Hasil Adkins, the raucous rockabilly one-man band, was found dead last week in his West Virginia home. I only saw the man live once, but it was a memorable performance: electrifying at the start, merely drunken at the end, transfixing all the way through. Adkins was making records in the '50s that were more punk than anything the Circle Jerks recorded in the '80s. I'll miss him.
Here's Billy Miller and Miriam Linna talking about Adkins in the Re/Search book Incredibly Strange Music, Volume 1:
ML: Hasil, rhymes with Basil—and that's also his brother's name. He totally blew our minds when we first heard him. Then when you meet him, you realize he's the genuine article.
BM: I first heard "Haze" in the '70s when I found a copy of "She Said."…Then a friend showed me "Chicken Walk" and I went, "Wow—this guy made two records?" Another friend, who generally only looks for R&B groups, located Hasil in West Virginia. The great thing about him is: her personality, his vision, his talent were still intact—that's rare; most of these guys who are really crazy fizzled out or drove off mountains. He started sending us tapes which mixed up old and new recordings—you couldn't tell which was which. One tape sounded straight outta the '50s—I thought he was yelling, "Hey, we're rockin'!" but it turned out to be "Hey there, Reagan!"—it was new. Every record he does he sends to the White House—Nixon actually sent him a "thank you" letter.
ML: We went to West Virginia and brought him to New York and people went crazy over him–
BM: –much like the script of King Kong.
ML: People are hungry for that kind of emotion.
BM: Hasil doesn't sleep; he drinks about 30-130 cups of coffee a day.
ML: He eats more meat than any other human being we've ever met; he carries around Vienna sausages in his pocket. "What would you like for lunch?" "Meat." "Any special kind?" "Meat."…
BM: He's a wild man, but he is also a great musician. A lot of people think he's just bashing away because he goes way out of tune when he plays, but he actually has perfect pitch. He'll break a string in a show and replace it with a piece of fishing wire lying in the parking lot—he might come home and have some fishing line, a banjo string, some wire that was wrapped around a barrel…but they're all tuned perfectly.