“The club room walls are shiny/ with the pictures of the stars/ the pawn shop walls are cluttered with the with broken dreams and old guitars/ the bars are full of singers/ their voices are full of pain/ their songs are all about Nashville/ and they sing the same refrain/ I wanna ride in the car Hank died In.” - I Wanna To Ride In (The Car Hank Died In ) - Michael Licht.

When the Austin Lounge Lizards broke in Australia in 1986 with their parody of the Hank Williams exploitation industry, I Wanna Ride In (The Car Hank Died In), they scored a double whammy.

That Cadillac adorned the back cover of their 1984 album Creatures From The Black Saloon and was once the home of Junior Brown - similar digs to those chosen by Texan singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver when times were tough.

That not so subliminal sense of humour has embroidered the beatific bluegrass band in a 37-year reign that has now produced 11 albums.

Junior, then working with Lost Gonzo Band and Sons Of The Bunkhouse band leader Gary P Nunn, played steel guitar on Saguaro and Anahuac from the same disc.

Saguaro was written by Michael Stevens - the luthier who designed Junior's guit steel guitar and was also second bassist for the Austin Lounge Lizards.

He stayed five years.

Saguaro was a song about a gunfight between a guy in Arizona and a cactus,” Lizards co-founder and recently retired pedal steel guitarist, dobro and banjo player and singer Tom Pittman told me in an interview at his Austin home in 1988.

“Michael read the story in the East West Journal about a guy who shot a cactus out in the desert and it fell on him and killed him. I wasn't happy with the steel part I had worked out so we asked Junior to do it and I'm very grateful he did.”

Now, 29 years later, Administrative Law Court judge Hank Card and fellow lawyer Conrad Deisler, who met at Princeton University before finishing their degrees at the University Of Texas, are the surviving co-founders.

Pittman and Deisler met in dance band, Family Traditions , with bassist Tom Ellis - the first refugee from the Lizards.

The original fiddle and mandolin player Tim Wilson later left to join Special Consensus - a bluegrass band with Robbie Fulks and Dallas Wayne among its alumni - more than 25 years ago.

Wilson, not the late Georgian country comic, was replaced by Richard Bowden - also famed for his satirical duo Pinkard & Bowden .

Although Bowden played on the band's disc, Never An Adult Moment (Sugar Hill-Shock ), his 12 year stint ended when he was replaced by Rex Browning.

The band owes its longevity to its unique satiric bluegrass style, a sub genre once practiced in Run C & W fronted by Amazing Rhythm Aces singer Russell Smith, and selective touring.


“Gingrich the Newt is puffed up like a toad/ so full of himself that he's bound to explode/ and then we'll raise up our tails and salute/ a fitting tribute to that horse's patoot/ Gingrich the Newt.” - Gingrich The Newt - Hank Card.

The Car Hank Died In was the airplay trigger on the debut that also featured Deisler tune Old & Fat & Drunk.

Jerry Jeff Walker also guested on Anahuac and Keeping Up With The Joneses , penned by Deisler and Pittman.

“Every song I have written was on the road between Houston and here which is a very boring drive,” Pittman revealed.

“I wrote the hook. ‘I'm keeping up with the Joneses since you walked out my door/ drive my car like Parnelli and I'm drinking like George.' I could never finish it so I gave it to Conrad who completed it in a law class one day when he was very bored. ”

The Jones link recurs in George Jones Is Playing In The City Tonight from their 1990 live disc Lizard Vision .

“George Jones is sort of our spiritual adviser,” Pittman added.

“We admire him very much - not just his vocal talents but his lifestyle as well. He's been a real inspiration to us all. The other Jones in their songs such as Parnelli are the race car driver, Casey Jones and Rev Jim Jones.”

The Licht penned Industrial Strength Tranquilizer - a heavy duty drinking tune - boasts singer Marcia Ball, George Strait's fiddler Gene Elders and Mothers Of Invention drummer Fred Gumaer.

The Lizards won infamy from their socio-political parodies - The Ballad Of Ronald Reagan (penned by Card before Reagan was president), Gingrich The Newt, Acid Rain and Mourning Edition .

“Hank was appalled that such a buffoon would be elected president of the U.S.,” said Tom who mixed his music with a long construction career.

“The original song dealt primarily with his career as a TV actor and governor of California. We kept doing the song for four years and updated it when he was elected. ”

Now might be an opportune time to write new Republican reflections or add the late Kacey Jones tune Donald Trump's Hair to their repertoire

They have also lampooned The Eagles in their 1988 album title track Highway Café Of The Damned - written by Card in Winslow, Arizona, and Leonard Cohen in Leonard Cohen's Day Job and Pink Floyd in Brain Damage.

Inclusion of Sheb Wooley's classic Purple People Eater , now 59 years young, on 1993 disc Paint Me On Velvet fits with the frivolity of Grandpa's Hologram and Boudreux Was A Nutcase .

Ironically, their instrumental versions of Wooley's hit and Card-Deisler tune The War Between The States earned them the 1983 Kerrville Bluegrass Band award at the festival held near singing crime novelist Kinky Friedman's Echo Hill Ranch at Rio Medina.

