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Beans Barton & The Bi-Peds

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Beans Barton & the Bi-Peds celebrated their 20th Anniversary on March 11, 2006!

Photo courtesy of Satyr.

 

Houston Press

8/26/2010

Ranch Style Beans

Local folk hero is well-rounded, to say the least.

By William Michael Smith Thursday, Aug 26 2010

While he remains largely anonymous after 25-plus years on the Houston art/music scene, Dale "Beans" Barton is, for those who have encountered his wacky, frenetic performance-art shows, a local icon and people's hero. From the multi-layered costumes he peels off during his shows as his character changes, to the painting he completes during each performance — which is auctioned at the end of the night with proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank — Barton does it right and for the right reasons.

And not only is it art, it's fun.

Chatter: What was your reaction to Rolling Stone calling your former band Bruiser Barton and the Dry Heaves the worst rock band in Texas?

Beans Barton: We were crappy and damn proud of it.

C: How did you come up with the idea to do a painting during the set?

BB: I had the idea to challenge myself and combine all the artistic avenues I prowl into one show — painting, poetry, music, theater, comedy, lyrics, operettas and performing. As a bonus, by painting during the lead [guitar] breaks, I can conserve energy. Besides, no one else on the planet does it.

C: What does putting a time limitation on making a piece of art do to you as an artist?

BB: I had to develop a technique that was bold and rapid. The performance pieces are sudden studies. I have to be quick, agile and artistically fearless. It's a very visceral method.

C: What were the early beginnings of Beans Barton?

BB: Many of my characters began with "The Fat Chance Comedy Show" I did with Big Skinny Brown. Skinny played local access TV talk-show host Chubby Chance; I portrayed all of the guests, wearing all the costumes and peeling down one character at a time. That begat the Bi-peds.

C: Beans hates the sound of his own voice. Has Beans considered voice lessons or working with an instructor?

BB: Beans doesn't need to sing. Using his thespianating skills, he talks his songs with verve and elan.

C: You always do a painting onstage during the performance, auction it at the end of the show, and donate the money to the Houston Food Bank.

BB: We've produced a performance-art piece at every show since iFest '92, so we've raised a considerable amount of food. It's a win-win-win situation: The buyer gets a piece of original art with a story and an IRS deduction, hungry kids get fed, and I don't have to find a place for another painting.

C: You've done this a long time. Who's your favorite character from your show?

BB: Waldo Bob Frost. He's a feetnik spokesperson of the Feet Generation.

C: Favorite skit?

BB: I have a ton of fun with Dr. Oblongatta and the "Banlon of Gracegland." Praise Helvis, and pass the gravy.

C: Favorite line from any Beans song?

BB: "When the river stands naked above the waterfall."

C: Why have you never sued George Lucas for ripping you off by patterning his Jabba the Hutt character after your costuming and persona?

BB: If I spent all my time siccin' lawyers on all the people having my same old ideas, I wouldn't have any time for my same old new ideas.

C: Your shows are kid-friendly. What's the funniest thing a kid has ever said to you at a show?

BB: "Why does that woman have rope up her butt?" And another time I heard a kid say, "We usually have good bands here."
 

 

Houston Chronicle
05/18/2006
Section: Preview
Page: 10
Edition: 2 STAR
 

The ultimate inside joke / Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds have developed a cult following over the past 20 years

By EILEEN MCCLELLAND
Staff

Picture this: A man in a bulky larva costume leads a rock band. He's singing - hollering, he'd say - swaying back and forth onstage while dancers undulate beneath a tarp (i.e., larva sac).

Between songs, another guy in a floral dress reads a psychotic sci-fi narrative conjuring conjoined quintuplets who become one-hit wonders.

A little later, the ex-larva - having gradually shed layers and assumed a mélange of characters during the metamorphosis - begins to paint on a canvas.

The violin player embarks on a Hula-Hoop performance.

It's all in a night's work for local rock band Beans Barton & the Bi-Peds, which recently celebrated 20 years.

"I need an outlet to get the goofy out," says Dale "Beans" Barton, 57, whose band puts on a satirical, mixed-media extravaganza once a month at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights. "It keeps me young."

