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photo: courtesy of Norton Records

Do what now? ...
... a chat with the late great
(when he was very much alive)

infamous mountain wild man Hasil Adkins may well be the king of rock and roll. he may also be a car tinkerer with a weak spot for chicken and women. but one thing's for sure, there's no one quite like him.

Well I'm gonna put your head on my wall / So you can't talk no more*

There's a brief, contemplative pause on the line before a "well, yeah". Hasil Adkins could be talking about the weather, and though he does like to go on about the cold, this particular conversation is about time served for shooting up a trailer home. "It's true, I was drunk. A woman caused it all. There was about six of us and we all got shot." Tall tales of rock and roll hillbilly wild man Hasil (pronounced "Hassle", which rhymes with his brother Basil) Adkins are legendary, endless, and as it turns out, mostly true.

Hasil resides in Boone County, West Virginia. These aren't the country roads that John Denver sang about. This is the Deliverance version: a place of inbreeding, squirrel eating and serial killing. Yet despite the myths, Hasil turns out to be a genuinely honest, frank, deeply spiritual, gentle soul of the earth, who rambles much like Boomhauer on King of the Hill: fast, funny, entertaining and damn near impossible to decipher.

Cut your head off a half past eight / Have it on my wall about a half past ten*

History is a bit sketchy, but music may have been a good excuse to stay out of the mines. "My daddy lost a lung down there. I started beating on a milk can when I was six years old, started on a guitar when I was eight or nine." Adkins started taping his raunch and roll about the same time as Elvis, except one was changing music history in a Memphis studio while the other in a backwoods shack. "They called it rockabilly, but I called it country rock, 'cause I lived in the country". Those rough and dirty ditties slapped onto cheap tape ensured relative obscurity, but once folks got a listen to the primal sexual urgency of "Chicken Walk" (push in push out) and the humping dance craze "The Hunch", they said 'Hasil move away from here'. So he loaded up the truck and moved to L.A. Quickly disillusioned by the biz, Adkins headed back to the hills, where he resides to this day, recording songs (claiming to have 7000 in his repertoire), fixing cars and hunting squirrels. "Good eating. Up here in the forties squirrel hunting was one of the big things going."

C'mon baby I want that head / I want that head hangin' on my wall tonight*

Hasil's break came when The Cramps unearthed "She Said", with Lux Interior stuffing his mouth full of styrofoam to achieve that crazed Adkins sound. Suddenly folks were searching out rare Adkins seven inchers released in Europe. After a shack visit, Norton records decided to launch their new label with a collection of his raucous sides. Released in '86, "Out To Hunch" was a landmark of garage rock debauchery, a hilarious psychobilly sex infused slab delivered by a volatile raw talent. Songs about chopping girls heads off, eating commodity meat, - that kinda stuff. Making up for lost time, some thirty years' worth, Adkins has lived a cherished rock and roll life since, recording - sometimes in real studios - and performing on a regular basis. He's even cleaned up, well, the alcohol anyway. "I used to drink five fifths of four litres of vodka a day. Now I just have wine and beer. " The system may be a tad cleaner but the lot is still littered with cars. "Oh I have about twenty or so, some with polka dots!" Hasil loves polka dots, has a polka dot fridge and is always on the lookout for polka dotted clothes. "They used to be big in the twenties and thirties but you can't buy then any place anymore. I'm gonna have to start making them. Jimmie Rodgers, the singing brakeman, had a lot of songs about polka dots you know."

I'm gonna cut your head off / You can't eat no more hot dogs*

Seemingly isolated in the hills, Adkins did manage to hear the new sounds coming out of Memphis, but claims to have preceded Jerry Lee and company. When asked if he was the real king of rock and roll, Adkins bashfully replies, "Maybe. I just wasn't in the right place." Hasil's not shy about his music though. Hell, he sends his records to the White House so the presidents can have a listen. "Got me a real nice letter from Nixon too."

Like Elvis, Hasil was a real mama's boy, living at home till the day she passed on at age 94. "I didn't just wanna walk off and leave her." The youngest of ten, at 66 Hasil is but one of three Adkins clan left - brother Basil (rhymes with Hasil) died last year. Just to confuse matters he used to date a girl named Hazel, and was given the nickname "The Haze". "That's 'cause Starlight records wanted something catchy and I didn't have no middle name."

Oh yeah , a ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha / Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh*

Hasil attributes his spirited longevity to meat. Raw meat that is. "Raw hamburger is good, sausage too. Raw steak is pretty good, pork chops, bacon ain't bad neither. It gives you a lot of strength. Gets you going too. I used to carry hamburger in my pocket for snacking. Raw chicken though, I don't go for that." The topic of chicken keeps entering the conversation. Adkins left the set of his documentary when the daily bucket of chicken failed to materialize. A rider is a rider. Adkins' obsession with poultry has taken over his recent endeavours. A recent long player, "Poultry in Motion" (Norton) compiles fifteen greasy nuggets reaching way back to a rough '55 version of "Chicken Walk", and brings it all home with the recent "Chicken Run". As a topper on the current tour a couple of dancing go-go chickens are along for the ride.

Erratic rhythm and tempo changes decrees Hasil remains a one man band. He prefers it that way, often playing several instruments at once, 'cause that's what he thought everyone did. "I heard Hank Williams on the radio, and they never mentioned a band."

So is it much different to have a clean Hasil Adkins on stage these days? "Oh it's about the same." This coming from a man who once pulled a gun in mid performance to take out a disruptive fan. The fan by the way, was of the overhead, metal variety and there was no ensuing jail time. Elvis is dead, long live the Haze!

*No More Hot Dogs

....tape hiss...

interrogator: john sekerka
(steal only with consent ... and candy)

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