Jerry Warden is a conduit for promoting heavy metal in the North Texas area. The former lead singer of Warlock, one of the first heavy metal bands in DFW, started in the early '80s hosting live shows in the middle of a pasture christened "Heavy Meadows." He continued with several DJ positions at KNON and Z-Rock, a legendary metal station that died before its time. His current offering, Elmo Jones Productions, promotes heavy metal at rock clubs like the Broiler Room in Dallas and Someplace Else in Arlington. In many people's eyes, Warden is the godfather of heavy metal in North Texas.
But it's his current project - creating a Heavy Metal Hall of Fame in Arlington - that has many people in the local music scene buzzing about the possibilities if the government grants him the 501c3 nonprofit status to launch it.
"It's a little more detailed than I originally realized," Warden said in a recent phone interview. "I thought it was like filing an application and giving them a $20 fee. But no, they're quite picky about waiving all the taxes."
Arlington is the perfect place for the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame. It's the birthplace of the local metal scene, which continues to thrive across the North Texas area more than thirty years later. Bands such as Gammacide, Rigor Mortis, Rotting Corpse, Warlock and, of course, Pantera all got their start in the heart of Texas Ranger country.
At the time, none of the metal bands understood exactly what kind of impact they were having on the local music scene, said Warden. In the '80s, when record company scouts came to North Texas, they were looking for the next ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughan, not the next Motley Crue or Iron Maiden.
"We had the odds stacked against us," Warden said. "I think it put a chip on our shoulder, for sure, and gave us an edge."
Warden knows what it's like living on the edge. He spent the past 15 years in prison on an assault charge. While some inmates were clamoring for a position in the pyramid of violence that dictates the incarcerated society, Warden was keeping up with the metal scene and growing frustrated with the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's continual snub of Black Sabbath and other metal bands.
In 1999, Ozzy Osbourne wanted Black Sabbath's name to be removed for consideration by the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame because "the nomination is meaningless" without fans being part of the process. The band was considered eight times before earning induction in 2006.
In 2006, Warden filed for the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame trademark "in the heart of the Texas penitentiary." But filing for a trademark isn't like registering for a domain name. It took him three years before he was finally approved. He received a certificate in the mail; and he knew he was one-step closer to his goal.
In Warden's mind, the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame will be equivalent to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He feels the genre of music has "lasted the test of time."
"We're still around, still alive, still thriving," he said. "Heck yeah, man."
Warden plans to showcase the memorabilia he's collected over the years as a DJ, a lead singer and a promoter, as well as offering a section that highlights the "DFW metalplex," showcasing old concert fliers, posters and photos from local musicians. He'd also like to display items from the big three of Texas metal - Gammacide, Rigor Mortis and Pantera.
"It shows people we had a very strong scene and continue to have a strong scene," Warden said. "We are deserving as a host city [in Arlington] for the Heavy Meal Hall of Fame."
Another idea for the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame is to have metal bands sign memorabilia for fans before playing a show similar to the old record stores back in the day. And with Warden's connections as a promoter, it's definitely an idea that carries some steam.
Warden has also been in talks with Tony Rutigliano, the president and CEO of Downtown Arlington Management Corporation, about holding a 90-day exhibit called the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame before transitioning into a "real cool red brick building" located downtown.
"It sounds really interesting, especially with the history of metal in Arlington," Rutigliano said. "He's passionate about it, and I'm supportive of it."
"We're just waiting on the nonprofit status," Warden said, "and then we'll have a full tank of gas."