And the outfit?

"I find it best to layer in the Houston heat."

"It's just fun and satire," he says, sitting at his kitchen table in his Heights home, no costume in sight, although it's hard to stop staring at his sleeves, which are different colors. When he's not a layered-look larva, he's a Mr. Mom, waiting for his kids to get home from school and painting in his studio out back supervised by Tiger, an orange cat.

Barton is a veteran of other local bands, including Bruiser Barton and the Dry Heaves, which Rolling Stone once called the worst band in Texas. He is as amused as anyone that the Bipeds have lasted 20 years and developed a cult following whose off spring have become fans, too.

If it seems like the ultimate inside joke, it is. But anyone who gets the joke is welcome to join the inner circle.

"You either get it or you don't," fan Chris White says. "It's a niche, that's for sure."

Over the years, fans have become so caught up in the experience that the line between musician and audience blurs. Band member Susan Wolfford-Jackson has watched it happen.

"Once audience members figure out that what is going on is not what they usually see, they assume - and rightfully - that they don't have to be the regular audience," Wolfford-Jackson says. "The band feeds off the audience, and if they're having an exciting time, it helps the band have fun, too."

After hanging around for years, fans become an integral part of the band.

Originally, Barton had wanted a distinctive lighting effect, and suggested a friend follow him around with a "little, bitty spotlight." Instead, his friend returned with a helmet, a backpack and some very large lights. And the Bi-Bulb was born.

Fan Noah Ramon volunteered to become the second Bi-Bulb as soon as the job became open.

"Noah just came and danced and jumped around," Barton says. "He was a high-school kid. The original Bi-Bulb got sick, so we tapped Noah for the job. But we made him get his GED first."

Rich Davidson is another audience-spawned star. After landing roles in three Bi-Peds operettas, the middle-school theater teacher moved into the spotlight last year as the narrator. He continues to play many of the women's roles, too.

"I've been with the band nine years, but now I do a lot of the gibber-jabber instead of just coming on as a goofy character," Davidson says. "It's a thrill. The idea I can be onstage with these monster musicians and be accepted as a peer, it's still just mind-boggling to me."

Although he's been wearing dresses - including a trademark little black number - for awhile, he has no idea of his size. "I hold it up and figure if I can stretch into it, it works," he says.

Wolfford-Jackson believes Davidson does an amazing job of tying the whole thing together. "I could not fathom having to keep all those stories straight," she says. "I've been in the band 20 years and I still get the characters mixed up."

Chris and Lynda White got hooked 15 years ago, and composed an online encyclopedia about the band's first 10 years called "The Encyclopedia Bartonicus aka The Bipedia". Sample entry: "Egg-Bearing Alien Secretaries: This is the term Bud Pupkin used to describe the Karankawa who kidnapped him and his family."

Now there's a new generation of Bi-Peds fans, including Chris and Lynda's son, Ben, 3. "You'll see him on the dance floor with Wednesday's daughter," White says.

Wednesday Clemens, husband Mitchell and daughter Kallisti, 3, are there for every show.

"She's only missed two shows in her entire life since she was conceived," Clemens says of Kallisti. "She was conceived after a Beans show, and I went into labor after a Beans show."

Clemens was mesmerized from the first glimpse.

"I thought someone had dosed me with some acid," she says. "Every time I looked at the stage the guy looked different and he kept getting thinner. He wasn't the same guy."

Clemens plays Sallyanna Mocking Bird, a bad-tempered, platinum-blond girlfriend of Barton's character Gig Barley. She replaces Clamydia Flemingway (played by Rich Davidson) in Gig's affections.

Kallisti plays miniature bongo drums, seated on the dance floor, and owns her own larvalike lizard suit.

"There's nothing else out there like them," Clemens says. "It's Frank Zappa meets Walt Disney."

Barton fired himself as a musician years ago. "I used to play bass and guitar, but these people are all so much better, I had to let myself go. I give them words and they write the music. I just supply the good looks up front."

Behind all the hoopla is a group of solid musicians with a sense of adventure strong enough to work with the ludicrous lyrics and enough energy to pull off a three-hour set. Band members have backgrounds in local bands Herschel Berry and the Natives, the Dishes and Dr. Rockit.

