Picture a dive bar in Fort Worth, near the campus of Texas Christian University, called The Hop, which hosted some of the most incendiary rock and blues shows imaginable throughout my time in college there. I walked in there for the first time in 1989, my freshman year, to find a band called The Reverend Horton Heat blasting through a set of rockabilly punk music.   

Picture a dive bar in Fort Worth, near the campus of Texas Christian University, called The Hop, which hosted some of the most incendiary rock and blues shows imaginable throughout my time in college there. I walked in there for the first time in 1989, my freshman year, to find a band called The Reverend Horton Heat blasting through a set of rockabilly punk music.

Lead singer-guitarist Jim Heath managed to rip a furious guitar solo while wedged into the club’s doorway — literally walking his way up the wall with his head on the other side of the entrance and his back precariously hanging over the floor. It was a physics-defying display of sheer electrifying showmanship that blew my mind and turned me into a fan for the next 30 years.

That also was the night Heath met his wife, at that very show, making that the most memorable rock performance for each of us. Heath laughed uproariously earlier this month when reminded of his improbable feat, as he talked about his career leading into a show with his beloved band this Friday night at The Rose in Pasadena.

“We started in 1986, and been through a lot of drummers over the years, while my upright bass player has been with me for 30 years,” says lifelong Texan Heath. “The Hop is where I met my wife. She’s a Fort Worth girl. I’ve been a dad through this whole thing. I love being a dad. I’m not really a cool guy, but some of my friends are the coolest guys in the world. Reverend Horton Heat put my oldest daughter through college a hundred percent, and I’ve got two more coming up.”

Heath’s dad status is the last thing people might think of when watching a Reverend show, as he and the band tear through songs with humorous tales of hard living and fast women, but it’s all part of the wild ’50s image they love to keep alive. Heath explains that, while people often assume that he himself is the Reverend Horton Heat, it’s really a moniker for the entire band and had its roots in an odd club promoter’s strange sense of humor.

“When I started this it was just me a solo thing, and this guy at the first Dallas club I played, which rented my PA systems for other shows, heard me singing for the hell of it one afternoon,” recalls Heath. “His name was Russell Hobbs and he said ‘I want you to play at a new club I’m opening across the street. I showed up, went in and set up my stuff, and he came up on stage and said my stage name would be Reverend Horton Heat.

“Russell had nicknames for everyone and for some reason he called me Horton. Told me my stage name was gonna be Reverend and I said naw, even though I was desperate and broke,” Heath adds. “But he’d already promoted to the papers and made flyers and I didn’t know it. That night people came up and said ‘that was really good Reverend’, so I ran with it. I was pretty broke at the time so I was afraid to oppose it, but it could’ve been worse. I get up there, smile, let it rip and have a good time.” n

The Reverend Horton Heat plays at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Rose, 245 E. Green St., Pasadena. Tickets are $28 to $44. Call (888) 645-5006 or visit wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com.