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March 1, 2010

Dear Jane: I'm gonna cut your head off and put it on the wall, so you won’t eat no more hot dogs--Hasil Adkins

Uploaded by mrjyn


The decapitated heads of various girlfriends. “I’m gonna cut your head off and put it on the wall, so you won’t eat no more hot dogs.”

Chicken walk ghost — a reference to his song “The Chicken Walk.”

Mars bars. They come from Mars—another of Adkins’ favorite nutritional sources.

Hasil’s dog,“Whacky”, wearing his master’s glasses.

Hasil’s home-made guitar.

Hasil’s father.


Rebel Yell booze.

Officer Duncins—Hasil’s real-life nemesis and frequent arresting officer, subject of a song of the same name.

Hasil Adkins

Hasil Adkins


Hasil’s dream of “eatin’ commodity meat on the moon.” Commodity meat is cheap canned meat popular among poor rural people.

Joe Coleman's favorite psychobilly musician, Adkins developed his unique, multi-instrumental playing technique as the result of a wild misconception. Growing up in a tarpaper shack in Madison, West Virginia (where he still resides in a trailer), Adkins would listen to band music on the radio and hear the announcer identify the group as, say, the Louis Armstrong Band. Adkins would then assume that all the instruments were being played by Louis Armstrong. Not only does Adkins simultaneously perform on at least three instruments (drum, harmonica, guitar), he also writes all his own material and is one of the most prolific--and original--songwriters in America. His subjects range from eating commodity meat on the moon to the local sheriff who is the bane of his existence.
Adkins performed at Coleman's 2000 wedding and provided the soundtrack for the Joe Coleman documentary, R.I.P.: Rest in Pieces.

Drunken hallucinations of hot-pants sirens.
A documentary film, The Wild and Wacky World of Hasil Adkins, is due for release this fall, one of two upcoming films to feature the inventor of the Slop, the Hunch, and the Chicken Walk.
Deuce of Clubs: How did you come up with your sound? It's so different from anything else I've ever heard.
Hasil Adkins: What I done, I learnt to play, you know, by myself and everything, and I just, you know...well, what I'm doin is, you know, what's in my mind and stuff. I don't—what it is, I don't play to no beat, you know, like 2-, 4-beat, or 6-, 8-, or 12 & all that. You know. Ain't nobody can play with me. You know, I just play what's in my mind, you know. Change when I get ready, go up and down. I've tried a lot of bands, but you know, I can't do—well, in other words, if I go up they go down or somethin, if I go down they go up, so...
Sometimes I listen to your records and I think, How is he doing all that? So you're working the drums with your feet?
Do what now?
You're working the drums with your feet, then?
Yeah, I play drums, bass, & lead, & rhythm, harp—you know, harmonica—around your neck. I can play organ & piano with my elbows. I'm riggin' that up now. I can play about anything, but I gotta get it all rigged where I could get to it, you know, so I can play it all at the same time.
That's the thing I find hard to understand. For example, the song "The Slop"—
Do what now?
Your song, "The Slop."
You can hear the guitar playing, and then there's drums, and then there's also, sounds like, what is that—spoons? You're playing the spoons?
How do you have that rigged so you can do that all at one time?