Wolfford-Jackson has special skills. She plays keyboard, violin, theremin - an odd electronic instrument - and accordion, and navigates the stage and the dance floor on stilts or a pogo stick.

"I can Hula-Hoop and play violin at the same time," she says. "I can probably roller skate and play violin and I might be able to Hula-Hoop and play violin and roller skate - if I practiced. I cooked onstage once, and we served breakfast. I had a microwave and a wok, and we served 40 or 50 breakfast tacos during the course of three songs."

Barton also paints onstage, auctioning the finished product for as much as $500, and donating the proceeds to the Houston Food Bank.

Still, potential art buyers should know that Barton's vision during these shows is severely and intentionally impaired: "I mostly keep my eyes closed or rolled up in my head, and I wear sunglasses as well," he says. "I don't want to see the audience leaving."

The 20th-anniversary show in March was packed.

"We can't do it if no one shows up," Barton says. "And I can't do it around the house. My wife won't let me."

Wolfford-Jackson is amazed the Bi-Peds have persisted for 20 years.

"My thought is if we do it for another 20 years, it may keep us out of the senior home," she says.

...

BEANS BARTON & THE BI-PEDS

THE LINEUP:

SUSAN WOLFFORD-JACKSON (KEYBOARDS, VIOLIN, ACCORDION, VOCALS, AND THEREMIN)

WILEY HUDGINS (DRUMS AND PERCUSSION)

JIMMY RAYCRAFT (BASS AND GUITAR)

JIMB JACKSON (GUITAR AND BASS)

DANNY MCVEY (NOCTURNAL SOUND EMISSIONS)

RICH DAVIDSON (SIDEKICK)

NOAH RAMON (AS THE BI-BULB)

BEANS BARTON (HOLLERING)

...

SPAWN LAKE TRILOGY: EPISODE 2

An excerpt from the story that narrates the music:

Meet Betty Ferlinghetti, proprietor of Betty's bait camp, boat ramp, tee-pee motor court, tanning parlor, meat museum and mystic mud day spa, on the shores of Spawn Lake just outside of Anahuac. Betty has given birth to quintuplets - from five different fathers - all conjoined at the head. One of the fathers takes the magical Dark Guitar and cleaves the quints apart. Each son becomes a one-hit wonder.

- BEANS BARTON

 

Musician In A Larva Suit

Houston Chroncle, October 17, 2006

 

Beans Barton worms his way into the hearts of fans at Dan Electro Guitar Bar

by Meenu Bhardiwaj

There's no contest here. Beans Barton, creative force behind underground band Beans Barton and the Bi-peds, has been performing comic rock 'n' roll theater for 20 years, as of late once a month at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights. "I find it best to layer in the Houston heat,'' Barton says of his outlandish outfit. He leads a bunch of talented musicians, actors and special-effects experts, including Susan Wolfford-Jackson, Wiley Hudgins, Jimmy Raycraft, Jimb Jackson, Danny McVey, Rich Davidson and Noah Ramon. Barton also creates a painting during each performance that is auctioned to benefit the Houston Food Bank. Not everybody gets his three-hours-long joke, but those who do become obsessed, planning their lives around performances.

"Painter/musician Beans Barton -- he of the tuneless, late-period Jim Morrison croak, sundry crazed alter-egos, and layer upon layer of freakish, ill-fitting costumes -- is an aberration borne of the best intentions. A doting father who spends weekend nights dressing up like some Sesame Street character gone horribly awry, Barton deftly walks the line between cheap laughs and high art. He and his backup band, the Bi-Peds, are Houston's precarious link in a fractured chain of gonzo-pop performance artists who include Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Pere Ubu.

Like the first two, Barton is a product of the freewheeling '60s, blessed with an irrepressible imagination and an irreverent sense of humor to match. As such, the bloated rock experience of that era is his medium. Although his Bi-Peds may never take their music to the experimental extremes of Zappa's Mothers of Invention, or Beefheart's Magic Band, they provide an adept conduit for the channeling of Barton's many and varied artistic ideas.

