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RIP Hasil Adkins

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  • Carl Zimring
    Sad news from West Virginia. Hasil was one of a kind. Rock-a-billy artist Hasil Adkins dies By JOHN RABY Associated Press Writer CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) --
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 27, 2005
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      Sad news from West Virginia. Hasil was one of a kind.

      Rock-a-billy artist Hasil Adkins dies

      By JOHN RABY
      Associated Press Writer

      CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- 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 67.

      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 Eisenhower era.

      "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.

      There also were tunes like "Chocolate Milk Honeymoon'' and "Boo Boo
      The Cat.''

      Despite his antics, acquaintances described Adkins as good hearted.

      "He'd do anything for you, sing any song for you if he knew it,''
      said Juanita Pridemore of Washington Heights.

      Adkins often performed at Charleston's Empty Glass bar, where some
      out-of-town acts stipulated that he open for them.

      "It was just amazing. It was like nothing you've ever heard,'' said
      Leslie Nahodil, a Boone County nurse who met Adkins during his
      occasional visits to her hospital's emergency room. "It was just
      pure, homespun, country rock-a-billy music.''
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