Leon Redbone and Roky Erickson


I was saddened to hear last night about the passing of two musical legends.

I first came across the music of Leon Redbone when he appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test. It must have been around the time his ‘Double Trouble’ album was launched, so that would put it around 1977. Back then, of course, I was right into my punk music, so it was strange that I should find an attraction in the off kilter jazz style of some really uncool looking dude in a Panama hat.

The following day, I recall going into the tiny, old-time Virgin Records shop in Cambridge Street, Glasgow and buying Leon’s new release. I loved it so much that a few weeks later, I asked the store to order me a copy of the 1975 release, ‘On The Track.‘ Both still grace my record shelves.

Looking back, I think that quite perversely, I took to Leon Redbone‘s music and character because he was so different. He didn’t conform. He had an individual style of dress and music.

Perhaps he was more 70s original ‘punk’ than we could ever have thought.

******



I was a bit of a late-comer to the psyche and psychedelic scene. But when i finally arrived, it was the music of The 13th Floor Elevators that convinced me I’d been a bit of a pratt for ignoring this style of music for so long

Roky Erickson founded the band back in 1965 and is regarded as one of the instigators of the psychedelic rock genre. Sadly, he endured years of mental health issues, at a time when enforced electroconvulsive therapy was considered a ‘cure’ for paranoid schizophrenia


Arrested in 1969 for possession of marijuana and facing a possible ten year stretch, he pleaded guilty on the basis of insanity in an effort to avoid jail. The authorities though, were keen to punish Roky, and indeed the band, for their outspoken views and use of hallucinogenic substances. He was promptly sent to Austin State Hospital, from where he escaped several times before ultimately being incarcerated at Rusk State Hospital for three years. It was here that Roky was again subjected to more electroconvulsive ‘therapy.’

Roky suffered mental health issues for many years, but in 2007 he managed to wean himself off his medication and started playing again, and a year later he toured the American West Coast with The Black Angels as his ‘backing band.’

In May 2015, the circle was completed when Roky played the Levitation Festival in Austin, Texas with the original members of The 13th Floor Elevators.

Footnote: Four years ago this month, when I was still ‘small-time dealing’ in records, I sold an 8 x 7″ singles box set, on multi-coloured vinyl, for £39. This is now selling for around £150.
I’m
STILL a pratt!


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