Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Cramps are a punk rock/rockabilly band whose only permanent members have been Lux Interior (Erick Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace), the lead singer and lead guitarist respectively. Their musical style is fuzz-toned, stripped-down rockabilly, mostly in twelve bar blues form, played at varying, though usually fast, tempos, with two guitars, vocals and a very minimal drumkit. In more recent years they have added a bass player. The content of their songs and image is sleaze, trashy Americana, sexual fetishism, and a lot of cheap, horror B-movie cliche.
Influences on the sound are early rockabilly and proto-rock n roll like Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale; 1960s garage rock artists like The Seeds, The Gants, The Sonics, and The Monks; as well as the early punk scene from which they emerged. They also owe a lot to Screamin' Jay Hawkins for having invented the theatrical horror-blues stage act.
In turn, they have strongly influenced subsequent punk and rockabilly revival bands, even creating a genre in their wake. "Psychobilly," a style played by bands like The Meteors and the Sharks, is a term coined by the Cramps, although Lux Interior maintains that the term does not describe their own style.
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy met in Sacramento in 1972. Due to their common artistic interests, they decided to form The Cramps. Lux took his stage name from a car ad, and Ivy claimed to have received hers in a dream (she was first Poison Ivy Rorschach, taking her last name from that of the inventor of the Rorschach inkblot test). They moved in 1973 to Akron, Ohio and then to New York in 1975, soon entering into CBGB's early punk scene with other emerging acts like The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Television. The lineup in 1976 was Poison Ivy Rorschach, Lux Interior, Bryan Gregory (guitar) and his sister Pam "Ballam" (drums).
They quickly changed drummers twice; Miriam Linna (later of Nervous Rex) replaced Pam Ballam, and then Nick Knox (Nicholas Stephanoff) replaced Linna in September 1977. In the late 1970s, the Cramps performed regularly in New York at places like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, releasing two indie singles produced by Alex Chilton at Ardent Studios in Memphis in 1977 before being signed by Miles Copeland to the young I.R.S. Records label. They released the two singles again on their 1979 Gravest Hits EP, before Chilton brought them back that year to Memphis to record their first full length album, Songs The Lord Taught Us, at Phillips Recording, operated by former Sun Records label owner Sam Phillips.
Kid Congo Powers of The Gun Club joined the Cramps on guitar, but while recording their second LP, Psychedelic Jungle, the band and Miles Copeland began to dispute royalties and creative rights. The ensuing court case prevented them from releasing anything until 1983, when they recorded Smell of Female live at New York's Peppermint Lounge and Kid Congo Powers departed.
The Cramps have had several lineups over the years.
Cast of Characters
- Lux Interior - vocals: March 1976 and onward
- Poison Ivy - lead guitar: March 1976 and onward
- Bryan Gregory - guitar: March 1976 - June 1980
- Pam Ballam - drums: June 1976 - August 1976
- Miriam Linna - drums: September 1976 - August 1977
- Nick Knox - drums: September 1977 - May 1991
- Julien Griensnatch - guitar: July 1980 - December 1980
- Kid Congo Powers - guitar: December 1980 - September 1983
- Terry Graham - drums: October 1982
- Ike Knox - guitar: October 1983 - November 1983; January 1984 - July 1984
- Click Mort - guitar: December 1983
- Fur - bass: March 1986 - June 1986
- Candy del Mar - bass: July 1986 - May 1991
- Jim Sclavunos - drums: June 1991 - September 1991
- Nikki Alexander - drums: October 1991 - December 1993
- Harry Drumdini - drums: January 1994 - August 2003
- Jungle Jim - drums: September 2003 - July 2004
- Bill Bateman - drums: July 2004
- Chopper Franklin - guitar: 2000
- Sugarpie Jones - bass:??
- Slim Chance - bass:??
- Touch Hazard - bass:??
- Gravest Hits (1979)
- Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)
- Psychedelic Jungle (1981)
- Smell of Female (1983)
- Off The Bone (1983)
- Bad Music for Bad People (1984)
- A Date With Elvis (1986)
- ROCKINREELINAUKLANDNEWZEALAND (1987)
- Stay Sick (1989)
- Look Mom No Head (1991)
- Flame Job (1994)
- Big Beat From Badsville (1997)
- Fiends of Dope Island (2003)
- "How to make a Monster" (2004)
- The Cramps Discography, Biography and Links at Mr Bill's I.R.S. Records Corner Retrieved Nov. 23, 2004.
- Deming, Mark. Allmusic.com Biography on The Cramps Retrieved Nov. 23, 2004.
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