death that lived up to the title, while the band's version of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" shimmied like a thousand dirty garbagemen on an after-work bender. The record distilled a hodge-podge of influences-- everything from vintage blues and soul to Johnny Thunders, the Sonics and Billy Childish-- into something that kicked with instant familiarity but carved a singular niche into the foundation of trash-rock history.

The record got the Gamblers a few out-of-town gigs and found its way into the hands of a small but fanatically loyal bunch of locals. The shows that followed walked a thin line between chaos and control, smashing the band's soul across both sides. Live, the band wore charisma like Elvis wore sideburns. Yarber, Mr. Bas-Ass incarnate in wraparound shades and a low-slung Flying V, spitting out "Bad Taste" like the words were rotting his throat. Cartwright, eyes clinched tight, face into the make, digging deep into "Sour and Vicious Man" and pulling out a heart stained with blood, beer and ashes. Tubb beating the shit out of a shrieking keyboard; Easterly drawing mournful sounds from a battered violin; Thomas thrashing out the beat in all the right places and some well-chosen wrong ones. The shows were noisy, abrasive and intense affairs, the unforgettable stuff of legend. They made women lose their clothes and men climb from the audience and onto the stage in an alcohol and feedback trance, determined to become part of the madness.

The Gamblers' next EP, Church Goin', was put out by a Memphis fan on the one-shot Lemon Peel label. Recorded in the same kitched as Joker, and featuring a new lineup which added Fields Trimble on bass, the four songs offered a freeze-frame of psychological decay and degeneracy, with cleaner fidelity that sacrificed none of the band's bite. Yarber's "Name a Drink After You" had a title worthy of George Jones but an edge that would've scared even the alcohol-drenched Possum; his "Scaring Myself" was a white-boy punk-rock blues with more balls than anything on Jon Spencer's first album.

Still, Church Goin' belonged to Cartwright, whose "Capone's Finest" and "Dead Waltz" pack the verbal wallop of Bob Dylan's scariest mid-'60s stuff and the emotional punch of a man who's just made his own coffin. If you're looking for the roots of Oblivians cuts like "No Reason to Live" or "Plate in My Head," you'll find them here.

Unfortunately, Church Goin' was released just as the group began to fragment. Thomas and Easterly had been living in New Orleans for a while and grew tired of making the seven-hour trip to Memphis for gigs, and Trimble had moved to New York City. By the summer of '93, the Gamblers officially folded. Their demise was made even more painful after hearing the posthumously released single which paired "Good Time" and "Mind in the Gutter." Recorded at Easley Studios just as the band was breaking up, it should have signaled a new era. Instead, it stuffed a cork in the era that was.

"Good Time" moved to the band's toughest, tightest groove, with a squawking saxophone riding a monstrous, frat-daddy beat. But Cartwright's intense vocal made it the most disturbed party record ever released. Listen to his screams just before the band clamps down on the riff. Those aren't the screams of a man about to go out and raise hell and get drunk and screw around; it's the roar of a sad son a a bitch who's lived too long without the luxury of having a good time, who's forgotten what the whole damn concept even means.

The formation of the Oblivians made the reality of a Memphis with no Gamblers easier to grasp. Of course, it helped that the Oblivians' more deranged moments ("Song Inside," "No Reason to Live," "Blew My Cool") were throwbacks to the kind of mental piledrivers the Gamblers used to whop all over Memphis club dwellers. Now we have Gambling Days Are Over, which is more than just a document of those sweat-soaked nights. Play it loud, with the lights down low and the blood-alcohol level high and you'll find the clammy hands of the Compulsive Gamblers grabbing your neck, pulling you through the wall of piercing cacophony and into the soul pure rock and roll genius.

-- John Floyd

1. Telstar (Joe Meek)
lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; rhythm guitar: Jack Yarber; drums Rod Thomas

2. Bad Taste (Bar-Kays, arr. Compulsive Gamblers)
vocal, sax: Jack Yarber; lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; drums Rod Thomas; organ: Phillip Tubb

3. Down in the Hole (Tom Waits)
guitar, vocal: Jack Yarber; organ: Greg Cartwright; drums: Rod Thomas; violin: Greg Easterly; hooter: Phillip Tubb

4. Dead Waltz (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; organ: Jack Yarber; drums: Rod Thomas; violin: Greg Easterly

5. Sour & Vicious Man (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; organ: Jack Yarber; drums: Rod Thomas; violin: Greg Easterly

6. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; lead guitar: Jack Yarber; drums: Rod Thomas; violin: Greg Easterly

7. Walking the Balustrade (Jack Yarber)
vocal, guitar: Jack Yarbar; lead guitar: Gred Cartwright; violin: Greg Easterly; drums: Rod Thomas; piano: Phillip Tubb

8. Scaring Myself (Jack Yarber)
vocal, sax: Jack Yarber; guitar: Greg Cartwright; fiddle: Greg Easterly; drums: Rod Thomas

9. Capone's Finest (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; organ: Jack Yarber; drums: Rod Thomas

10. They'll Name a Drink After You (Jack Yarber)
vocal, guitar: Jack Yarber; lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; violin: Greg Easterly; bass: Jeff Harris; drums: Rod Thomas

11. Quit This Town (Jack Yarber)
sax, lead vocal, guitar: Jack Yarber; vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; violin: Greg Easterly; bass: Jeff Harris; drums: Rod Thomas

12. They Call Me Names (Jack Yarber)
vocal, guitar: Jack Yarber; lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; bass: Jeff Harris; drums: Rod Thomas

13. Phoney Lesbians (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; sax: Jack Yarber; fiddle: Greg Easterly; bass: Jeff Harris; drums: Rod Thomas

14. Gambling Days (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; electric organ: Jack Yarber; violin, strange percussion: Greg Easterly; bass: Fields Trimble; drums: Rod Thomas; piano: Phillip Tubb

15. I See You Everywhere (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; rhythm guitar: Jack Yarber; bass: Jeff Harris; violin: Greg Easterly; drums: Rod Thomas

16. Handful of Burning Sand (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; rhythm guitar: Jack Yarber; bass: Fields Trimble; drums: Rod Thomas

17. Devil in My Back Pocket (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; rhythm guitar: Jack Yarber; bass: Fields Trimble; drums: Rod Thomas

18. Feel Good Music (Jack Yarber)
vocal, guitar: Jack Yarber; lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; slide guitar: Lorette Velvette; bass: Fields Trimble; drums: Rod Thomas

19. Good Time (Greg Cartwright)
vocal, guitar: Greg Cartwright; electric organ: Jack Yarber; bass: Fields Trimble; sax: James Enck; drums: Rod Thomas

20. My Mind Is in the Gutter (Jack Yarber)
vocal, lead guitar: Jack Yarber; lead guitar: Greg Cartwright; bass: Fields Trimble; drums: Rod Thomas; piano: Greg Cartwright & Lorette Velvette

Tracks 1-9 recorded by Phillip "Flipper" Tubb at the Dunlap Apartment Building, Madison Avenue, Memphis, during the fall of 1991 (in the kitchen).
Tracks 10-13 recorded by "Flipper-Man" at the Dunlap Apartment Building during the summer of 1992.
Tracks 14-17 recorded by "Flipper-Dude" in the home of Melissa Thornton, Memphis, October 1992.
Tracks 18-20 recorded by Doug Easley and Davis McCain at Easley Studios, Memphis, February 1993.

Cover photo and neon-light photos by Daniel Ball. Cover concept and design by J. Michael McCarthy; original cover idea by the Simpletones. Layout by Eddie Flowers.

Thanks to Scott Bomar of Impala, Sunrise "Sunny G" Gervis, Melissa Thornton, Christine Moffitt, Mark McGhee, Steve McGhee and the late great Antenna Club, Bubba & Vincent Van Go-go's, WEVL FM90, Wally Hall, Peter Mantis, Judy Peiser, Center for Southern Folklore, Jon Cook, Scott Reitmeyer, Patrick Ferris, Susan Ferris, Dave Crider, Mike Federline, James Enck, Lorette Velvette, Misty White, Sheperd Simmons, Rhett Beiletti, Lemon Peel Records, Cheryl Payne, Monsieur Jeffrey Evans, Shangri-La Records, Sherman Willmott, Power of Bob Angst, Andria Lisle, Bob Camp, Harris Scheuner, Marty Perez, Alluring Strange, Colt 45 Malt Liquor, Poli-Sci-Clone for dancing to the Gamblers at Decadence Manor, the Rockroaches, Mark Shikuma, Mark Harrison & Snake Hips, Su Ondine, Veracity Records, Wipe Out fanzine, Portia Jeffries, Memphis' Only Rock'n'Roll Magazine, Loafing the Donkey fanzine, Professor Elixir's Southern Troubadours, Lori Pafford, Andrew Pafford, Pezz, the Simpletones.