Remembering Legacies of the Late Roky Erickson and Leon Redbone (RIP)

Posted by Billyjam, June 1, 2019 06:14pm | Post a Comment
  Roky Erickson's All That May Do My Rhyme (released 2017 via Play Loud Productions). The influential artist, who co-founded pioneering first wave psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators died yesterday.

Yesterday May 31st influential singer/songwriter/musician Roky Erickson died at age 71. A long revered artist he was a pioneer of psychedelic rock back in the mid sixties. That's when he co-founded the forever influential Austin TX band 13th Floor Elevators. The band's debut single “You’re Gonna Miss Me” may have only reached #55 on Billboard's singles charts upon its release back in 1966 but it has since become iconic and been covered by numerous artists whose careers have been influenced by Roky and his group. [Incidentally “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was the title of a 2007 documentary on Roky including the history of the Elevators and their role in psych/garage/acid rock - scroll down to see trailer]. Note that the Rhino issued Nuggets From Nuggets: Choice Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era compilation (pictured left) contains The 13th Floor Elevators landmark song + 19 other artist tracks from that era.

Part of the so-called first era of psychedelic rock in the latter half of the sixties, the influence of The 13th Floor Elevators and Erikson would be felt for decades to come. Spacemen 3, Primal Scream and the Swedish metal band Ghost, are  among the bands to cite Erickson as an influence. In 1990 Primal Scream were among the artists to contribute tracks to the compilation tribute to Roky Erickson; "Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye.” Others includedThe Mighty Lemon Drops, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Julian Cope. Even more who've been somehow influenced and covered his work include Television and Foo Fighters.

Four years ago Roky Erickson reunited with The 13th Floor Elevators performed at Levitation in Austin TX along with original band members Tommy Hall, John Ike Walton, and Ronnie Leatherman, as well as with his son Jegar Erickson and Fred Mitchim.  A multi-talented musician Roky Erickson was a singer-songwriter who played guitar, piano and harmonica and possessed an uncanny ability to effortlessly craft some incredible music.


13th Floor Elevators perform their influential debut single “You’re Gonna Miss Me”

  Roky Erickson & The Explosives "(Wait) For You"

Like such other beloved brilliantly innovative minds in the history of rock, such as Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, Erickson was a tormented genius with his fair share of personal demons to cope with. An intelligent creative artist his was life was far from trouble free. It was one that included a history of legal problems, financial woes, extended periods of isolation and alienation, a large appetite for the extensive consumption of psychedelic drugs at an early age, and of course his well documented mental health history that led to him being locked up in (as he called it) "the nut house." 

At age 21 Erickson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia that resulted in him, against his own wishes, being admitted into a mental institution and subjected to electroshock therapy (AKA electroconvulsive therapy or ECT).  Despite all of this tumultuous personal life, Erickson managed to pursue a long prolific recording career over the decades that has resulted in a rich back-catalog.

Roky Erickson’s back catalog covers almost twenty solo studio and live albums ranging from the late 70s up until this decade. There are also many reissues of his older work.  Beyond his solo output Roky’s recorded work also covers his membership of The 13th Floor Elevators (late sixties) that are also featured on many consequent compilations most notably the Nuggets. Roky Erickson & the Aliens (see cover of their s/t 1980 album above left),  Roky Erickson & The Explosives  Roky Erickson and the Resurrectionists,  in addition to his association with such acts as Okkervil River, Evil Hook Wildlife E T,  The Black Angels, and The Spades (his first, pre Elevators band in 1965).


Rest in peace Roky Erickson (1947 - 2019)

Roky Erickson "Two Headed Dog" 

Trailer for You're Gonna Miss Me (2007 documentary on Roky Erickson) 


Leon Redbone Long Way From Home: Early Recordings 2LP vinyl issue by Third Man Records,
This week, May 30th 2019, the artist once credited with reviving ragtime, passed on at age 69.

On Thursday this week (May 30th) news broke of the passing of longtime musician/singer Leon Redbone at age 69. A somewhat mysterious but always strikingly fashionable figure, both on and off stage, he became known in his formative years for his smart dress sense that included donning his trademark Panama hat and dark sunglasses. A unique artist whose music can be categorized under ragtime, blues, jazz, and even country, Redbone enjoyed a four-decade long career (up until his official retirement four years ago) that included thousands of live performances and 20+ albums that included From Branch To Branch, Double Time and One For The Road (a country collaboration project with Waylon Jennings).

Most significantly Redbone was routinely credited with reviving ragtime music while taking 1970’s music listeners on a musical journey back to that old Tin Pan Alley era of forgotten American music via his interpretations of vaudeville and bygone American standards. A favorite of such fellow musicians as early career fan Bob Dylan, Redbone came to fame in the 70’s with his reinterpretive guitar strumming and crooning of old American music. [Pop culture side note: in Will Ferrells popular holiday comedy movie Elf  from 2003 it was Leon Redbone who recorded the voice of the movie character Leon The Snowman and as such sang the movie's memorial duet with Zooey Deschanel of "Baby It's Cold Outside" .]  Below is an amazing live performance in Nashville TN years ago of "Shine On Harvest Moon"  by Leon Redbone with orchestra that included Scott Black.


Leon Redbone "Shine On Harvest Moon" (RIP Leon Redbone 1949 - 2019)

Relevant Tags

Ragtime (6), Garage Rock (23), 13th Floor Elevators (3), Roky Erickson (4), Leon Redbone (1), Music In Memoriam (1), Psychedelic Rock (7)