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Sad (slightly old) news for Hasil Adkins fans (if there are any...)


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From The Times

June 15, 2005

Hasil Adkins

April 29, 1937 - April 26, 2005

American original and rockabilly musician notorious for his unvarnished style and eccentricities

HASIL ADKINS sent a copy of each of his self-produced records to the White House. Only one president thanked him. Whether Richard Nixon was a rockabilly fan or simply the product of a polite Quaker upbringing is not known. Adkinss music is something of an acquired taste, though Nixon who knew something about sudden tape jumps may well have responded to the stop-start delivery and Adkinss habit of bringing a song to an abrupt end when he tired of it.

Adkins was born to a poor family in Boone County, West Virginia, in 1937. The familys one concession to luxury was a radio. Adkins was impressed by Hank Williams Sr and decided to model himself on Hanks plangent country style. Because radio announcers never credited any other players on Williamss records, Adkins assumed that Williams must be the drummer as well and devised a system of playing drums with foot pedals as he scratched frantically at his cheap guitar.

His eccentricity extended to thinking that people with the same name were the same person. He made no distinction between the bluesmen Slim Harpo and Lightnin Slim, or even between Hank Williams and Larry Williams. The same confusion marked his private life.

To the end, Adkins lived in what one of his friends described as a typical three-room Appalachian shack in the middle of this beautiful wilderness. An expert mechanic and radio repair man, Adkins filled his home and yard with spare parts, including polka-dot Buicks. He had numerous skirmishes with the law, spending one period on parole after shooting up a rivals trailer in an argument over a girl. An obsessive hunter and fisherman, he lived on a diet of meat (a recurring theme in his songs), coffee and alcohol.

His performances were often shambolic affairs. Adkins was either intoxicated or crippled by stage fright. He preferred to limit his shows to roadhouses in the vicinity of Madison, the Boone County seat, but after he became a cult figure in the 1980s, he was tempted to Chicago and New York.

His first songs were in a raw country style but as the 1950s progressed he was drawn to the new rocknroll style which he played with a punkish intensity that later brought him to the notice of the psychobilly superstars the Cramps. They covered Adkinss song She Said in 1981, and the groups leaders, Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, signed him to their Norton Records label.

Adkins had been brought to notice by Billy Miller and Miriam Linna of Kicks magazine, who recognised a genuine American original in Adkinss homemade recordings, often with owl hoots audible in the background. Playing as Hasil Adkins The One Man Band, as Haze Adkins and His Happy Guitar, and as The Wild Man, he made songs of surpassing sadness Shes Mine, Shes Gone, Shes Still Gone, Is This the End but also songs filled with references to chickens, canned meat, decapitation and engines. Norton Records released an album called Out to Hunch in 1986. The title was a reference to Adkinss fascination with an entirely imaginary dance craze called the hunch, for which he wrote a number of tunes. At the end of the 1980s he was briefly signed to the independent IRS label but it failed before anything was released and Adkins returned to Norton, who released Poultry in Motion in 1999. He also issued a set called What the Hell Was I Thinking.

Hasil Adkins did not marry.

Hasil Adkins, rockabilly musician, is thought to have been born on April 29, 1937. He died on April 26, 2005, aged 67.

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Never could decide whether he was a fractured genius or a deranged nutter.

Both, I would have thought. Upon listening to his Out to Hunch album I discovered that She Said was actually one of his more reasonable songs.

The prominence of the female kidnap/decapitation theme in many of his songs seemed to bear some direct correlation to his apparent level of intoxication during recording. Considering that he really was a guy who lived alone with his mother in a shack, you've really got to wonder...

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