Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Roky Erickson - Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)
Legendary rock n roll pioneer Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson hails from Austin, Texas. He is, in the words of music writer Richie Unterberger, one of "the unknown heroes of rock and roll." As singer, songwriter, and guitar player for the legendary Austin, TX band The 13th Floor Elevators, the first rock and roll band to describe their music as "psychedelic", Roky had a profound impact on the San Francisco scene when the group traveled there in 1966.
While bands such as The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane had the their roots in traditional acoustic folk music, the Elevators unique brand of heavy, hard-rocking electric blues pointed to a new direction for the music of the hippie generation. The Elevators only had one chart hit, the Roky-penned You're Gonna Miss Me, but their influence was far reaching. R.E.M., ZZ Top, Poi Dog Pondering, The Judybats, T-Bone Burnett, Julian Cope, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cramps, The Minutemen, Television, The Cynics, The Lyres, Teisco Del Rey, The Fuzztones and Radio Birdman have all either recorded or played live versions of Roky's songs.
In addition to these performers, Roky is an acknowledged influence on such diverse musicians as Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Henry Rollins, Mike Watt, Sonic Youth, The Butthole Surfers, Jon Spencer, The Damned, Red Krayola, Pere Ubu, and current indie hit-makers The White Stripes. His songs have appeared on the soundtracks to the movies High Fidelity, Drugstore Cowboy, Boys Don't Cry, Hamlet (2000), and Return of the Living Dead. While he may not be a household name, Roky has enjoyed the support of a small but fiercely loyal cult following throughout his career.
Unfortunately, Roky's struggles with drug abuse and mental illness took a serious toll. His 1969 arrest in Texas for possession of a single marijuana cigarette led to his being committed for three years to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he was reportedly subjected to Thorazine, electroshock therapy, and other experimental treatments. Most agree he was never the same after his release. Roky has had prolific periods of creativity in the intervening years, but unscrupulous managers and record label executives often took advantage of his condition, leaving Roky to live in poverty while others profit from his music.
Happily, today we find Roky in the process of being his own miracle and making an astounding recovery from nearly a two-decade long period of almost total tragedy. His youngest brother, singer/songwriter and former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Principal Tubaist Sumner Erickson, was appointed Roky's legal guardian in June, 2001. Sumner has established The Roger Kynard Erickson Trust to address Roky's living expenses, medical bills, and other financial needs. From June, 2001 until July, 2002, Roky lived with his brother in Pittsburgh, where he finally began to receive the treatment and care he needs.
Roky is now back in Austin, where his health continues to improve dramatically. In March, 2005, Roky made his first public performance in 10 years performing 3 songs at the Roky Erickson Psychedelic Ice Cream Social at Threadgills in Austin. He was backed by the Explosives. In September, he is scheduled to play the Austin City Limits Festival (again with the Explosives) which will mark his first full concert appearance in almost two decades! Celebrate as the miracle continues! More information is available at the trust's official web site: http://www.rokyerickson.net