“Cowboy Mouth is like a kick-ass, New Orleans rock-and-roll orgasm,” insists drummer and lead singer Fred LeBlanc. And we’re in no shape to argue — there’s barely energy enough to lie back, light a cigarette (forget you heard that, kids), and thank the loin-shaking heavens.
Though destined to keep an audience weak in the knees, the Louisiana native had something of a shaky start himself. “I was born deaf,” he says, “and my folks used to put my head on the stereo speakers when I was a child so I could feel the vibrations.” No, we didn’t believe him either, but — incredibly — it’s all true: Baby LeBlanc entered the world with overgrown tonsils and adenoids that blocked his hearing passages. The condition was treatable, but doctors couldn’t help until he turned three years old. “My lungs were very weak — they were underdeveloped — so they [the doctors] had to wait until my lungs were strong, which is pretty funny when you see me today,” laughs LeBlanc, unleashing a bit of the vocal power that keeps Cowboy fans coming for more. “So music was like my first communication. I was always told I could sing before I could talk.”
If that wasn’t sign enough, the subversive sway of Sesame Street soon sealed the youngster’s fate. “I started playing drums,” LeBlanc recounts, “because Oscar The Grouch was my hero. For Christmas when I was five years old, the only thing I wanted was a giant green garbage can, just like Oscar. So on Christmas morning, there was a giant garbage can that had freshly been painted green. I climbed in it, loved it, my brother and his friends used to roll me around in it, and then one day, I turned it over, and I just hit it, and I was like, ’Oh, yeaaaaaaah.’ And it was all downhill from there.”
Or, really, a steady climb uphill. A cheap drum set eventually replaced the garbage can, and LeBlanc quickly became the go-to drummer in his neighborhood, honing his skinsman skills on a high school production of Jesus Christ Superstar (“I brought [my kit] into the rehearsal space where they were doing this, and people looked at me like I had two heads”) as well as with the usual run of garage bands. A five-year stint with Dash Rip Rock began in 1985, and though the group successfully toured and released a few albums, LeBlanc grew tired of “the vices and the excesses and the craziness” of the lifestyle and quit to follow his own fortunes. A solo deal with EMI was over by the end of 1990, but LeBlanc — determined and dedicated as ever — was not done yet.