Cramps PhotoFORMED: 1976, New York, NY

The Cramps' unique sound synthesizes classic rockabilly, touches of psychedelia, and lyrical fare devoted mostly to monster movies and sleazy sex into an infectious, gloriously tasteless conglomeration of American trash culture. While their subject matter may verge on offensive to some, their obvious sense of humor and the fun, disposable feel of their best work prevent the listener from ever taking things more seriously than they should. The group was formed by vocalist Erick "Lux Interior" Purkhiser and guitarist Kirsty "Poison Ivy Rorschach" Wallace, who met in Sacramento and found they shared an affinity for obscure '50s rockabilly and surf records and junk culture. The two moved back to Interior's native Ohio and then to New York in 1975, where they formed the Cramps as a vehicle for indulging their obsessions with guitarist Bryan Gregory and his sister Pam "Balam" Gregory on drums. Miriam Linna replaced Pam Balam after a few months, and the Cramps became favorites at the renowned punk club CBGB's. Linna left in 1977 to join Nervus Rex; she later cofounded Kicks magazine and the '50s rock & roll-oriented Norton Records label.

After drummer Nick Knox joined the fold, the Cramps went to the legendary Sun studio with cult icon Alex Chilton producing to record several singles, later released on the Gravest Hits EP. Chilton also produced their minimalistic 1980 debut album, Songs the Lord Taught Us. Gregory left the band very suddenly afterwards without explanation; he reportedly tried his hand at being a warlock, sex-shop owner, and tattoo artist afterwards. He was replaced by ex-Gun Club guitarist "Kid Congo" Powers for Psychedelic Jungle. Following the 1983 live EP Smell of Female, the Cramps sued I.R.S. for lack of support; the case was settled out of court and resulted in the Cramps being released from the label. Nothing more was heard from the band in the way of new material for years; their only new album prior to 1990, 1986's A Date with Elvis, was not released in the U.S. until four years later. In the meantime, they toured extensively with a succession of female guitarists and new bassist Candy Del Mar, who was on board for their 1990 Poison Ivy-produced album Stay Sick! Lux Interior and Poison Ivy continue to tour with a Cramps lineup featuring bassist Slim Chance and drummer Jim Sclavunos. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide