"Just the kind of music they'll use when they burn us all for witches a few years from now."
The Austin Chronicle, (1982)
"Stephen W. Terrell is a highly literate humorist."
"Northern New Mexico is a unique place where Pueblo Indians, Chicanos and cowboys mix and mingle with artists, New Agers and atomic scientists. In the early 1980s, Santa Fe born singer/songwriter Stephen Terrell captured with great intelligence and humor, the essence of this strange scene on two fine albums ..."
"His voice, spirited, knowing, barely adequate, is just the right instrument to lead his raw country-rock ensemble. ... Terrell's unselfconscious, wacky energy keeps this recording good, clean, starchy fun."
Arizona Daily Star
"The stylistic range and lyrical depths of Terrell's offerings could hog-tie and thoroughly boggle staid minds and seriously delight those who look at the world and think many of us may be a few sandwiches short of a picnic (for potatoheads or otherwise)."
S. Derickson Moore
Las Cruces Sun-News
Steve Terrell Muses on the re-release of Picnic Time For Potatoheads (and Best-Loved Songs of Pandemonium Jukebox)
Two bad marriages, two great kids. A lot has come down in the 20-some years since Picnic Time For Potatoheads sprang forth upon a largely unfazed world.
They closed down most of the Santa Fe places I sang about in "The Green Weenie." Apple Liquors, The Senate Lounge. The Yucca Drive-In was the last to go. The Forge, that red-bricked tavern where I worked my voodoo sting nearly every Sunday night for nearly four years, is no more.
Who would have known all that in 1981, the first year of the Reagan Administration? It was Morning in America -- and me with a ferocious hangover.
I really didn't know what I was doing when I walked into John Wagner Studios in Albuquerque in August of that year. Although at that point I was basically a solo act, I'd decided to use a band for the record. My brother, Jack -- who has always been a far better musician than me -- agreed to produce. His group at the moment, The Whereabouts (with Dave Valdez and Mike Roybal), would back me up.
Though we only rehearsed together a handful of times, it seemed to click when we started playing in the studio. Of course, there were rough spots. There was a bad spat with my wife the one night she attended a session. Jack got pissed off at the end of the first week and quit for a few days. My car had broken down, and I had to hitchhike up to Santa Fe to interview Peter Tosh for The Santa Fe Reporter -- only to have Tosh stiff me on the interview.
But I remember mainly the good times, like when Frank Zappa's old drummer, Jimmy Carl Black -- who was living in Albuquerque at the time -- came on the second or third night to play drums on "The Green Weenie." We all felt cool to be playing with an actual rock star -- LONESOME FUCKIN' COWBOY BURT!
We finished recording in two weeks. To this day I feel only disgust at spoiled, finicky musicians who take years to kick out an album.
I was completely lost trying to run a damned record company in my spare time. (I was trying to support my family playing gigs, freelance writing, and substitute teaching.)
The Nashville company that pressed the record changed ownership and lost the master tape and color separation. I can't even count the number of record stores that went belly-up after we left consignment copies.
Not surprisingly, Potaoheads flew beneath radar across most of the nation. Dr. Demento played the title song on his nationally syndicated show. Outside of New Mexico, a handful of college stations picked it up. Every so often I'd receive playlists. There were some where Potatoheads was sandwiched between the likes of Doc Watson and Jerry Jeff Walker. In others, it rubbed elbows with the Replacements and Throbbing Gristle.
The one major commercial station that played the record was the wonderful KFAT-FM in Gilroy, Calif. KFAT is probably the true father of the Americana format -- progressive/regressive raw country with a healthy appetite for the weird. Program director Dallas Dobro even set me up with a distributor in the Bay Area when I visited the station in May 1982. But wouldn't you know it? Eight months later KFAT's new owners changed the format. When The San Francisco Examiner did a story about KFAT's demise, they ran a picture of Potatoheads along with one of a Utah Phillips album.
There was scattered airplay and scattered reviews. Sales were even more scattered. In late 1983 I began working with Tom Dillon on a project that would eventually become Pandemonium Jukebox. Tom had played steel guitar on a couple of Potatoheads cuts and had moved next door to me. During the previous year or so he accompanied me at most of my gigs. Tom bought a Fostex four-track cassette recorder, which he set up in a back bedroom we dubbed The Luxurious Electro-Elf Studios. Getting together mainly on Sunday nights, we made what now must be considered a pioneering "lo-fi" album.
By the summer of 1984, poor old Blue Elf only had enough petty cash to make a few hundred cassette copies of Pandemonium Jukebox. Radio tends to avoid the cassette format, so airplay was virtually nil. Reagan was re-elected and Blue Elf Music quietly bit the ducks.
I put my Superman suit in the mothballs and went about my career as a mild-mannered reporter.
Now Picnic Time For Potatoheads is available on CD with nine songs from Pandemonium Jukebox.