City Slang: Cult Hero Hiawatha Bailey talks Blind Pig

This Friday, July 15, Ann Arbor veteran garage punks the Cult Heroes play the Blind Pig in their hometown. Also on the bill are 60 Second Crush and Ola Ray. City Slang caught up with eternally youthful front man Hiawatha Bailey to discuss the past and the Pig.

Give us a little background on the Cult Heroes

I was in the White Panther Party during the ‘60s, working for John Sinclair. I was a roadie for the Up and I worked with the Stooges, the MC5 and the Rationals – a lot of the bands that were around back then. I did a brief stint in Lexington after they changed the pot laws. After that, I went back to working with music. I started my own band, brought my first guitar and started taking lessons, and I put together the Cult Heroes. That was in ’78. We played CBGB’s when we had been together for four months. We opened up for Destroy All Monsters in Michigan while I was a roadie for them. We played with the Ramones, Joan Jett, Oingo Boingo, the Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders, and we’ve toured and recorded, and onward through the fog.

Were you watching all of these great front men and thinking that you could do it?

Well yeah. When we were in the White Panther Party, all these great visiting bands would stay with us, so we were cutting out teeth on a new art form. When I got back from Lexington, I wanted to have my own band. While I was finding my legs, I continued to haul gear for bands. I wanted to support them and be the guy they could reply upon. They all knew that I was putting my own thing together though, and Ron (Asheton) was fully supportive of that.

The band Death say that they often got abuse from all sides back in the day for being black and playing rock ’n’ roll. Did you get that?

I did, because people would look at me as the only black member of my band and they’d ask if I should be doing a different type of music. These people didn’t know that rock ’n’ roll is rooted in old southern gospel and blues. I was just basically reclaiming what was mine. I mean, who gives a shit? But if those with no minds got in my face, I had to come up with some rationale.

Have the Cult Heroes been playing consistently?

We’ve always been around, just with different ensembles. Through all of those decades, it’s taken some effort to keep it together. People go to school and come back with their degrees and stuff. There’s been long hiatuses. Usually three or four times a year, we’ll play out. I want to play more than that, but it’s about the guys’ availability.

What do you have planned for the Blind Pig show?

We’re just gonna have a great time. We have two good bands playing with us – 60 Second Crush and Ola Ray. It’s going to be a great night.

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