Tony Offender, R.I.P.

Anthony Johnson (aka Tony Offender), guitarist of the legendary Texas hardcore punk band the Offenders, passed away Saturday after battling lung cancer for 20 months. He was 54.

The Offenders were an incredibly influential early Texas hardcore act originating in Killeen which fused the intensity of punk rock with the heaviness of hardcore. The Offenders, along with bands like MDC and the Dicks, paved the way for Texas hardcore and punk bands in the early '80s. Tony recorded two albums with the Offenders, Endless Struggle and We Must Rebel, along with some singles, the most infamous being the "I Hate Myself" 45-RPM, which is widely credited as one of the finest examples of early American hardcore. The band was  also featured on the now-legendary Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death compilation that was partly put together by Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and recorded at Bob O'Neil Sound Studios (where the Valero on Broadway and Josephine now stands). This compilation is a fantastic time capsule to the South Texas music scene in the early '80s, featuring tracks from DRI, the Marching Plague, Butthole Surfers, the Dicks, Bang Gang, Watchtower, and many more.

Reminiscing about Tony Offender, Bob Catlin (of SA Slayer, another legendary Texas band) recalled the first time he had seen the band opening for the Dead Kennedys at the Ritz in Austin in 1981.

"I was just a longhaired heavy metal dumbass that was just getting into punk and hardcore, covering the show for a local zine," Catlin told the Current. "When the Offenders came on, it was like a kick in the fucking gut, they were so badass. It was punk rock-meets-Motörhead; the speed of punk-meets-the heaviness of hard rock. 'I Hate Myself' is as good as anything on the first FEAR record or any early Black Flag, and it is a timeless punk record."

We salute you, Mr. Offender. Your musical legacy lives on. — James Woodard