Sunday, February 22, 2009

Late punk rock star graduated from high school in Stow in 1964

by Mike Lesko

Associate Editor

Stow -- When Erick Lee "Rick" Purkhiser attended Stow High School, he was a low-key fellow. After graduating in 1964, all that changed.

Purkhiser switched his name to Lux Interior and became the lead singer for a well-known punk rock group called the Cramps.

He died Feb. 4, 2009, at a Glendale, Calif., hospital due to a pre-existing heart condition, according to Aleix Martinez, the band's publicist. He was 62.

Laurie (Graham) Tiffany, a 1965 Stow High School graduate, knew him.

"I do remember Rick," Tiffany, treasurer of the school's alumni association, wrote in an e-mail. "In fact, I dated him a few times. From what I can remember -- after all, he graduated 45 years ago! -- Rick was kind of quiet."

He was born in Stow on Oct. 21, 1946.

Tiffany said according to the 1964 high school yearbook, he did not participate in any school activities.

However, Purkhiser enjoyed watching the Bulldogs football team with his pal, Chuck Psajdl.

"Erick was probably my best friend in Stow High School," Psajdl wrote in an e-mail. "He loved our football team and [we would] go every Friday."

Psajdl said he and Purkhiser were roommates in Akron while Purkhiser attended Kent State University to study art and Psajdl went to the University of Akron.

Psajdl said their college days ended when Psajdl was drafted into the military in 1967 and Purkhiser dropped out of school.

"We were in correspondence while he moved to Sacramento," he said.

"The last time I saw him was when I got married," Psajdl said. "He and his girlfriend showed up to the wedding in 'Goth.'"

After that, the two men fell out of touch.

"I'm sorry about his death," Psajdl added.

Purkhiser met his future wife, Kristy Wallace, who would later take the stage name Poison Ivy, in Sacramento in 1972, reportedly while she was hitchhiking.

The pair, who shared a love of obscure and odd early rock 'n' roll, moved back to Akron for a few years before going to New York in 1975, according to published reports.

In 1976, he became co-founder and lead singer of the pioneering horror-punk band, the Cramps. The band was part of the now legendary downtown New York punk scene. Their lineup shifted over the years but always included Interior and his wife, who played guitar.

The group became one of the more flamboyant parts of the late '70s early punk scene centered at Manhattan clubs alongside acts like the Ramones and Patti Smith. The band's rockabilly-infused punk has been credited as an influence by bands like the White Stripes, Pearl Jam and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

The Cramps released 14 albums over the course of their career. Their latest, 2004's "How To Make a Monster," sold 11,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Their best-selling album, 1984's "Bad Music for Bad People," has sold 95,000 copies.

Interior is survived by Wallace, his wife of 37 years, and his brother, Michael Purkhiser, of Akron.

A statement from the Cramps' media representatives reads: "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. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly."

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