Heritage Hump Day: Hellfire - "Damn Thing"

Hellfire is reuniting, and it feels so good.
Hellfire is reuniting, and it feels so good.
Courtesy of Onus Records

Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.

Well, we've finally hit a group that predates New Times' archives on the Internet. You can see Hellfire mentioned in the role call with singer-songwriter Kevin Daly's other music projects through the years, from The Hoods to Grant and the Geezers to Grave Danger to Trophy Husbands to Chicken And Waffles.

Since Hellfire is reuniting for a March 28 show at Rips with contemporaries Burning Bush (don't worry, we'll get to them next week), here's a little back history.

See also: The Phoenix Music Scene Bucket List

Hellfire was formed by three members of Grant and The Geezers, Kevin Daly (guitar/vocals), Chuck Holder (bass), and Chris Appleby (drums), after the Geezers folded in 1983. The trio played frequently in Phoenix and Tucson, on punk bills (which were often all-ages) and in nightclubs. The band lasted about four years, racking up a slim discography consisting of one cassette (produced by Tone Set's Gregory Horn) and one appearance on a Placebo Records compilation. They also performed frequently in California and toured the United States in 1985. When Hellfire disbanded, Chris Appleby joined the Gin Blossoms as drummer.

According to Daly, "Our crowd was unruly but drank oceans of whiskey, so the group was always in demand. Bo Diddley often hired Chuck and Chris to back him when performing in Phoenix."

Although they were associated the "desert rock," punk, and rockabilly scenes, they were always labeled cow-punk or cow-poke or something in between. But this week's track "Damn Thing" proves they were a pile-driving pop band, with a production aesthetic that bring Hellfire closer to Stiff Records than Slash Records.

Daly agrees. "It reveals that we were not just a steamroller punk rockabilly band. It reminds me that we wrote and played whatever we wanted. We played blues, rockabilly, nearly metal punk, and country. We covered Kiss, Prince, Paul Revere and the Raiders (I think). Among the regimented bands of that era (punk, new wave, rockabilly, blues) we moved laterally and played with all of em. The culture of that era was saturated in booze, drugs, and violence. We were just good-natured roofers from Phoenix who were either fearless, senseless, or both. We made friend almost everywhere we went, although there were occasional misunderstandings. We always got paid, we almost always got booked again. However, given the proclivities of the band, it is surprising that all the original members are alive. Makes it real important to us that we can come out for our peers once again."

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One last point he makes about Hellfire's lineup: "Chris was replaced on drums by Charlie Gocher, a longtime associate of ours, drummer for the Sun City Girls. Things really got weird on a couple West Coast swings with Charlie. God love him, R.I.P. He was fearless and a joy to play with."

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