Ruby and the Rednecks at the Mercer Arts Center

Ruby and the Rednecks at the Mercer Arts Center

Several of the bands that played at the Mercer Arts Center came out of theater—like Ruby and the Rednecks, which straddled the glam and punk eras. “I formed a band out of the musicians who played with the Play-House of the Ridiculous,” recalled Ruby Lynn Reyner, “and I said, ‘Why don’t we play these songs from the shows?’ I asked John Vaccaro’s permission and he said he didn’t care.” Ruby and the Rednecks’ staple, “He’s Got the Biggest Balls in Town,” was a favorite from Jackie Curtis’s Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit. “Ruby sang quite a few songs from Heaven Grand and Cock-Strong, and some original material,” said Play-House of the Ridiculous actor Michael Arian, a backup singer for the group. “All of her songs were not so much singing as little theater pieces, like Bette Midler did. Ruby was just extraordinary and was very, very entertaining.” Reyner often acted out the lyrics while contorting her rubbery face or shaking her glitter-slathered breasts like maracas to a Latin beat. Ruby and the Rednecks were one of the staples of the Mercer’s scene, appearing on the bill at a legendary New Year’s Eve 1972 gig with Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers, Suicide, Wayne County, and the New York Dolls. “Patti Smith was an opening act at Mercer Arts Center for a couple of shows when I played with the Dolls,” Reyner recalled. “She went on early, reading her poetry, so not that many people were there. She didn’t have her musicians yet, but she picked up the music pretty fast.”

From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Mercer Arts Center
240 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012