The Cramps Biography

Formed in Ohio, USA, in 1976, the original Cramps, Lux Interior (Erick Lee Purkhiser, 21 October 1946, Akron, Ohio, USA; vocals), ‘Poison’ Ivy Rorschach (b. Kirsty Marlana Wallace, 20 February 1953, Sacramento, California, USA; guitar), Bryan Gregory (b. 20 February 1954, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 10 January 2001, Anaheim, California, USA; guitar) and his sister, Pam Balam (drums), later moved to New York, where they were embroiled in the emergent punk scene centred on the CBGB’s rock venue. Miriam Linna briefly replaced Balam, before Nick Knox (b. Nick Stephanoff, Cleveland, Ohio, USA) became the band’s permanent drummer. The Cramps’ early work was recorded at the famed Sun Records studio under the aegis of producer Alex Chilton. Their early singles and debut album blended the frantic rush of rockabilly with a dose of 60s garage-band panache and an obvious love of ghoulish b-movies. Bryan Gregory’s sudden departure followed the release of the compulsive ‘Drug Train’ single. Former Gun Club acolyte Kid Congo (Powers) (b. Brian Tristan), appeared on Psychedelic Jungle, but he later rejoined his erstwhile colleagues and the Cramps subsequently employed several, often female, replacements, including Fur and Candy Del Mar.

Despite the band’s momentum being rudely interrupted by a protracted legal wrangle with the I.R.S. Records label during the early 80s, the Cramps’ horror-cum-trash style, supplemented with a healthy dose of humour and sex, has nonetheless remained intact throughout their career. However, the best examples of their work can still be found on their early albums (and compilations), with songs such as ‘You’ve Got Good Taste’, ‘Human Fly’ and ‘I’m Cramped’ perfectly capturing a moment in time in the evolution of alternative rock music. Next best is probably 1986’s A Date With Elvis, which appealed because the formula was still relatively fresh.

In 1991, Interior and Rorschach re-emerged fronting a rejuvenated line-up with Slim Chance (bass) and Jim Sclavunos (drums). Flamejob, released in 1994, showed that the band had become virtually a pantomime act, a fact that their most recent albums have confirmed. Wary of outside manipulation, the Cramps continue to steer their own course by touring and recording, proving themselves the masters of their particular (limited) genre. Their live shows, especially, are rarely found wanting in terms of entertainment value.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.