Dateline 2006: The Uncalled 4 page has been online but somewhat buried
on the Break My Face site as a link from the EV Records discography. The page was
so placed because for some time I'd rankled over the U4. The story behind the grudge
and the ensuing "punk rock court-martial" in the pages of Maximum Rock & Roll
is below. Since the writing of that article (1999), I've reconsidered things after
re-watching the U4 videos, handling some snakes, and purchasing a batch of ephemera
from a guy once known as Billy Shit, editor of Texas' finest fanzine The Hymnal
(where the Uncalled 4 make an appearance in 1982).
As an unquestionably late-for-the-trend prankster, how could I honestly deny my
kindred spirit with the Uncalled 4? We had too much in common even when I served
as the punchline. Randy and Donna, this page is for y'all.
— Ryan Richardson
THE UNCALLED 4 HOAX, OR HOW I BECAME A SUCKER.
It began the summer of '91 when I saw the single at my friend Jim's house. It struck
me as one of the more bizarre records I'd ever laid eyes on: The Uncalled 4 from
Waco, 1979. After listening to the B-side side, "Grind Her Up", I decided I had to
have this record. At the time, I'd gone full tilt into collecting obscure American
punk records with a particular interest in early Texas punk. I wrote down the address
on the record and decided I'd drive the hundred miles north to Waco and see what
I came up with. The gods were smiling... an old lady answered the door, I told her
I was looking for some band members, and she called out for her daughter who was
visiting for the weekend. Sure enough, this woman played bass for the Uncalled 4
and was now married to the guitarist... they lived in Dallas now. As you might imagine,
she thought it was mighty bizarre that I'd just driven to Waco. She assured me that
my efforts would not be wasted... she still had copies of the record, and she'd sell
some to me. I drove off thinking what a lucky bastard I was... I stopped at the first
payphone I saw and called my friend Brian to tell him. I eventually traded and sold
about a dozen copies of the record. As "collector scum" items go, it was without a
doubt a "Killed By Death" item... rare (300 copies according to the band), obscure,
and fucked up.
A good five years later, I started to work on a compilation of rare, early Texas
punk singles. This would be the fourteenth release on my label, EV, and I was determined
to make it a dazzling display in light of the endless lame-o reissues that I'd seen
released in the midst of Killed By Death madness. I decided the Uncalled 4
had to be included because — aside from the catchy tunes — it was just
too bizarre not to showcase. Waco 1979... c'mon! Once again, I contacted the band
to see if they wanted to be included. They did, and the guitarist wrote some hilarious
liner notes. The Uncalled 4 were listed alongside Really Red, AK 47, The Next, Dot
Vaeth, and Vast Majority on my compilation entitled Deep In The Throat of Texas.
All of the singles were released between 1978 - 1980... or so I thought.
See, this is where the story really begins and curiosity kills the fuckin' cat. Last
week [I believe this was originally written in December 1999], I noticed the guitarist
selling a copy of the Uncalled 4 7in. and just dropped a line to say hi. As my mind
is an insatiable sponge for dumb punk trivia, I mentioned the fact that I'd never
seen the record reviewed in my early Texas punk zines and wondered if they managed
to actually get the record distributed in '79, or if it was more like '80. After some
sketchy replies, I began to suspect that something was not quite right. Upon further
e-mail exchanges, he admitted — a full eight years after I contacted him, bought
copies of the record, collaborated with him on Deep In The Throat, and paid
royalties to him — that, in fact, the record was released in 1985, not 1979
as it says on the record. Nineteen-eighty-fucking-five. While he claimed the songs
were written in '79 and the Uncalled 4 was a "semblance of a real band in 1980",
it was not until 1984 or so that they recorded — in California. Moreover,
the band had formed in Austin, not Waco. Of course, the next logical question would
be why would a band from Austin put a Waco address on the record and date it 1979
when neither was true. The answer, according to the band member, was simple: "because
we meant to do it then and we knew even in 1985 that it would be important to be on
the right side of 1980, and that Waco was way cooler than Austin." This logic would
prove to be rather brilliant and would provide the underpinnings for a grand hoax
indeed, a hoax nurtured in a collecting environment where premium is placed on the
very things the Uncalled 4 deemed cool. The story was already established when I
got into the picture, and plenty of early punk fans and collectors played right
into their hands over the years... and the band members ran with it. Lying to the
face of people who befriended them seemed par for the course. NOBODY was suckered
more than myself. I have to maintain my sense of humor about the whole thing as I
stare at the Deep In the Throat of Texas compilation, a project I spent a
lot of time and effort and money on. The whole thing is funny even when I'm the
butt of the joke. The Uncalled 4 managed to write themselves into the "good old days"
of Texas punk in the grand style of the Great Rock & Roll Swindle.
When I asked them what their motivation was (i.e. did they do it to make money, did
they do it because it was funny seeing some idiot running around singing their praises,
did they just want to be thought of as part of the scene), the answer I got was this:
"...motivation had more to do with our feeling like outsiders and finally having a
place in history, even if it was scammed rather than earned." I must admit seeing
the logic and sympathizing to some degree, but I can't help thinking that their
inclusion on my compilation (and others like Killed By Death volume 8 ½)
somehow cheapens the long overdue recognition that the genuine bands are now getting.
None of these other early punk outcasts had the benefit of knowing exactly what would
be BECOME cool... they just DID it themselves their own way despite the prevailing
norms and got their punk rock vindication years later. A band recording in 1985 with
the benefit of hindsight doesn't deserve the same respect as one recording the same
music in 1979... sorry. It's like the military officers caught wearing medals for
wars they didn't fight in, it's like the guy who buys trophies at garage sales so
he can claim them as his own... in the end, it's fucking lame.
And so... since I have unwittingly helped corroborate the Uncalled 4 hoax, I feel
obligated to at least mention the truth of the matter to the three or four people
who care. It's all part of the collector scum's NEED for the real deal, the original,
the authentic. I still love the record, but I can't quite hold it in the same regard.
So, there it is folks... the Uncalled 4, without a doubt the most inspired punk rock
scam I know of.
A picture of the Texarkana Math Club made for a convincing band picture
The final U4 picture sleeve differed slightly from Billy Shit's original vision
CONTACT: Break My Face