Well, I just get it all, get it all close where I can get to all of it & everything, you know, at the same time. Put the harp around my neck, you know, then I play the lead. What I do, I play lead, rhythm, & I don't know how many different things on the guitar, and I play the drums, hi-hat—& I play 'em with my hands, too, at times, you know.
I read in Kicks magazine that there's a documentary film you're in.
Yeah, yeah.
Do you know what the name of that is?
It's The Wild and Wacky World of Hasil Adkins. They're gettin ready to start distributin' now. We worked on that, I don't know, they got a whole bunch they're comin out with, you know. The first one they're comin out with, I got some of it here now, but I guess it'll come out some time this Fall.
Who exactly is making that film?
Well, I think it was the whole [unintelligible] shop, one of the main ones. There's a whole bunch of 'em, on out in L.A. & Kentucky, uh, just different ones. But the main doin's of it is out in Kentucky. They're havin a time with distributin it, now. Course the ones wantin to distribute it, you know, are wantin too much money. But I think they got it worked out now, got it worked out where...it's out in Chicago, I can't think of the name, but there's a big distributor out there. They seen it & they wanna, you know, distribute it across the world & everything, get it out there where people can buy it & everything. If it would sell. They been workin on it for a while. But I think they got it straightened out now.
So is it pronounced hassle or hazel?
Oh, I thought it was Hazel, 'cos you're The Haze.
I know, everybody... nah, it's "hassel," what it is. Everybody call me—well, not everybody—most of 'em call me "Hazel," but I mean, you know, after they get to know me or seen me or somethin, why, you know, [I] tell 'em....
Ah. Cos you've got a brother named Basil—or is it "bassle"?
Do what now?
Your brother's named Basil or Bazel?
Uh, well, they call him both things, Basil & Bazel, but his real name's Basil. But they call him Bazel.
Okay. Now I also read somewhere that you had lectured at a college—where was that?
Do what now?
That you had given a lecture at a college.
Yeah, uh, in Louisville, Kentucky.
How did that come about?
That's when we was makin this video stuff. They went all over the place makin it. And they was wantin to know, at the college, how I got started playin and how do I do everything—you know, all that.
Was that a lot of fun?
Oh yeah, yeah. Kids wanna know everything, they did.
Do you still play live much?
Yeah. Well, I been workin here at home for a while now, I got a lot of [ ] stuff to do & everything. I could be workin 'bout eight nights, if I wanted to, but it gets old, you know, like that. I'm gonna play Charleston, I guess, Saturday night. Could be Friday Night. Friday or Saturday night, one of the two.
Wow, I wish I was out there! I'd like to see you play. So you going to be touring around any more, you think?
Oh yeah, yeah.
Think you're ever going to get out Arizona way again?
I just got back from Chicago ... huh?
You think you'll ever get out Arizona way?
Uh, yeah, they're workin on something, get out through Arizona, and I think San Francisco, L.A. I been to L.A., about a year ago now.
Wow, I wish I'd have known that.
Yeah. And I'm goin off of that, uh—well, this record'll be out pretty soon. I don't know what they're gonna call it yet. I.R.S. Records—you hearda them, ain'tcha? Miles Copeland?
I.R.S.? Yeah.
I cut about two albums for them.
Oh really? I only have your albums that were on Norton. Also a Dutch import.
Yeah. Well, I don't know, Capitol's gonna be—A&M Records, I know you know of them—them & I.R.S. Records, they all know each other, and get together, so they're gonna get—they'll put it over when they get it out. They been workin on it. So I went out there almost a year ago or somethin, cut, I mean, two or three albums' worth. So they been workin on it, you know, gettin it all...
Do you keep in touch with Miriam and Billy [from Kicks Magazine and Norton Records] at all?
Oh yeah, yeah, I talked to 'em, oh, I don't know, 'bout a week & a half ago, somethin like that.
How many songs have you written?
I got over 7,000 all the way written. I don't know just what now, 7,000-&-somethin. I got it marked down out to the house out there.
If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be?
It'd be hard. Well, they're gettin ready to come out with this one—well, it's been out, but it was, you know, way back, on a small label—a love song, "She's Gone," one of the first songs I ever wrote. The number six song I ever wrote, I wrote it way back when I was young. And if I had to pick, I would pick that. There's been so many. I like that "She Said," but ... there's so many to pick from.
Besides The Cramps, do you know of other bands who have recorded your songs?
Yeah, well there's been—I can't think of all of 'em, but I know you know of The Cramps.
Oh yeah.
And Percolators—you ever hear of them, outta Germany?
The Percolators, yeah.
