Psychedelic Psounds: Interviews from A to Z with 60s Psychedelic and Garage Bands

By Allan Vorda | Go to book overview

13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS: PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS

The 13th Floor Elevators. To many the name means nothing. To a small segment of the musical world, however, the group is a legend of almost mythic proportions.

There are a number of reasons why they are considered legendary, yet the Elevators main claim to fame is that they are generally considered the Fathers of Psychedelic Music. This claim may be arguable, but no one can deny that any other band took psychedelic music to their hearts and souls and minds like the Elevators.

The testimony to this is their classic first album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, which was released in 1966. It was atypical of any previous album. It contained songs which were primarily written around drug-related lyrics and intersected with philosophy, religion, love, and death as well as adolescent and social naiveté. It was an album that combined psychedelics and music to ask questions about existence and looking at the world "through brand new eyes."

To make an entire album that is primarily written around drugs would have been commercial suicide for practically any record label. Yet this album was made--although not in California and not in England --but in Texas by an ambitious record company in Houston called International Artists.

The 13th Floor Elevators formed as a band in Austin, Texas in late 1965. Tommy Hall, a University of Texas philosophy/psychology student, had been experimenting with psychedelics as well as playing the jug in a folk band. Hall came up with the unique idea of placing a microphone next to his jug which created a very unusual sound. He could see that combining his electric jug with psychedelic lyrics opened up a strange new territory; and it could be pioneered if he could just find the right musicians.

Tommy Hall found the backing musicians he needed in a Third Coast band from the Port Aransas-Rockport area called the Lingsmen: Stacy Sutherland (lead guitar), Benny Thurman (bass), and John Ike Walton (drums). The missing link was Roky Erickson.

Erickson was seventeen when he had written and released a local Top 10 single with The Spades ( August 1965/Zero Records) called "You're Gonna Miss Me." Erickson was not only an accomplished rhythm guitar player, but possessed one of the most powerful and dynamic voices ever heard on vinyl or in concert.

The group decided to call themselves the 13th Floor Elevators which was based on the non- existent floor that was left out of high-rise buildings by superstitious contractors. The Elevators

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