Late last night as we were packing up our computers, getting ready to head home for the night, we started to hear whispers from the West Coast that Erick Lee Purhiser, aka Lux Interior, the lead singer and founding member of the influential garage-punk act the The Cramps had passed away the night before. Frantic searches to verify or contradict this rumor came up empty and speculation was high. After all, these rumors have been spread before and any fan of punk knows the occasional fake death is not uncommon, so we left work hoping for the best, but sadly fearing the worst. By the time we got home, those fears were realized via a press release in our inbox. Lux Interior was 62.
Born in Stow, Ohio, Interior started the Cramps in 1972 with guitarist Poison Ivy (born Kristy Wallace, later his wife) — whom, as legend has it, he picked up as a hitchhiker in California. By 1975, they had moved to New York, where they became an integral part of the burgeoning punk scene surrounding CBGBs. Interior’s name came “from an old car commercial” while his wife’s name change was inspired by “a vision she received in a dream”. The couple called their musical style psychobilly which was inspired by a Johnny Cash song though they later said they were just using the term as “carny terms to drum up business”
The press release:
February 4, 2009
Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, passed away this morning due to an existing heart condition at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California at 4:30 AM PST today. Lux has been an inspiration and influence to millions of artists and fans around the world. He and wife Poison Ivy’s contributions with The Cramps have had an immeasurable impact on modern music.
The Cramps emerged from the original New York punk scene of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, with a singular sound and iconography. Their distinct take on rockabilly and surf along with their midnight movie imagery reminded us all just how exciting, dangerous, vital and sexy rock and roll should be and has spawned entire subcultures. Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly.
The family requests that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.
For a look at the events as the information unfolded and some great video clips, head over to The Daily Swarm. For a more biographical look at Interior and The Cramps, check out MTV’s look back at the singer and his life.