from the Associated Press’ John Raby (forwarded, courtesy Mark Ohe) :
Rock-a-billy artist Hasil Adkins, a one-man band whose screaming vocals
and freestyle approach to rhythm landed a cult following, has died at
Adkins’ body was found Tuesday at his Madison home, where he lived
alone. The cause of death has not been determined but it does not appear
to be suspicious. The body has been sent to the state medical examiner’s
office, Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy J.M. Thompson said Wednesday.
“Someone had gone to check on him and had found him,” Thompson said.
Guitar. Harmonica. Drums. Foot-rhythm instruments. Adkins played them
all – often while singing. A yodel, screaming and a high-pitched
female’s lark were some of his many voices.
The son of a coal miner, Adkins learned to played guitar before he was
10. He claimed the only time he practiced his songs was on stage.
Known to his fans as The Haze, Adkins struggled for decades to get
noticed. In a 2002 interview, he said he mailed out thousands of tapes
and records over a 30-year period while fishing for a record deal.
Even Richard Nixon got one, courtesy of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd,
D-W.Va. The president’s reply to Adkins came on White House stationery
in 1970: “I am very pleased by your thoughtfulness in bringing these
particular selections to my attention.”
“Hasil was one of a handful of artists I think (who) are truly unique
and truly individual. There aren’t very many people whose music you can
identify in seconds. But he was one of them,” said Michael Lipton, a
Charleston musician and writer who wrote stories about Adkins for
newspapers and magazines and later became friends with Adkins.
“And like those kinds of singular artists, they have good nights and bad
nights, on a good night it was the most rhythmic, primal music I think
I’ve ever heard,” Lipton said Wednesday.
“On a bad night, it was still good.”
Adkins was the original star of Norton Records, a label built around the
primal recordings Adkins produced in his mountain home, beginning in the
“People told me they wondered how I could stick with it, so many
heartaches and letdowns. I had ‘em by the hundreds, millions I guess,”
Adkins said. “I said, well, I didn’t start to quit.”
Adkins, who claimed to have written more than 7,000 songs, first emerged
hooting and wailing in the 1950s, only to disappear again. European fans
kept the rock-a-billy rage alive, and when the Cramps did an early 1980s
remake of Adkins’ “She Said,” his records suddenly became hot again.
What Adkins sang about was just as unique as his delivery, which was
fueled by a 2-gallon-a-day coffee habit.
New York-based Norton Records combined new and previous recordings to
release “Poultry in Motion,” a collection of 15 Adkins songs about
chicken from 1955 to 1999.
His “Chicken Walk” and “The Hunch” became two short-lived dance fads.