Music News & Reviews

Texas Hippie Coalition’s music hard to categorize

“I’ll take all you got.”

Big Dad Ritch, leader of the Texas Hippie Coalition, is ordering from the drive-through of a barbecue joint in the Lone Star State, but he might as well be talking about his approach to life in general.

Ritch, who brings his band to the Cotillion on Friday, has become a pioneer in a musical genre known as Red Dirt Metal, which he describes as a fusion of everything from Johnny Cash to Pantera.

“It’s tough to categorize this band,” he said. “If you go in a Hastings, they might have us under rock ’n’ roll. If you go in Barnes & Noble, they might have us under heavy metal. Sometimes we’ll go in a little mom-and-pop place, and they’ll have us under country.”

In a telephone interview, Ritch lives up to his reputation as a large and somewhat larger-than-life character, holding forth on everything from the superiority of Texas barbecue to the effectiveness of corporal punishment on male children.

Ritch grew up in north Texas and started his first band at 19 — “the name was ‘Necromancer,’ ” he says with a chuckle. He tried a couple of other careers after getting married and starting a family, as a fishing guide and mixed-martial-arts promoter. “It was like UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), but just bottom-shelf.”

“Finally, me and my old lady split up, and I decided to try my hand at music,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t exactly who she thought I should be. We went our separate ways.”

That didn’t mean giving up family life. Ritch says he has full or partial custody of all four of his children — two daughters and two sons — and notes that they happen to be along with him on his barbecue run.

If fact, his children are part of the inspiration for his music. Ritch said his father turned him on to lots of great music, from ZZ Top to Bob Seger, but when it came time for him to do the same with own progeny, “I just didn’t like where the music was. I wanted to create something with a little more realism.”

At the same time, neither Ritch nor anyone else thought THC (as he likes to refer to it), would play anywhere other than local clubs. Six years later, they’ve recorded three CDs, toured the country and soon will open for Lynyrd Skynrd, a band Ritch idolizes.

“This is one of the best bull rides I’ve been on,” Ritch said. “I’m having a blast.”

Before hanging up, Ritch offers two explanations for why the leader of a band called the Texas Hippie Coalition actually makes his home on the Oklahoma side of Lake Texoma.

One is that “Texas outlaws hide out in Oklahoma.” The other is for unspecified business purposes — “Living here saves me like $5,000 a year.”

But when it comes to really important stuff, like picking up barbecue, Ritch returns to his home state. He’s even started his own line of sauces and seasonings.

“When you’re ‘abroad’ — even if you’re in Tennessee or Georgia — the barbecue is not as good as in Texas.”