The Cramps

The Cramps

Infobox musical artist
Name = The Cramps

Img_capt = The Cramps performing in Belgium in 2006; original members Lux Interior and Poison Ivy pictured.
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Landscape =
Background = group_or_band
Alias =
Origin = Sacramento, California, U.S.
Genre = Punk rock
Trash rock
Horror punk
Garage rock
Years_active = 1976–present
Label =
Associated_acts =
URL = []
Current_members = Lux Interior
Poison Ivy
Harry Drumdini
Sean Yseult
Past_members = See Former members section

The Cramps are an American punk rock band, formed in 1976. Their line-up has rotated much over the years, with lead singer Lux Interior and lead guitarist Poison Ivy as the only permanent members.

They were part of the early CBGB punk movement that had emerged in New York. By blending punk with rockabilly, the band has often been credited as one of the founders of the psychobilly genre of music.


Their music is mostly in blues form, played at varying, (though usually fast) tempos, with a very minimal drumkit.Fact|date=July 2008 An integral part of the early Cramps sound is dual guitars, without a bassist. The content of their songs and image is campy, trashy Americana (alternately in the style of filmmakers John Waters and David Lynch), sexual fetishism, clever bad jokes, and cheap, retro horror B-movie clichés.

Their sound was heavily influenced by early rockabilly and proto-rock'n'roll like Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale, 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Gants, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics,Fact|date=July 2008 as well as the post-glam/early punk scene from which they emerged. They also were influenced to a degree by The Ramones and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who is often credited for having pioneered their style of theatrical horror-blues.Fact|date=July 2008

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 is a term coinedfn|1 by the Cramps, although Lux Interior maintains that the term does not describe their own style. [ [ SuicideGirls > Interviews > The Cramps ] ] The Cramps also influenced or anticipated acts like The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The White Stripes, The Gun Club, The Fuzztones, James Chance and the Contortions, The Birthday Party, Inca Babies, Flat Duo Jets, Black Lips and The Horrors.

*fnb|1 It is debatable that the Cramps coined the phrase psychobilly. It is perhaps mentioned for the first time in Johnny Cash's song "One Piece at a Time," released in 1976.Fact|date=July 2008


Lux Interior (born Erick Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (born Kristy Wallace) met in Sacramento, California in 1972. Due to their common artistic interests and shared devotion to record collecting, 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 test). In 1973, they moved 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" Gregory (drums).

In a short period of time, the Cramps changed drummers twice; Miriam Linna (later of Nervus Rex, the Zantees, and the A-Bones) replaced Pam Ballam, and Nick Knox(formerly with the Electric Eels) replaced Linna in September 1977. In the late 1970s, the Cramps briefly shared a rehearsal space with The Fleshtones, and performed regularly in New York at places like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, releasing two independent 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.

In June 1978 they gave a free concert for patients at the California State Mental Hospital in Napa, recorded on a Sony Portapak video camera by the San Francisco collective Target Video and later released as "Live at Napa State Mental Hospital". 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.

The Cramps relocated to Los Angeles in 1980 and hired guitarist Kid Congo Powers of The Gun Club. 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; Kid Congo Powers subsequently departed. Mike Metoff of The Pagans (cousin of Nick Knox) was the final second guitarist - albeit only live - of the Cramps' pre-bassist era.

In 1985 the Cramps recorded a one-off track for the horror movie "The Return of the Living Dead" called "Surfin' Dead", on which Ivy played bass as well as guitar. With the release of 1986's "A Date With Elvis", the Cramps permanently added a bass guitar to the mix, but had trouble finding a suitable player, so Ivy temporarily filled in as the band's bassist. The album featured an increased focus on sexual double entendre, and met with differing fates on either side of the Atlantic: in Europe, it sold over 250,000 copies, while in the U.S. the band had difficulty finding a record company prepared to release it.Fact|date=July 2008

It was not until 1986 that the Cramps found a suitable permanent bass player: Candy del Mar (of Satan's Cheerleaders), who made her recorded debut on the raw live album "ROCKINNREELININAUCKLANDNEWZEALANDXXX", which was followed by the studio album "Stay Sick" in 1990. Knox left in 1991. The Cramps hit the top 40 singles chart in the UK for the first and only time with "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns"; Ivy posed as such both on the cover of the single and in the promotional video for the song. The Cramps went on to record many more albums and singles through the 1990s and 2000s, for various labels and with varying degrees of success.

In 1995 The Cramps appeared on the TV-series "Beverly Hills, 90210" in the Halloween episode "Gypsies, Cramps and Fleas." [] They played 2 songs in show: "Mean Machine" and "Strange Love." Lux started the song by saying "Hey girls and ghouls, ready to wake up the dead?".

In honor of the excess of The Cramps, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has on display a shattered bass drum head that Lux's head went through during a live show.


The Cramps have had fluctuating lineups over the years.

Current members

*Lux Interior (Erick Purkhiser) – vocals, March 1976 to current
*Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) – lead guitar, March 1976 to current
*Harry Drumdini – drums, February 1993 – July 2003 and August 2006 to current

Former members

*Bryan Gregory (Greg Beckerleg) – guitar, April 1976 – May 1980
*Pam Ballam (Pam Beckerleg) – drums, April 1976 – September 1976
*Miriam Linna – drums, October 1976 – June 1977
*Nick Knox – drums, July 1977 - January 1991
*Julien Grindsnatch – guitar, July 1980 – September 1980
*Kid Congo Powers (Brian Tristan) – guitar, December 1980 – September 1983
*Mike Metoff (as Ike Knox) – guitar, October 1983 – November 1983; January 1984 – July 1984
*Jim Sclavunos – drums, 1991
*Touch Hazard - bass, 1985
*Fur (Jennifer Dixon) - bass, March 1986 - May 1986
*Candy del Mar – bass, July 1986 – January 1991
*Slim Chance – bass, March 1991-August 1998
*Nickey Alexander – drums, June 1991 – January 1993
*Doran Shelley – bass, 1998 - 1999
*SugarPie Jones – bass, 2000
*"Jungle" Jim Chandler – "Laid down the primal beat" for the European tour 2004
*Bill "Buster" Bateman – drums, June 2004 – August 2006
*Scott "Chopper" Franklin – bass & guitar, January 2002 – September 2006
*Jen Hanrahan - castanets June 2000 - August 2000.
*Sean Yseult (Shauna Reynolds) – bass, October/November 2006


Albums and EPs



* Human Fly (1978)
* Garbageman (1979)
* Urgh! A Music War (1982)
* Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (1990)
* Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon (1990)
* Ultra Twist (1994)
* Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs (1994)
* Like a Bad Girl Should (1997)


* [ The Cramps Discography, Biography and Links at Mr Bill's I.R.S. Records Corner] Retrieved 23 November 2004.
* Deming, Mark. [ Biography on The Cramps] Retrieved 23 November 2004.
* [ "Gypsies, Cramps and Fleas" episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210 on The Internet Movie Database] Retrieved 17 August 2007.
* "The Wild Wild World of the Cramps" by Ian Johnston, 1990, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-2350-7

ee also

*List of psychobilly bands

External links

* [ The Cramps Official Page]
* [ Gravest Cramps Collector Page]
* [ Kid Congo Powers' oral history of the Cramps]
* [ 2006 Interview with former Cramps Guitarist Kid Congo Powers]
* [ Remaking of Mental Institute Napa, CA show]

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