They recorded "Chicken Walk." It's doin good, what they told me. They just come out with it. And there's been ... if I had all the names here, I don't know how many, there've been all kinds of groups, you know. Now there's another group, I don't know who they belong to, I can't think of their name. I know it but I can't, you know, it's hard...
What kind of guitar are you playing these days?
How many guitars have you had over the years?
You mean how many I've got?
How many have you had altogether, do you think?
Oh Lord, I ... it'd be up in the thousands. I've got about forty now, forty-five, something like that.
What kind of equipment do you use to record yourself when you're playing at home?
Well, I've still got—have you heard of that movie they're comin out with, Tear It Up? They got Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins, man, you name it, they got everybody! I guess it'll be out sometime this Fall with it. Honest, they come & interviewed me about six hours' worth. "We gonna want you in it!" you know. They gotta little bit of everybody in there. Well, the first tape recorder I had—that I recorded "She Said," you know, a lot of songs on that. I've got the same thing here now. Not the same one, but the same kind. Looks just like it & everything. 3M company made it. I been gettin all kinda mail from fans all over the world wantin me to record more at home. That's what I'm tryin to get done now. I bought me a trailer to tear it all out & put a studio in it, & I'm doin pretty good with it. I got a lot more to do to it, get it all lined up the way I want it. It's about a forty by ten trailer. Forty feet long, ten feet wide.
I have to ask you this: what exactly is "commodity meat?" What does that mean?
You mean commodity meat? Well, see, way back in the place of welfare, what they call it now, or "Human Services" & all that, you know, they changed all the names, but way back there they had that what they called the DPA—that's Dependent Children of Americans—and they used to give out, well, peanut butter, commodity meat, you know, the government give it out, commodity is what it was. Surplus stuff from the Army men, or all that kinda thing when they got back [after World War II], and they would give so much of that out every month for the people that's on welfare—well, it ain't welfare, now, but what it was, same thing, only different name. And they would give 'em so much, like, powdered milk, powdered eggs, & cheese, & peanut butter, commodity meat, uh, I don't know, just a little bit of everything. But that commodity meat is good, man!
Is it beef, or what?
Uh, you eat it.
No, I mean is it beef, or pork, or what?
Oh, it was pork, and...I think they had two different cans, I think one of 'em was beef and one of 'em was pork.
Is it kind of like Spam?
Yeah, yeah. Somethin similar to that. But that beef was something like the old-timey barbecues used to buy, you know, the barbecue sandwich. It taste just like you couldn't tell it. I mean, it looked just like it & everything. To me it's just like that barbecue they used in the real stuff, they made it. It was good. Real good!
It's interesting that you bring up barbecue, because what we do in every issue of our magazine, we have some famous person give us a barbecue recipe. Do you have a barbecue recipe you could tell me?
No, I, uh...I like all kinds of barbecue stuff, you know. But I got no recipes for ya.
How about if you make one up? You know, how you fool around with human heads, and that kind of stuff?
Oh yeah. Well, I'm workin on more of them now. Like "This Ain't No Rock & Roll Show," or "I Need Your Head," or, you know, "We Got A Date." Stuff like that?
I really made them up back in the fifties for a joke, you know, kinda all us kids runnin around together, you know, girls & boys & stuff. I don't know, I just had the recording stuff set up, so I just done it, really, for, you know, just bein doin somethin, you know, have somethin to do. And then they took off, man, they loved it! I get letters, I got letters from every place in the world, man. So if they like 'em that good, you know.... Every place I go & sing 'em—I just got back from Chicago a couple weeks ago, put a show on over there, it went over great out there. I had to do one of 'em out there, & people tell, you know, what they think of it, how they like it, & any of them songs with screamin' & hollerin', all that stuff, "cut your head off"—they love that! I really done that, you know, really, just to be doin somethin, 'cos back when I was young, all us girls & boys, we'd get together at night & run around along about ten, eleven o'clock at night, until. From about four or five in the evenin. And we all played, screwy things, you know, jokes & stuff. I just picked it up, a little bit from here & there, and sat down a-doin it just to be doin it. I never meant to put 'em out or anything. But after it got to Europe & then they wanted to put 'em out, & then after the people went & buy 'em, they wanted more of 'em. I've got a lotta them I made up back then, & then I've gotta lot I made up now. From the way they're goin with them, I got stuff what's fifty times worse than what they are! So they really should like the others coming in behind 'em!


