Roky Erickson PhotoBORN: July 15, 1947, Dallas, TX

Like Syd Barrett, a common point of reference, Roky Erickson rose to cult-hero status as much for his music as for his tragic personal life; in light of his legendary bouts with madness and mythic drug abuse, the influence exerted by his garage-bred psychedelia was often lost in the shuffle. Born Roger Kynard Erickson on July 15, 1947 in Dallas, Texas, he began playing the piano at age five; by age 12, he had also taken up the guitar. The child of an architect and would-be opera singer, Erickson dropped out of high school to become a professional musician; in 1965, he penned his most famous composition, "You're Gonna Miss Me," which he first recorded with a group called the Spades. The song and his high, swooping tenor brought him to the attention of another area band, the psychedelia-influenced 13th Floor Elevators, whose lyricist and jug player Tommy Hall invited Erickson to join; the Elevators soon cut their own version of "You're Gonna Miss Me," and took the single to number 56 on the pop charts in 1966.

The record's success earned the band a deal with International Artists, but as their fame grew, so did their notoriety with local law enforcement officials, who took exception to the group's heavy experimentation with (and public support of) marijuana and LSD. The Elevators became the subject of considerable police harassment, and after Erickson was arrested for the possession of one lone joint in 1969, he pleaded insanity to avoid a prison term. A three-and-a-half year stint in the state's Hospital for the Criminally Insane followed; Erickson was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and subjected to extensive electroshock therapy, Thorazine, and other psychoactive treatments.

Though released from the hospital in 1973, Erickson was never the same person; he returned to performing with a new band, Bleib Alien, but his songs -- a series of horror-film influenced records including "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)," "Don't Shake Me Lucifer" and "I Walked With a Zombie" -- found little success. He did retain a devoted cult following, however, but his popularity was fully exploited by managers who took advantage of his instability to draw the singer into a series of unfair publishing contracts which resulted in a steady stream of unauthorized releases from which Erickson earned not a cent. In 1982 he signed a legal affadavit declaring that a Martian had taken residence in his body, and gradually disappeared from music as the decade wore on.

By the 1990s, Erickson was struggling to survive on a $200 monthly Social Security stipend; after an arrest on mail theft charges (later dropped), he was re-institutionalized. In 1990, however, artists like R.E.M., ZZ Top, John Wesley Harding and the Jesus & Mary Chain recorded his songs for the album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, which brought his work to a wider audience than ever before. In 1993, Erickson performed publicly for the first time in many years at the Austin Music Awards; a few months later, he returned to the studio with guitarists Charlie Sexton and the Butthole Surfers' Paul Leary to record a number of new songs. In 1995, Leary's bandmate King Coffey released Erickson's All That May Do My Rhyme on his Trance Syndicate label. Hide Behind the Sun followed in early 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide