2019 Bio: Howe Gelb & Giant Sand
One takes issuance with band bios. They often read as if the writer is trying to sell you on something. These days, bands are brands and the bio regards them as product instead of art, and as such, commerce lies in the eyes of the beholder:
Howe Gelb chose his own name as a child as he didn’t agree with his mother’s aesthetics. He was born with one good eye and has spent his existence negotiating a 2 dimensional plane. Although his drives his car like he plays guitar, he has never had a car accident and has driven across this country countless times in 2D. This allows some evidence to the way his brain must’ve augmented such particular ocular perspective and probably means he doesn’t see things like you do, nor you like he. In addition, he is often late due to an unofficially recognized disability connecting within tick and tock; the landscape of time and clock. That said, he has never missed a plane or mode of transportation, and never been late for a gig unless it’s in his hometown. However, this has nothing to do with such disability, but all to do with family errands and general degree of desert slouch.
He was born the year Elvis had his first hit. He died up around the bend at an as-of-yet undisclosed date.
He has recorded and released too many albums: Somewhere around 60 of them, which ironically is also the number of cycles in a guitar amplifier’s hum.
Here are the things you probably want to know about his work;
Howe, if that is his real name, was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After the Susquehanna River rose up to swallow his home in 1972, he was sent to Tucson, Arizona to live with his father. He began recording in the mid 70s at NPR station WVIA under the invite of George Graham back in PA. PA are the initials to the state of Pennsylvania which ironically is what he will be singing through for the rest of his life. It should also be noted that the hurricane that initiated the destruction of his hometown in PA was named Agnes, and Agnes was also the name of his Navajo girlfriend procured directly after he had moved to Tucson.
1976 – He met up with legendary duolian player & songwriter Rainer Ptacek in Tucson. Although Rainer, who was 5 years older and had his own music and bands, they started what would become Giant Sand, at first branded Giant Sandworms, which also included David Seger and the infamous Billy Sedlmayr.
1980 – Recorded his first country song soon followed in 1982 by an entire album as The Band Of … Blacky Ranchette, 3 more albums of which were to follow.
1983 – Giant Sand recorded their first album Valley of Rain with newest member bassist Scott Garber and drummer Winston Watson.
Both these albums were released respectively in 1984 & 1985.
Tommy Larkins appeared in both bands from the beginning.
1986 – Paula Jean Brown ( the Go-Gos, Belinda Carlyle) joined the band on bass, guitar and singing.
1987 – drummer John Convertino ( Calexico ) joined the band and the band became a 2 piece for a while in1989 when they had both moved to Rimrock Ranch in Joshua Tree.
Pappy & Harriets Pioneertown Palace was their local hangout and Pappy and Harriet and their family became good friends.
Pappy Claude Allen toured with Giant Sand in Europe and recorded several songs that appear on 2 of their albums.
1991 – Joey Burns ( Calexico ) joined the band.
1992 – Howe brought John Convertino & Joey Burns to Tucson.
1993 – the band Grandaddy gave Howe their first album to help get published. It did.
1997 – Howe assembled a benefit / tribute album for Rainer called The Inner Flame which featured an all-star line up
co-produced with Robert Plant, who was a big fan of Rainer. Rainer passed away shortly after its release.
2000 – M. Ward gave Howe his first album / demo to help get it released. It did.
2001 – Awarded London’s gig of the year by Time Out.
2002 – Giant Sand became primarily composed of Danish players and toured Europe exclusively.
During the first decade of the new century several notable solo albums were released featuring a full gospel choir in ‘Sno Angel ( 5 star MOJO ) and a gypsy flamenco album Alegrias as well as several Giant Sand albums too, along with raising up 3 kids.
2010 – Giant Giant Sand became a cluster of notable Tucson and Danish players.
2012 – helped record and penned Carice Van Houten’s (Game of Thrones) debut album See You On The Ice.
2013 – produced KT Tunstall’s album Crescent Moon / Invisible Empire.
2014 – produced Sylvie Simmon’s ( Arthur of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen) debut album Sylvie.
2015 – produced John Doe’s ( X, The Flesheaters ) The Westerner
2015 – released the final original album by Giant Sand album Heartbreak Pass marking 30 years since their first release.
2016 – released the solo album Future Standards comprised of original piano standards.
2017 – released the follow up Further Standards to it predecessor.
2018 – released the newly re-recorded first album by Giant Sand Returns To Valley Of Rain in a way that original release should have sounded along with all original members Scott Garber & Winston Watson as well as the band’s newest young members, Thøger Lund, Gabriel Sullivan & Annie Joe Dolan.
2019 – releasing the solo album Gathered recorded in 7 cities around the globe and featuring guests: Anna Karina, M. Ward, Pieta Brown, Kira Skov, JB Meijers, The Lost Brothers and Talula Gelb.
2019 – releasing the newly re-recorded 2nd Giant Sand album Re-Ballading The Thin Line Man along with original drummer Tommy Larkins.
Howe Gelb still resides in Tucson, Arizona.
The current and entire back catalogue can be found on
Fire Records of London and Light In The Attic USA.
photo by Jacob Sullivan @ Che’s Lounge, Tucson AZ 2/2/2019