The Cramps Have This Thing About Elvis

"Whence Elvis sprang it all." So reads the Gospel according to the Lux

Interior and wife Poison Ivy, singer and guitarist, respectively, for

veteran rockabilly punks the Cramps.

Had Elvis Aron Presley not passed on (or simply gone into hiding,

depending on your view) on August 16, 1977, he would have been 62 years old

this year. Interior and Ivy marked the 20th anniversary of the King's

death by ruminating on their debt to him.

"Elvis was the guy that really started rock 'n' roll," Interior said by

phone from the couple's Southern California home. "Before that it was

black music, people called it rhythm and blues. It was really kind of a

cult thing. He was the one who made it this huge thing that later would

become Led Zeppelin, MTV and everything else that it is today."

Said Ivy more succinctly: "It like he's in our blood."

Although Interior doesn't recall whether he first saw Elvis on Ed

Sullivan's or Steve Allen's TV variety show, he does remember thinking

vaguely the event marked the start of something new. "My older brother

rode a motorcycle, and he was into all that stuff," Interior said. "Him

and all his friends were over to watch, and I remember everybody was just

going wild. They were all screaming and yelling, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!

It's gonna happen!' They were all excited, and I didn't know what all the

hubbub was about. But I saw it in the right atmosphere, with the proper

audience."

What Interior did manage to grasp was that Elvis embodied that elusive,

indefinable quality of cool. Then when he was a bit older, he grasped

Presley's sexual appeal.

Nowadays both Interior and Ivy are devoted Elvis-o-philes. In 1986, the

Cramps released an album titled, wishfully, A Date With Elvis. Over

the span of their 22 year career the band has covered the King both on

record ("Jailhouse Rock," "Fever") and in concert ("Do the Clam" among

countless others). In addition, Ivy and Interior have collected original

pressings of nearly every single released by Elvis' original label,

Sun Records, including 78 rpm discs of Elvis' "That's All Right" and

"Mystery Train."

Ivy said that it's impossible to gauge the King's impact on the Cramps.

"Just hearing Elvis and loving Elvis, he's got to influence us in every

way, in everything we do. Even other things we're influenced by--other

rockabilly or whatever--they're influenced by Elvis, too."

"There's hardly a song that I sing in the Cramps that wasn't influenced by

Elvis in some way or the other," added Interior.

According to the singer, it was not simply Elvis' musical hybrid that

started the rock 'n' roll revolution. "You always hear that he took gospel

music and country and put them all together," Interior said. "That's

something that came out of him. But the big element was just

him. It all came from his wild personality."