Last updated: 09/11/2010 11:00:00 AM
The Cramps roots can be traced back to 1976 when, according to legend, Erick Purkhiser picked up hitchiker Kristy Wallace in Ohio. They discovered a mutual love of old-time rock'n'roll and classic SciFi B-movie matinee fare... The rest, as they say, is history.
They soon decided to form a band. Akron Ohio was not the place for a band like The Cramps to "happen" so the couple packed on up and moved to New York City, drawn by the lure of what they read and heard was happening at a club called CBGBs... Erick took the stage name "Lux Interior" from an ad he saw describing an automobile ("Lux" as in the advertising abbrv for "Deluxe") and Kristy took the name "Poison Ivy Rorschach", from a dream she had (of course, everyone knows that a Rorschach Test is the ink blot quiz a shrink gives folks). Lux would be the singer, Ivy the guitarist. The band was soon rounded out by Bryan Gregory on guitar and Bryan's sister Pam "Balam" on drums. Pam quickly dropped out and was replaced by Miriam Linna. After recording one demo and playing a few gigs, Miriam left to join Nervous Rex. Her replacement was Electric Eels drummer Nick Knox (Nicholas Stephanoff).
Their "minimalist sound" may take some getting used to, but this is pure raw rock'n'roll. Two guitars (they only recently submitted to having a bassist) and a basic trap drum set (Bass drum, Snare and cymbal) were the only instruments. Ivy played lead guitar while Bryan (and his subsequent replacements) played highly fuzzed and distorted guitar riffs, more than making up for the lack of a bass. In New York they became cult favorites and, with Alex Chilton (of Panther Burns fame) they recorded a couple independent singles which caught the ear of Miles Copeland, who signed them to his fledgling I.R.S. Records. Those first singles and a fifth song, were released as GRAVEST HITS. The Cramps toured briefly then headed back to the studio with Alex Chilton to begin work on their first full-length LP, SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US
Shortly after the LP SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US was released, Bryan Gregory left the band, taking their van and most of their equipment with him. It's rumored he didn't like the direction the band was going and wanted a more modern sound and thought the lyrics should be meaningful, like The Clash. Obviously Bryan had no idea what it meant to be "Cramped." He surfaced a while later in a band called Beast, releasing three singles. They soon Dumped Gregory, moved to the UK and became Veil, vanishing after a one shot gothic LP. Gregory later worked as either a satanic minister or a porn shop vendor, depending on who you believe. (Bryan Gregory died of heart failure in January, 2001. See the IRS Memorial Page for more details). Gregory was replaced by Julien Greinsnatch, whose time with The Cramps, while limited, was forever recorded on film in URGH! A MUSIC WAR.
Gun Club's Kid Congo Powers, a longtime fan, picked up the guitar duties and the band went into the studio to record PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. It was during this time that The Cramps started having problems with Miles Copeland and I.R.S. Records. Royalties, unapproved cover art, and lack of promised support on tour were the reputed sources of the dispute. Ultimately the case was settled out of court, but not without having a severe impact on the band. During the period of litigation they could not record (technically they were still contracted with I.R.S.) so touring became their only source of income. Because desperate fans hungered for new material, fear of bootlegging kept The Cramps from doing new material at these concerts.
Once the case was settled, The Cramps recorded a live set at New York's Peppermint Lounge which was released (on the late great Enigma Records) as the "tastefully entitled" SMELL OF FEMALE. Kid Congo then left the band (amicably) to return to Gun Club. I.R.S., either to fulfill a term of the settlement or as a final kiss-off released the psuedo-greatest hits collection BAD MUSIC FOR BAD PEOPLE.
Then a period of rotating second guitarist/bassist and rotating labels began. Guitarists/bassists who came and went included Click Mort, Ike Knox (Nick's brother), Mike Metoff (formerly of The Pagans and Nick's cousin), Fur and finally Candy Del Mar who stuck around for a while. After she left a fellow named Slim Chance assumed duties on the bass.
Nick Knox, stalwart drummer, had long suffered from vision troubles and after eye surgery left him blind in one eye, decided to leave the band and retire. He was replaced by Jim Sclavunos, and soon followed by Nicky Beat and then Harry Drumdini, arriving at the current line up of Lux, Ivy, Slim and Harry.
In 1989 The Cramps seemed to have smoothed over some of their problems with Miles and I.R.S., as they assisted in the preparation of their I.R.S. catalog for CD release. This apparent reconciliation may have only been for the sake of making sure "it was done right" for The Cramps continued to work independent of any "major label" influence. The Cramps continue to record and perform and have released many albums since leaving IRS. While this site is devoted to IRS Records exclusively, all of The Cramps recordings are worthwhile and, in humble webmaster Mr. Bill's opinion, worth seeking out and owning... Look for the aforementiond SMELL OF FEMALE, A DATE WITH ELVIS, STAY SICK, LOOK MOM NO HEAD, ROCKINNREELININAUKLANDNEWZEALND (a live concert recording), and FLAMEJOB.
In 2001, Lux and Ivy revived their Vengeance Records label and regained most of their non-I.R.S. catalog for reissue. And not only on CD -- they're also available on cool colored vinyl (which makes Mr. Bill have flashbacks to the glorious 80s)! These are readily available, provided you're in a hip location, at your local music shop. Or just use the handy Amazon links here!