Austin, Texas Still Abuzz for Killer Bees
For over 15 years, Austin, Texas, Live Music Capital of the World, regales The Killer Bees as its “go to” reggae band. While they might not have been the first reggae band to hit the Texas musician market, they are undeniably one of the most popular, despite the personnel and personal changes they’ve undergone throughout the past decade.
Bob Marley took the world by storm, but after his death in 1981, it only took one flaunt of a dreadlock for America’s obsession with the diversionary reggae sound to disappear in a gust of ganja. However, it was ludicrous to believe reggae was destined to follow Marley to his grave, once people heard The Killer Bees. Other Austin bands followed suit, such as techno-electro, Raggamassive and Tribal Nation, packing and grooving Austin downtown clubs.
The Bees were much more than just an Austin, Texas reggae band. They kicked out danceable, funky tunes, regularly stinging the Austin live music scene with their smooth-as-butter Latin rhythmic melodies. Surprisingly, the Bees adopted an anti-drug reputation. Their much-acclaimed song, “Mad Minute,” laid the foundation for many public service broadcasts.
Often subjected to the same prejudices, sneers and elitism typically reserved for white bluesmen, they had the strongest, most authentic reggae sound of any local Austin, Texas band. Good enough to branch out internationally, these Austin musicians were all about their roots; however, they still found time to play at popular downtown Austin venues, such as Shaggy’s Caribbean Grill, the Flamingo Club, as well as the college and club circuit. In 1989, these first-rate Austin musicians won the prestigious Reggae Grammy.
Sadly, Michael Johnson, The Killer Bee’s co-founder and frontman died in the 80s. Keyboardist, Stanton Hoffman, plays with several bands in Shreveport, LA Slide guitarist and songwriter, Malcolm Welbourne (aka Papa Mali) still plays numerous Austin live music venues.