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Randy "Biscuit" Turner

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Randy "Biscuit" Turner Obituary
Big Boys singer put funk in punk

Musician found dead in South Austin home; police investigating.


By Joshunda Sanders, Joe Gross
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, August 19, 2005

Beloved punk icon Randy "Biscuit" Turner was found dead in his home Thursday afternoon, the same day a feature story about him appeared in the The Austin Chronicle.

Marc Savlov, a Chronicle reporter who wrote the cover story about Turner, told a group of neighbors who stood outside of Turner's South Austin home that he was the person who went to house, looked inside and called police. "I opened the door, and it was dead silent," he said, his hand shaking as he held his cell phone. He said he had just come from giving a statement to police.

Police investigators at the scene did not release details about Turner's death Thursday night. Investigators from the Travis County medical examiner's office did not return calls. Kevin Buchman, an Austin police spokesman, would not confirm the identity of the body Thursday night. He said it was not being considered a suspicious death.

Nationally, Turner was best known as the frontman for punk-funk pioneers the Big Boys. With the Big Boys, Turner subverted the rapidly entrenching dogmas of American hardcore punk in the late 1970s and early '80s with humor, eclectic songwriting and outrageous costumes.

With guitarist Tim Kerr, bassist Chris Gates and drummer Rey Washam, the Big Boys, which lasted from 1978 to 1984, became known for explosive and funky live shows. They slowed down punk tempos to allow for syncopated rhythms and played with nonpunk bands such as the Washington, D.C., go-go act Trouble Funk. The Big Boys can be seen as a direct precursor to funky rock acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. The band's encouragement of audience participation made them iconic punk rockers.

"It's hard to overstate how huge they were in Austin," Butthole Surfers drummer King Coffey said Thursday evening. "They weren't just a punk band. A really wide spectrum of people would check out the shows. It was due in a large part to Biscuit. Everyone in the crowd would be dancing and having so much fun, and Biscuit was like the ringleader of this band that would sometimes have a full horn section on stage. The band's motto was 'fun, fun, fun,' and that was Biscuit to a T.

"People like Biscuit created an amazing community here," Coffey continued. "The Big Boys were the heart and soul of it, and he was the heart and soul of the Big Boys. He meant so much to the music scene here in Texas and to punks throughout the U.S."

Influential punk rockers such as Coffey, Minor Threat and Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye, and producer Steve Albini paid tribute to the Big Boys in essays included in the band's two anthology CDs, "The Skinny Elvis" and "The Fat Elvis." The East North Loop record store Sound on Sound is named after a Big Boys song. Turner went on to sing with Cargo Cult, Swine King and was working on new projects, including visual art.

Neighbors said that Turner was an artistic, off-beat personality who often retreated into his house for days to work on visual art. His neighbors gathered at the corner where his house was and reminisced about the Austin Music Hall of Fame inductee that they knew as a character who took pride in the tree full of plastic blue bottles in his yard, being quirky and creating art.

"He brought such a touch of humor and life to the block," said Robert Goyer, 46, who lives across the street. "He's irreplaceable."

Goyer said Turner would do things like paint snakes on the road. Last year, he hosted an open house where everything in the house was orange — right down to the Cheetos and soda. Other neighbors said that he would offer to watch their animals when they were away. Goyer said that Turner had been looking forward to an art show in Nacogdoches and was excited about the Chronicle article.

"It's my world, and sometimes I retreat to it knowing full well that beyond that front door right there is horror and destruction and death and mayhem," Turner said in the Aug. 19 cover story. "But I know I can't control any of that, and so this little world that I've created here, well, I can barely control that, too, but it's much more fun."
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 19, 2005
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