The Razor Boys unearthed
Ronnie Razor sheds light on Atlanta's storied glam-punk legend
The legend of Atlanta rock 'n' rollers the Razor Boys have remained steeped in mystery for decades. Sure, the tribal elders manning the counter at Wuxtry and Wax 'n' Facts Records remember seeing the vampy glam-punk outfit tear up stages alongside the Dead Boys, the Ramones, or the Bon Scott-fronted AC/DC back in the day — as far back as 1976. The lashing riffs and strutting hard-rock confidence heard as vocalist Chaz Westbrook, guitarist/vocalist Ronnie Razor, bass player Dee Minor, and drummer Bobby Werblin attacked songs such as "Wolf Spider," "Get Rich Quick," and "High School" are the stuff of legend around these parts. But no proper Razor Boys recordings have seen the light of day, until now. In October, Chicago-based HoZac Records is releasing the Razor Boys' proper debut LP, Atlanta 1978, a compilation of two studio sessions recorded in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that have remained unreleased until now. In anticipation of the album's arrival, Ronnie Razor (these days he lives in Northwest Florida and performs under the name Ronno Jaxon) checked in with a history lesson about about the Razor Boys and the mean streets of Atlanta's music scene in the late '70s.
Did you grow up in Atlanta?
I was an Army brat. I moved every six-eight months to different military bases in different states. I lived in Germany from 1970-71. My first Atlanta experience was when I was 16, a teenage runaway on10th St., the Strip. When I left Germany I lived in the Florida Keys as a gypsy acoustic player/singer, then on to Denver, Colorado as a singer/blues harp player in bar bands. I moved to Atlanta in 1973 and made Atlanta my hometown until 1988 when I moved to Hollywood, California.
Razor Boys are often called one of Atlanta's first punk bands. Did you think of it as a punk band?
The Razor Boys were original, metal-edged hard rock music. We had a trashy glam image and played loud, fast, and hard. I considered the term punk rock more of a fashion statement than a musical style. The Razor Boys were showy. I still do a lot of guitar flash when I perform, and we had a great singer who got into the stage work as well. We did our first show in 1976. Music critics had the buzz word punk on the brain, and wanted to hang it on someone. However, glam-punk, as kids today rediscover bands like Slade, is something to be considered. At the time we were just being Razor Boys, playing the best high-energy rock 'n' roll we could kick out.
Where does the material on the HoZac LP come from?
It's the first two studio recordings we did in 1978. We scraped together enough money to book session time late at night in a small 16-track recording studio in Stone Mountain. Razor Boys were lucky to even get it done, even after paying for the time we spent half of it arguing with the recording people about our music. Those souls had never heard anything like it and kept trying to get us to turn down the amps. I DID NOT turn down. I turned my Marshall around and bounced it off the walls.
I wrote the song "High School" as a reflection on my first high school rock band Ronnie & the Rippers. It's my favorite cut on the LP. All these songs are personal to me and to the band. I always wrote about what we were experiencing, communicating human feelings and emotions to another human is what music is all about good feelings, bad feelings, give a damn feelings, whatever, that's why I write songs.
What was the Atlanta music scene like circa 1975-1981?
Dee and I were bashing out bass and guitar runs in late 1975. Our first show was 1976. The music business is always competitive, and the big ones eat the little ones. Atlanta had a rock music scene from 1973-1976, mostly cover bands trying to make their musical statement playing other bands' songs. However, Brother Bate, Teez, Rex mixed it up as more influence than copy note for note. Disco killed these bands. There seems to always be a new crop of Southern rockers around too. Then 1980 was new wave dance clubs, techno dance bands, girl singers, punk fashion bands, the cash cow was in town to stay.
What are some career highlights for you?
The Razor Boys/Ramones show in 1978. Razor Boys/Stiv Bators-Dead Boys show '78. Razor Boys/Bon Scott-ACDC show '78. Razor Boys/Ramones two-night stand in Staten Island 1979. Razor Boys/David Johansen Band show 1979. Ronnie Razor Band in Hollywood 1989. Ronnie Razor/Stars From Mars Hollywood shows, Ronnie Razor/Black Cherry/Bullet Boys show in San Diego. Just too many rocking shows to list.
Was the media paying attention to Razor Boys at the time?
Yeah ... They didn't want to talk to Razor Boys, they wanted to talk about Razor Boys ... Gossip and snipe. We did five or six TV 36 interviews and got the cover of Southern Jam magazine. Most Atlanta music critics didn't know about Razor Boys and they didn't want to know about Razor Boys.
When and why did the group break up?
Late 1978-1979 Razor Boys were a baby band with a big time NYC/LA management company; the only way we could get the out of town show dates with name bands. The Sunday School version of the bands end: Razor Boys were promised a major record label deal. Under the conditions we change the name and write commercial songs. We did, and no deal. The shows were hard, the tours were hard, the managers and booking agents were cheats. Everything Razor Boys were about went sideways. It was time to stop. I played hard rock music in Atlanta for 15 years. In the winter of 1988 I relocated to Hollywood as Ronnie Razor Band with Dee Minor on bass and Gary Jellison on drums. We became a Hollywood band performing until 1990.
Do you plan on playing shows again with the Razor Boys after HoZac's LP release?
Razor Boys reunion? Not at this time, but I never say never, and if there was enough interest and demand then maybe. However, the venture would have to be well structured and financed. My days of living/touring in a van and playing for beer, are long past. I lived that way for more than 15 years and have no desire to live/tour that way again. But with generous sponsors and endorsements ... I sold my two Marshall stacks and Gibson guitars years ago, and I'm sure Dee Minor, my bass man and Razor Boys comrade, would not mind a new Ampeg SVT bass rig and Gibson bass. Then show dates in select cities in the USA and Europe could become a reality.
What's next for you?
I record now as Ronno Jaxon actually since 2004. My new Ronno Re-Up CD will be ready by early 2018. It features 16 songs. My new band Ronno Jaxon's Stars with Scars is in the works as we speak, and will feature players from well known working bands and bands on hiatus. I hope my old friends in Atlanta will come out and rock with us when we get up your way.