "Hall of Fame," will air sometime in April or May--coincidentally, around the time the band plans to release its second CD, Destroy the Mad Brute. "Hall of Fame" finds Walker and old pal C.D. (played by Nobel Willingham, whose not-too-shabby film credits include Good Morning, Vietnam and Last Picture Show) on the case of a serial killer called The Hangman (who apparently made an appearance in a previous episode, for those who monitor such things). The Hangman has resurfaced in Deep Ellum working as Baboon's official photographer (welcome to Hollywood) and has murdered a pretty young woman outside Trees before a Baboon concert. (In the show, the band is booked for three straight nights at the club, which prompts Barnett to joke, "We're more popular in a make-believe world than the real world.")

Walker and C.D. figure out the young woman was a Baboon fan by searching her bedroom and discovering the band's 1994 CD, Face Down in Turpentine, in her stereo. When Walker plays the disc, a short burst of the song "Master Salvatoris" sends the lawmen into a state of agony.

"What the hell was that?" a startled C.D. asks Walker, at least according to the working script.

"Baboon," Walker answers.
"Guess I'm too many generations removed," says the crusty old C.D. "Funny thing. You wouldn't think a girl like that would listen to crap like that."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky