Psychobilly Godfather Lux Interior Dead at 62

The quintessence of Lux. (Couldn’t find a photo byline for this. Anyone know?)

Oof. Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, died earlier today of a pre-existing heart condition, aged 62. He is survived by his maximumrocknroll wife of almost 40 years, guitarist Poison Ivy.

The Cramps’ genre-defining “psychobilly” sound was unlike anything else to originate from the late 70s NYC punk scene –sharp, savage, sexy, filthy, campy, goofy, sometimes just plain sick— and Lux retained his gritty, untamed edge until the very end. From their publicist’s official press release:

[The Cramps’] distinct take on rockabilly and surf along with their midnight movie imagery reminded us all just how exciting, dangerous, vital and sexy rock and roll should be and has spawned entire subcultures. Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom.

Oh, Lux, we’re gonna miss you so much. A eyeball martini toast to you and your fiery spirit, with loving thoughts for Ivy during this painful time.

An unforgettable clip of Lux Interior in action from URGH! A Music War.

Click below for more photos, blurbs and video footage of The Cramps from over the years.

“Bikini Girls With Machine Guns”

Lux Interior’s IMDB biography:

Erick Lee Purkhiser, better known as his stage name Lux Interior, was born on October 21st, 1948 in Stow, Ohio. He grew up enamored with the culture of the 1950s. In particular he loved Rockabilly music, EC Horror comic books and B-movies. As a child he was drawn to the antics of the early 60s Cleveland horror host Goulardi, whose rebellious act and off-color jokes would earn him much scorn from the local PTA. Purkhiser later joked that Goulardi was so popular the crime rate went down when he was on because everyone was watching his show.

Don’t have photo cred for this one, either. Give me a heads up if you do, thanks.

In 1972 in Sacramento he met his soul mate; a fellow fan of Alice Cooper, LSD, record collecting and B-movies known as Kristy Wallace, better known as Poison Ivy. According to legend he picked her up while she was hitch-hiking. After discovering just how similar they were the two moved back to Ohio in 1973 and later to New York City in 1975.

“I Was A Teenage Werewolf”

Influenced by the burgeoning punk scene in New York with bands like The New York Dolls and The Ramones setting the standard the two decided they would start their own punk rock band, The Cramps. In contrast to other punk bands at the time however, they also mixed a heavy dose of Rockabilly and B-movie imagery to form their own unique image.

The infamous “Napa State Mental Hospital” footage. 1984.

It was during this time that Purkhiser took the stage name Lux Interior, taking his name from a car advert. He also created a unique stage persona, one of a complete honky tonky punk wild man, or as one reviewer put it “the psychosexual werewolf/ Elvis hybrid from hell”.

The Cramps covering “Muleskinner Blues” by Jimmy Rodgers

The genre they helped create was later known as “Psychobilly” even though Interior denies that that is what their music really is. In 1978 The Cramps showed the world just how deep their love for the weird and the off beat went when they gave a free concert to the patients at the Nappa Valley State Mental Institution. The next year The Cramps released their first official EP, “Gravest Hits”. That same year they released their first LP, “Songs the Lord Taught Us”.

Photo by ??? (Mea culpa. Sheesh, I can’t seem to find any photo bylines today!)

In 1985, The Cramps were able to perform one original song for Dan O’Bannon’s classic horror-comedy zombie flick The Return of the Living Dead with the song “Surfin’ Dead”. Although he and Ivy are the only two constant members of the Cramps line up the band still continues to tour to this day, giving fans much joy and fun, reminding them of the power of rock and roll.

19 Responses to “Psychobilly Godfather Lux Interior Dead at 62”

  1. gooby Says:

    You’re welcome to come back and eat my brains, Lux, its the least I could do for all you did for me. I owe you lot actually, maybe I should stock my fridge with brains too.

    “life is short and it’s filled with stuff”
    -Lux, Surfin Dead

  2. Katie Says:

    oh man. this made me very sad.

    well…there’s still a lot of rhythm in those rockin’ bones.

  3. Jason Brezinski Says:

    Well, damn. That was some good music.
    RIP Dr. Fucker, Rock and Roll M.D.

    And this brings up something I’ve always wondered when listening to The Cramps or reading about women in rock and roll. Poison Ivy is amazing. Why is she not enshrined in the pantheon of women guitar shredder rockers?

  4. Peter S. Says:

    Aw, man. Lux.

    That footage from URGH! just kills. Such an awesome band in a mostly-great movie. The idea that genre largely didn’t matter, that Lux and Ivy belonged on the same stage as XTC or Wall Of Voodoo, or (at CBGB’s) Joey, Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee, how did that get lost?

    The Cramps always seemed apart from the world. Sometimes things would slip into phase and they’d pick up fans, or a high profile gig, sometimes they’d just play. I know that’s far from the messy truth of hardworking musicians struggling to get by, but that time, that CBGB’s/URGH! moment…my god, what magic. So many things, unrelated but in phase, all on the same stages, all in front of the same audiences…

    Ron Asheton died a month ago. Now Lux. 2009 promises to be a profoundly bad year for music if this goes on.

  5. Io Says:

    Well, fuck all! I’m not shocked, though I’m a bit sad. I’ll never forget when, at the tender age of 16, I saw a video of him performing in all his madness — gagging on the mic, pants falling down, junk flying about — and I remember thinking how awesome it would be if performers had that kind of moxie these days. Of course, some do, but it seems scarcer and scarcer, especially since he’s gone.