A good band, after all, isn't easy to find, and no one knows that more than Barton, who spent the better part of 15 years searching for his. Sometimes -- as with his infamous early-'70s stint fronting Bruiser Barton & the Dry Heaves -- a group Rolling Stone dubbed the worst band in Texas -- he simply settled for what he could get, bonding with anyone sympathetic to his cause.

Born in Ohio, Dale "Beans" Barton arrived in Houston when he was eight, his family uprooted to Texas by his salesman father at the height of the Cold War. He was a shy child, but exceedingly artistic, taking up drawing at a very young age as a means of escape. When he got to college, he started with poetry -- wild, unhinged stuff that his buddies at the University of Houston couldn't begin to fathom.

He and some pals took up residence at an impromptu hippie forum in a local park -- first as Bruiser Barton & the Experience, then as Bruiser Barton & the Dry Heaves. Locally, the band went on to open for the likes of Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Wet Willie, and Captain Beefheart. But with little money to be made spewing Crest and pounding slabs of beef into oblivion, the Dry Heaves eventually disbanded, and Barton took jobs in construction and as a truck driver. He tried theater in the late 1970s. But he eventually returned to rock & roll, forming the Bi-Peds with guitarist Jim Mendenhall (aka Dr. Poison Zoomack).

The Bi-Peds' campy repertoire of originals includes musty-sounding, guitar-driven rock tunes with ludicrous names such as "Fuzzy Water," "Makin' Mud," and "Human Stew." All are featured on 1996's Absolutely Alive, the Bi-Peds' only release in more than 15 years of performing together. Turns out Barton hates to hear himself sing."

~ Hobart Rowland, All Music Guide

 http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/music/artist/bio/0,,647199,00.html#bio

Excerpt from The 1999 Houston Press Music Awards

BEST UNDERGROUND BAND:

Beans Barton & The Bi-Peds' Beans Barton has been at this too long to be "underground." This is his band's 14th year of performance artistry. And its lineage in Houston goes all the way back to a '60s outfit, the Dry Heaves. Nonetheless, underground Beans remains. He credits his musicians Jimmy Raycraft (himself a Houston institution, stretching back to the Dishes), Wiley Hudgins and Jim Jackson with allowing him to do what he does. What Beans does, for those not yet initiated, is churn out musically propelled performance art, both for his pleasure and for that of the Houston Food Bank.

Beans performs as a sequence of characters, with names such as Dead Earnest and Bass Slackwards, and sings a few songs as each character before peeling off that particular costume to reveal the next. All the while, the Bi-Peds are playing straightforward rock music. Beans also paints on stage. And at the end of each performance (roughly every other Tuesday at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights), the finished piece of "art" is auctioned off with the proceeds going to the food bank. Beans' pieces typically fetch $200 to $300 in this setting, though $900 has been reached. As Beans himself says: "Not bad for hanging out at a bar till two o'clock on Tuesday!"

All songs are original, composed by the band and with words by Beans. And when you combine this with perpetual opener Jimmy Raycraft's Roaring Calhouns Review, and the Bi-Bulb a cohort who wears two spotlights on his hands like mittens and cavorts around the stage lighting the show you get a night out which, as Beans proclaims, "is neither profane nor profound."

Excerpt from Houston Press 1997 Music Awards Preview

Artist: Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds

Nomination: Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category

The Bi-Peds are a little like a soap opera in that it's nearly impossible to comprehend everything that's happening on first look. Catch the show a few times, though, and you should be hooked.

Sick, funny, surreal and warm, Beans Barton is a truly lovable and perplexing local legend, and his Bi-Peds sprinkle in just the right amount of technical expertise and Monty Pythonesque wackiness to complement him. The recent addition of guitar ace Jimmy Raycraft has only strengthened the group's qualifications -- and its case for clinical insanity.

Beans Barton & the Bi-Peds CD

Absolutely Alive

 

Absolutely Alive

Hed Ped Sed

Thunder Children

Fuzzy Water

Get Bent

Makin' Mud

Bi-Ped Talk

Human Stew

 

*Songs can be played with Windows Media Player

 

The BiPeds

 

Saturday, August 18

Dan Electro's Guitar Bar

1031 E. 24th Street

Houston, TX

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