Roky Erickson Ascends to the 13th Floor (1947-2019)

Psychedelic pioneer clocked 71 Earth years

Reports started piling up swiftly on social networks at quitting time. Reports finally verified it around 5pm. An epitaph suddenly appearing atop son Jegar Erickson's Facebook page proved all the confirmation anyone needed: “Goodnight Daddy.”

Roky Erickson on Dec. 15, 2009, photographed locally for Okkervil River collaboration True Love Cast Out All Evil (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Roky Erickson, Austin's homegrown pioneer of psychedelia, garage, punk, and horror rock, has died in his hometown at the age of 71. He’s survived by Jegar, daughters Spring and Cydne, and brothers Sumner and Mikel – who confirmed Roky’s passing via Facebook – and wife Dana.

If he had done nothing more than write and sing mid-Sixties hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” the signature power-chord anthem he brought to the 13th Floor Elevators from his first band the Spades, Erickson would still be the garage rock Robert Johnson, helping lay the tracks punk and psychedelia would roll upon. That the Elevators essentially turned on every seeker of the inner experience via their three LPs – The Psychedelic Sounds Of (1966), Easter Everywhere (1968), and Bull of the Woods (1969) – ensured him immortality prior to his landing in Rusk State Mental Hospital in 1969 for possession of pot.

After reemerging in the mid-Seventies, he began mixing a fascination with B-movie horror and bloody comics with raw rock & roll, refining horror rock on landmark 1980 LP The Evil One with the Aliens. His independently cut 1975 single “Two-Headed Dog,” produced and guitared by Doug Sahm, is effectively Austin's first punk single. Erickson became the rare Sixties artist who transcended his time and made music essential to rock’s next phase.

After years struggling with his own, perhaps overstated demons, Erickson' came under the care of his mother Evelyn and later his brother Sumner. This resulted in a renaissance for the singer-guitarist and his art, bringing him back to the stage and the studio with late Seventies-band the Explosives. Decades later, he did it again when collaborating with Austin institution Okkervil River.

Finally, in the last years, Jegar assembled the Hounds of the Baskervilles. Together, father and son had been working on a new LP. Explosives drummer Fred Krc said today that Roky had been rushed to the emergency room in the last month after suffering an undisclosed “spell.”

“Roky lived in so many worlds, you couldn’t keep up with him,” Bill Bentley, who'd produced 1991 all-star Erickson tribute album When the Pyramid Meets the Eye, told Variety today. “He lived so much, and not always on this planet.”

15 Roky Erickson Moments From the Chronicle Archives

Roky at 70

Roky’s history at the Austin Music Awards

Roky on his Austin champion Margaret Moser

13th Floor Elevators reunion live shot

Roky Psych Fest preview

Roky & Okkervil River – Rokkervil

Rokkervil SXSW live shot

13th Floor Elevators box set review

Roky on sci-fi

Rok doc review

Roky’s comeback cover story

Roky Erickson live shot from ACL Fest

Roky ACL Fest preview

Roky anthology review

13th Floor Elevators cover story

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Roky Erickson, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Jegar Erickson, The Explosives, Doug Sahm, Freddy Krc, Okkervil River, Bill Bentley, The Aliens

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