  6. andrew Says:

    i’m speechless. that really sucks. i remember when bryan died.

  7. Infamous Amos Says:

    Elvis fucking Christ, this sucks. My list of bands to see before I die just lost its spot number one. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t listen to Garbage Man or The Way I Walk at least once. I dedicated my entire night to setting a musical vigil and annoying my neighbors.

    I bought Bad Music for Bad People about 6 or 7 years ago on a whim, not really knowing what it was, but recognizing the cover. Down the same street, I bought the Watchmen for the first time that day, too. Again, not knowing what it was but hearing good things. Listened to the album, and read the book in a park, both for the very first time, one fine summer day long, long ago.

    It is moments like that which I try to recapture every time I look for cool and innovate work nowadays. It was maybe one of the most wonderful days I’ve ever had. I sat in that park for hours, knowing I would never read or listen to anything the same way again.

    Good show, Lux. I’m sure he, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Hasil Atkins are having one big fuckin’ hootenanny in hell right now. If anyone was guaranteed red carpet treatment down there, it was Lux.

    “You ain’t no punk, you punk.”

  8. Chernobyl Red Says:

    Oof. I guess I’m glad it was the staff at Coilhouse who broke the news to me.

    Goddamn it. God damn.

  9. Anja Flower Says:

    RIP LUX! Oh god, what to say? What to say… You will be missed.

  10. Jessica Says:

    Thanks Mer! *teary smile*
    Gooby: I second that sentiment…I’d gladly donate some grey matter!

  11. Tequila Says:

    A now long forgotten zine I’d picked up listed The Cramps and a whole slew of other great bands as being “must haves.” So being a curious lil skinny kid with no real scene to call his own and be influenced by I went in search of this band with a very odd name.

    The Cramps had album covers that touched on all I thought was cool. They were a mix of B-Movie posters. pulp novels, and 50’s mens mags. I would later buy 2 copies of most all their albums just to tack em up on my wall. So off the bat I was hooked even before hearing a track. I picked up Stay Sick! and A Date With Elvis then quickly went on my way looking at liner notes on the bus ride home.

    I’d never been so curiously confused in all my life. Why the odd names? What’s with the song titles? Why are the guys dressed as women?! Why does it all seem so cool and fun?!

    I couldn’t hit play fast enough on my CD player. I don’t think I ever hit stop as songs on those albums continue to be ones I listen to pretty regularly. The energy, lyrics, and deliciously wicked guitars & vocals made everything else on the radio at the time feel way too serious and boring. I couldn’t go back. I didn’t want to. Aloha From Hell and all that…I was happily gone and lost in it all.

    Lux & Ivy would leave an impression I remain grateful for since they made all the crazyness of the albums and live shows feel like rock n roll was suppose to be. Never really saw them in terms of the other labels they’d later fall under…they were 50’s fueled sure but via all the cool parts of Hell. Their cover of Shortnin’ Bread alone proved that.

    Lux will be missed and whatever side of the eternal coin he landed on…that’s the place I wanna one day be. His voice remains one of my favorite to hear when I’m feeling bad or good and escaping into the music has kept me far more sane than much else…as odd as that may be.

    R.I.P Lux!

    Take a listen to The Cramps cover of Route 66 if you get a chance today. Easily the most beautiful that song has ever sounded. Lux could be quite the crooner sometimes…

    I second the loving thoughts for Ivy…can’t even imagine what she’s feeling right now.

  12. R. Says:

    Tequila, you said it best. I’ll toast to those words.

    My high school crush got me into The Cramps. I have to say that was the best damn thing he ever did (besides getting me into some other music that I wouldn’t have normally listened).

  13. BUTCHERSLiM Says:



    I’m drinkin’ red wine & cryin’

  14. Nick Says:

    Rest in Cramps (R. I. C.), sir.

  15. cappy Says:

    Got to admin I had never heard of them before, but upon watching those videos up there, I can see the countless bands that I _have_ seen over the years that were obviously influenced by them…

  16. ERIC Says:


  17. Agent Double Oh-No Says:

    Seeing The Cramps at The Peppermint Lounge in 1982 ruined my life.
    I was just a teenager.

    Lux was wearing some tight, tight pants that night. At one point in the performance someone in the audience yelled in a sing-song: “Lux has a hard-on!” Ever up to any challenge, Lux swaggered: ” I ALWAYS HAVE A HARD ON.”

    The whole show – the humor, Lux’s genuine strangeness, Ivy’s cool guitar, Nick Knox’s relentless beat, Kid Congo’s nubile androgeny – was one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed. Some of that show was recorded and released as “The Smell of Female.” Gonna throw down that vinyl slab and have a howl for ole Lux !

  18. revSleestaxx Says:

    Ah Shit!

  19. chrr Says:

    Just back from another dimension, I only learned about Lux’s death yesterday. Now I hope that the energy wave that certainly spread instantly throughout the universe at the time of his death did reach me…

    Hey Agent Double-Oh-No, I too was at the 1982 Peppermint Lounge show. I even have a couple blurry polaroids taken there… One of them is of a Poison Ivy high-heeled foot on stage, framed all askew and everything. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why at at later show (1984?) at the New Peppermint Lounge, a guy rushed through the frantic hysterical crowd and stole a stiletto from my girlfriend’s foot! This concert is probably the most chaotic demented outrageous glorious ecstatic fun show I’ve ever attended. With your permission, I’d say the Cramps ruined my life as well, and I DON”T REGRET IT.