Traditional tunes were banished from their repertoire - especially at the 1991 International Bluegrass Music Association annual convention in Kentucky when famed bluegrass gospel singer Doyle Lawson reportedly fled after hearing Jesus Loves Me (But He Can't Stand You.)


“Lunch time in the U.S.A/ bologna and American cheese/ same 40 songs on the radio/ call the music police/ send the Oak Ridge Boys up the river/ and stick em where the sun don't shine.” - Put The Oak Ridge Boys In The Slammer - Hank Card- Conrad Deisler.

His Honour Hank Card shares a penchant for writing songs and playing his banjo in chambers like Vince Gill's late learned father and Appellate court judge Stan and fellow lawyer and satirical song-writer William James 1V from Alice, Texas.

He wrote 10 songs on 1993 album Paint Me On Velvet including Lusters' Motel featuring Texan guest vocalist Katy Moffatt - a popular Australian tourist - and Put The Oak ridge Boys In The Slammer.

Put The Oak Ridge Boys In The Slammer - a parody of commercial radio - scored alternate radio exposure here.

The vitriol peaks with the refrain - “put the Oak Ridge Boys in the calaboose/ never set em free/ they're musi-criminals on the loose/ like Kenny, Bocephus and Lee Greenwood.”

The Lizards are best known for lampooning pedants and peers but there's also self parody in Get A Haircut, Dad, Bust The High School Students, That God-Forsaken Hell Hole I Call Home, Don't Go To Tennessee and 1993 album title track Paint Me On Velvet.

“The tradition that I came from back in North Carolina and Georgia was they would stick their hands in sacks of rattlesnakes to see if the Lord would protect them from the rattlers,” says Pittman in a pert explanation of the band's healthy cynicism.

Sinning, cheating and surrogate fantasy love - the staples of roots country - are covered in Going To Hell In Your Heavenly Arms, Irving and Lusters' Motel.

And, of course, Shallow End Of The Gene Pool and Life Is Hard, But Life is Hardest When You're Dumb , are underpinned with parodic punch.

The band also performs an expanded version of Lee Goland's Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers On Drugs - “they're on the dole/ they're speaking espanol” - on their 1996 live disc Live Bait .

They're certainly not one trick lizards - there's plentiful pathos in murder spoof Wendell The Uncola Man, Cornhusker Refugee, Dallas, Texas , and Big Tex's Girl.

But it's the band's celebration of extra-terrestrial life which endeared them to astronaut Pam Melroy who took six of their CDS with her on an exploratory space trip.

Perhaps she fell in love with the Deisler-Card tune Bonfire Of The Inanities from 1995 CD, Small Minds , where the characters encounter - “in the desert we saw this giant man/ exploding like the 4 th of July/ slowly we turned to say hello/ when he vaporised into the sky.”


“But some day they'll recognise me at the genius with an edge/ I'll meet with the New York elite/ I'll be the Duke of Decoupage/ with a car full of limos for my sycophantic entourage/ hey, at least if I'm chasing something even if it's only a mirage.” - Forty Years Old And I'm Living In My Mom's Garage - Hank & Kristen Nelson Card.

Hank wrote seven tunes including I'm Forty Years Old And I'm Living In My Mom's Garage and Waiting on A Call From Don on the band's 2000 album Never An Adult Moment .

The band returns to vehicular vision with the Card-Deisler tune The Illusion Travels By Stock Car - surrealist saga of sorts of filmmaker Luis Bunuel directing the life story of NASCAR singing speed champ Richard Petty.

And that road rage returns in other originals A Hundred Miles Of Dry.

Yes, there are apparently still dry counties in Texas - and Ashville-Crashville.

But is a dry county as frustrating as a car in dry dock in Waiting On A Call From Don ?

“I was born one morning when the car wouldn't start/ so my mama had to have me in a horse drawn cart/ that horse drawn cart was way too slow/ but when you feed it hay at least it would go.”

Richard Bowden's vocal on The Beautiful Waitress - one of the band's two recording revamps of Terry Allen tunes (the other was Truckload Of Art ) - enhances that essential variety.

Marcia Ball guests on Hillbillies In A Haunted House - penned by Austin pianist Dick Price (maybe a kindred spirit of Earl Poole Ball) - where “80 hillbillies in Tennessee, all went driving on 1-83,” are considerably reduced in number just four minutes 35 seconds later.

If The Me I Used To Be is reportedly a reincarnation of Homer & Jethro classic Oh, That's Miserable then Big Rio Grande River spoofs so many Marty Robbins and Freddy Fender Tex-Mex tear jerkers.

Their 11 th and quaintly named album Home And Deranged was released in 2013 featuring Card, Deisler and new Lizards Darcie Deaville and Bruce Jones.

CD Discography

Creatures From The Black Saloon (1984)

The Highway Café Of The Damned (1988)

Lizard Vision (1991)

Paint Me on Velvet (1993)

Small Minds (1995)

Employee of the Month (1998)

Live Bait (1999)

Never an Adult Moment (2000)

Strange Noises in the Dark (2003)

The Drugs I Need (2006)

Home and Deranged (2013)

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