Tex-Mex bassist/singer Billy Bacon says, “I can’t do the physical, crazy act I used to do, but we still rock.”
When Billy Bacon launched the Forbidden Pigs in 1984 he was as happy as a pig in a roots-rock poke. His Tex-Mex trio was buoyed by a flourishing San Diego roots scene that included the Beat Farmers, Buddy Blue, the Paladins, and Mojo Nixon.
"Una Mas Cerveza"
...Billy Bacon live at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska (2001)
The Pigs toured nationally, opening for the Blasters and Los Lobos. By the early ’90s they had released two albums, a single (“Una Mas Cerveza”), and were playing up to 250 shows a year.
“I wanted to be more centrally located,” says Bacon. “Austin just seemed to be closer to Key West than San Diego.”
So he followed the lead of Paladins’ Dave Gonzalez and Rosie Flores and picked up and moved to Texas.
“I live in the hill country, right between Austin and San Antonio,” Bacon says. “Lots of people moved here. The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash moved here, too.”
But things got bleak for the upbeat frontman/bassist who sang bouncy songs in Spanglish about tequila, border towns, and lowriders.
He was sidelined by debilitating bouts of arthritis.
“I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years before I left for Texas,” says Bacon. “I still traveled, though. It wasn’t bad when I left. But it got real bad.”
The crippling disease made him basically bedridden from 2005 to ’06.
“If I’d known I would be in as bad a shape as I was, I would have never left home. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t put any weight on my feet.”
Bacon had done well with the Forbidden Pigs.
“I did have savings. But my insurance company wouldn’t renew me. Then I had go to through the disability system. It took me two and a half years to get approved. By that time my savings was gone.
“We also bred Irish wolf hounds,” he says of his supplemental income while not touring. “We sent puppies all over the place. That helped us keep going, too.”
- Saturday, August 27, 2016, 8 p.m.
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Bacon says his body just didn’t respond to the traditional drugs used to treat his arthritis.
“Finally, they found one that would work. It’s called Remicade. They usually use it as a chemotherapy for Crohn’s disease. It was a miracle drug. It got me moving again.”
Bacon says he doesn’t mount his standup bass as he did in years past.
“I can’t do the physical, crazy act I used to do, but we still rock. I have good and bad days. But I feel real fortunate to be back on my feet after laying in bed for all those years.”
Bacon is touring in support of his tenth album, High, Wide and Handsome, released on his own label, Swine Song Records. “It was actually recorded over 12 years. Some of that time when I couldn’t get out of bed.”
Billy Bacon will play a record-release show at Tio Leo’s on Saturday, August 27.