Reverend Horton Heat -- the man, not the band -- was born James C. Heath in Corpus Christi, TX. Growing up, he played in rock cover bands around the area, but was more influenced by Sun rockabilly, electric Chicago blues, and country mavericks like Junior Brown, Willie Nelson, and Merle Travis. According to legend, he spent several years in a juvenile correction facility, and at 17 was supporting himself as a street musician and pool shark; according to the Reverend, the story was fabricated by Sub Pop to add color to his greaser image. Heath eventually moved to Dallas, where he found work at a club in Deep Ellum. There he gave his first performance as Reverend Horton Heat, christened as such by the owner, in 1985. Heat played the city's blues-club circuit for a while, performing mostly for polite crowds and swing-dancing enthusiasts. Craving the excitement of a rock & roll show, and seeking a more financially rewarding avenue to help with his child support payments, Heat revamped his sound and moved into rock and punk venues. In 1989, he added bassist Jimbo Wallace to his band, and drummer Patrick "Taz" Bentley soon completed the lineup.
Reverend Horton Heat were a big hit around the area, and soon began touring extensively all around the country. They soon landed a deal with the prominent Seattle-based indie label Sub Pop, and in 1991 issued their debut album, Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, which featured fan favorites like "Eat Steak," "Marijuana," "Bad Reputation," and "Love Whip." The band kept building its audience through steady touring, and got considerable media attention for its 1993 sophomore effort, The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat. Produced by the Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes, it spawned a minor MTV hit in "Wiggle Stick," and also included Heat staples "400 Bucks" and "Bales of Cocaine."