Lux Interior, 62

Co-Founder of the Cramps, An Early Psychobilly Band

Lux Interior, the Cramps' lead singer, was known for outrageous behavior on stage.
Lux Interior, the Cramps' lead singer, was known for outrageous behavior on stage. (1979 Photo By Los Angeles Times)
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By Alexander F. Remington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2009

Lux Interior was a shuddering, shirtless, cross-dressing stage personality who sang like a corpse gyrating through a slasher film.

He was lead singer and co-founder of the pioneering psychobilly band the Cramps, whose style echoed the primitive speed of punk and the twangy Southern country of rockabilly performers such as Jerry Lee Lewis.

Befitting its name, psychobilly throws in an obsession with horror and pop kitsch. The band's Web site described Interior as "the psycho-sexual Elvis/Werewolf hybrid from hell."

Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, died of a heart ailment Feb. 4 at a hospital in Glendale, Calif. He was 62.

The Cramps, which formed in the early 1970s, were the first band to gain a following in psychobilly, influencing musicians from the Reverend Horton Heat to the White Stripes.

Interior formed the Cramps with guitarist Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace), whom he said he picked up as a hitchhiker. They bonded over their love of rock-and-roll and later married.

Several years later, they were in New York amid the nascent punk scene, alongside legendary performers such as the Ramones and Iggy Pop, whose androgynous showmanship Interior evoked.

Despite changing lineups and side musicians, the Cramps kept the band together for nearly four decades and continued to tour until November 2006.

"One memorable (and typical) show in Boston in 1986," James Montgomery and Jem Aswad wrote in an obituary of the lead singer, "found Interior, clad only in leopard-skin briefs, drinking red wine from an audience member's shoe, and ended with him French-kissing a woman (who wasn't his wife) for 10 full minutes with his microphone in their mouths."

More famous was a 1978 free concert at California's Napa state mental hospital, reminiscent of country singer Johnny Cash's renowned 1968 concert in Folsom State Prison.

"Somebody told me you people are crazy," Interior said, holding the microphone and smiling, "but I'm not so sure about that. You seem to be all right to me."

Erick Lee Purkhiser was born in Stow, Ohio, and took his stage name from a line from a car advertisement. His wife survives him.

The band never achieved much mainstream success, but a drum that Interior put his head through now rests in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

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