(Circa 1979 - 1992)

George Cole
Bill Eaker
John Prescott
Mike McCarthy
Rod Thomas
Blake Edwards
Tony Pounders
Thomas Massengail
Eric Page (honorary)

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and Dingo Jones.

Rockroaches cartoon
by Dan Clowes.

LP Designs by
Brady DeBussy.


toward the waning years of the seventies, i attended high school in a brutally small, backwards town in northeast mississippi. this however, did not deter my interest in modern music, specifically punk rock. this being in the days before internet downloads and mass media oversaturation, my means for exposure to new strains of music was severly limited; even cable tv had yet to pervade my corner of the world. at least there were a few semi-cool magazines like creem that gave notice to some deserving bands. and just as importantly, there were small ads in the back pages by companies selling punk records. so i was able to purchase vinyl and tapes for my listening pleasure. but what about the other part of the equation? what about experiencing LIVE MUSIC?


it hardly bears mentioning that the venues in the surrounding area were all bars with lame cover bands, cranking out their turgid take on top 40. if i wanted to hear original, exciting music, i would have to look further away to a city. a city like memphis.

i would spend sunday mornings pouring over the commercial appeal, searching for articles on music and movies and art, all things seemingly beyond my reach. it was around this time i began noticing listings for a club called the well. it seemed to have cool bands playing, even if they were local. at some point, without fanfare, the same address began calling itself the antenna club. "memphis' only video club", or something to that effect was in the ads. i wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

by now i was attending community college in the same town. not much progress. it was there i met mike mccarthy. he played guitar and read underground comics. i had a cool record collection and was into fanzines from cities with active music scenes. even memphis had an entry, a modest zine called "malice", which featured reviews of shows at the antenna. more and more great bands were performing there, bands like black flag, and it all fueled our resolve to visit memphis.

how far is one-hundred miles? it was all relative - if you had no job, no car, and no real world experience outside your own county lines, it might as well have been one-thousand miles. however, youth would not be denied, and we did eventually make our pilgrimage to mecca, baptising ourselves in the sights, sounds and smell that was the promised land of the antenna.

towards the end of the evening ( for the record, the band that night was the philisteins from new mexico ) we met steve mcgehee; he was very cool to the rednecks from mississppi.

back at home, plans were being made:

1. move to memphis
2. start a band

and those plans did all come to pass within time. as far as my involvement in a couple of local bands, it was all quite unremarkable save for some minor distinctions:

DISTEMPER played the first "official" all-ages show, opening for dagnasty and descendents. a good example of the memphis hardcore scene in the eighties.

THE ROCKROACHES were the only local antenna band to sport lean black suits, pointy boots and ruffled shirts. this look was met with complete and utter indifference.

george cole



By the senior year in high school, our lineup was fairly stable: me vocals, George bass, Bill guitar, and Blake on drums. Kids in bands want to perform in front of other kids, but the fact was, there just weren't any places to play in Booneville, Mississippi in 1982. We didn't know how simplistic and relatively painless it would have been for us to book some gigs at venues in Memphis. Or Nashville or Birmingham or even Atlanta, Chicago, or New Orleans.

We didn't know. And to be fair, there's no good reason we should have known-nor even have been able to find out. Pick up the phone? And call who? There was no "411" then. The world was really big then, a tough bastard place without cell phones, GBS positioning, and the Internet. If you went outside, you went there alone. We were, in Southern terms, "fucked from the git-go" and we KNEW it. We knew that underdog bands do make it, but there was always a mystery gap in every band's success story, which always went from the garage to Madison Square with little "how-to" details for us to use as a guide.


So most of the time we rehearsed with the future in mind, that "one day" when we would be good enough and prepared enough to somehow or the other make something happen.

As high schools do, ours decided to host a talent show. I don't recall whose idea it was for us to compete in it, or what we thought we would get from it; sufficed to say none of us thought it was a particularly bad idea.

We decided to put on a kick ass show. A friend of George and Bill had been kicked out of the school's marching band for taking a bottle of booze on a band trip. We decided we could talk him into staggering onto the stage wearing a chicken suit, drink an "unknown" liquid from a brown paper bag, then stagger offstage, all the while we played "SURFIN' BIRD".

If we didn't get kicked off by then, we would also play our original "VIDEO THRILLS". During the song I was going to pick up a sledgehammer and smash the picture tubes of three old console televisions we were to set up on stage with us.

Ultimately none of that happened.

First off, no one can sing Surfin' Bird without sounding like an ass, it's impossible. Listeners only accept that it sounds right IF they know that the guy singing it is cool. If the singer is cool, then the song sounds right. And I was NOT cool. So when I sang "SURFIN' BIRD", it sounded like a stuttering idiot chanting "papa meows".

Notwithstanding that I sucked at "SURFIN' BIRD anyway, we decided to take the high road and present ourselves unembellished with theatrics. We lined up three original songs and rehearsed our asses off.

The talent show was about what you would expect from a no-budget hick town high school. Two other acts were up against us in the "Group" category. We were going on last, we had to set up our equipment on a break and leave it up in the background of the other acts.

The first act was 3 or 4 chicks doing self-choregraphed, early hip hop dance routines. The second act was another all-girl effort - this time doing lip-sync to the GoGo's "WE GOT THE BEAT". I don't recall whose idea it was or even what it was we intended to gain, but for some unrecalled reason we let the lip-sync chicks use our instruments in their act. Mind you, they didn't play anything. They just bounced around.

Fast forward through our act. It went flawlessly, except for the part where Bill's solo came in one late. I about had an anxiety attack from the fear of not finding the place jump back in, but we did, and the audience couldn't tell the difference.

It was a slam-dunk that we would take first place. It was such a slam-dunk that when emcee Mark C. called out our names as the "First Place Winners," we had already positioned ourselves at the back of the auditorium so we could jog through the audience. We bounded down the aisles, grinning with well-deserved self-confidence, we took our bow, and headed off stage.

Second place went to the lip-synching girls. How undeserving we thought. They didn't really do anything, the dancers should have gotten second.

Then emcee Mark C. announced the "First Place Winners" again, as if he hadn't already done that; only this time, the dancers were first place, not us.

We were dumbstruck. "He didn't say 'first place', did he?" Surely we hadn't just pranced around like happy retards, ecstatic that we took third place. Third place out of three places. The same third place we would have gotten anyway had we merely shit our pants and cried. THAT third place?

Yes, obviously we HAD run around, as giddy as happy retards for winning a trophy at the "Everybody Wins A Trophy" picnic. I didn't know it then, but that was the most humiliated I would ever feel in my entire life. In a matter of minutes the color of my jaded personality quickened to a dark and permanent stain.

It wasn't so much that dumb fuck emcee Mark C. dicked up by announcing us as first place (had he said "third place" we could have at least kept our dignity by scowling when we came up on stage). The fact was, we really did deserve "First". And in hindsight, yes, by goddamn Christ on a stick we DID. Of all the "talent" presented that evening, we were the only ones (aside from a comic (go Boswell!) who presented a mature and disciplined talent.

The truth is that the competition was never about talent, it was about "likeability". Had the school announced a Likeability Show, I'm sure we'd have known to avoid it. So, we took last place, and our three dollar prize pool was split among us four ways. I didn't know it then, but that seventy-five cents was the most I would ever make as a Rockroach.

We could have learned a lesson then, and maybe we did, that it was going to be a lot harder to break through the artifices of the norm than we ever dreamed it would be. That's probably the night the ANGRY REDNECKS were born.


No one said "the Rockroaches are finished," but that was basically it for the band as it was at that time. Blake dropped out of the band and we pretty much lost touch with him. George and Bill graduated and wrapped things up to start college. I went away for the summer, dropped out of high school, and joined the military.

John Prescott