The decapitated heads of various girlfriends. “I’m gonna cut your head off and put it on the wall, so you won’t eat no more hot dogs.”

Chicken walk ghost — a reference to his song “The Chicken Walk.”

Marlboro, his favorite brand of cigarettes.

Hasil’s ramshackle home in West Virginia (the image is in the shape of the map of the state)
Hot dogs: Hasil’s favorite foodstuff.

The tomb of Colonel Sanders. The one religious pilgrimage Hasil made in his life was to the grave of Colonel Sanders, because he likes his Kentucky Fried Chicken so much.

Hasil and his mom.

Hasil’s cat, Boo-boo (the subject of one of his greatest songs).

Hot-pants Hootchie-Kootch girl. The only social phenomenon Hasil ever wrote about was hot-pants.


Hasil Adkins

Back in 1986 I knew nothing about our Hero. A college friend of mine told me we had to go see this crazy one man band hillbilly guy, who played guitar and drums and sang all at the same time. Besides it was going to be the last show ever at Edie's Folk City (where Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary and decidedly less folky acts such as Husker Du and the Minutemen played). I waited for my friend outside the historic Manhattan club but he never showed up. Despite being stood up I went in. This one man band guy intrigued me. I'd seen lots of Punk bands and other weird acts, but nothing like what I saw when I first glimpsed the stage that night. Hasil was already playing, strumming discordant cords, hitting the crash cymbal with the head of the guitar, slapping the snare drum with a spare hand, franticly kicking the bass drum pedal screeching something indecipherable about hot dogs. He had this look on his face that made me think of a serial killer. He seemed to be exercising some personal devil. He alternated between tearjerkers that actually made me want to cry and growling howlers that went beyond anything anybody from the 50's did without missing a beat. It later occurred to me he was sort of like a missing link between country crooners Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers and 60's punks like Jerry Roslie and Iggy. Despite his manic performance the audience was staid that night. They hooted and hollered a bit but other than that they didn't do very much. I think we were all a bit taken a back, stunned even. A night or two later across the river in Maxwell's (in Hoboken) it was a different story. Things even got bit outta hand what with the audience jumping all over the stage and every thing. From then on I was a dedicated fan. I picked up a bunch of his records (no CDs of course, I think I bought my first in 1993). But what I really wanted was to see him live again. Every once in a while I would see shows of his advertised but they would inevitably get cancelled. About six years later after one such disappointment I called the good folks (Billy Miller and {ex-Cramp} Mirriam Linna) at Norton Records. I think it was Billy who told me a drinking problem was to blame but that the Haze played every Saturday night at this club called the Levee in Charleston WV. He even gave me the phone numbers of some people down there. I called them up and they confirmed that yes he did play every Saturday and that he was always sober (at least sober enough to play). "I've seen Hasil every Saturday night for three years and he ain't never been drunk yet," one guy told me I decided if the Haze won't come to Lenny, Lenny will go to the Haze. Still I found it hard to justify going all the way to West Virginia just to see Hasil. I had a T-shirt business though, so I talked my Ps into lending me the hatchback and decided to shop my wares to stores in Philly, Baltimore, DC and Pittsburgh and to stop in Charleston on the way. I sent Hasil a few telegrams (he didn't have a phone) asking if I could videotape a show and interview him after. He never got back to me but I decided to go anyway. I called the club owner and he said videotaping wouldn't be a problem and even offered to let me sleep in the back room. I had a friend in DC so it was shaping up to be a cheap road trip. I got Charleston Saturday afternoon and had sold a bunch of shirts so I had plenty of cash. I was hours away from seeing the Haze again after years of anticipation so I was quite happy. Thanks to Billy and Miriam I hooked up with some of Charleston's non-conformist/oddball/freak/punk crowd (my kind of people). They took me around at night before the show to see the sights. The high point of my cultural tour was seeing the out-of-work coal miner transvestite hustlers. I remember one huge guy, chomping on a cigar (over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds) with tattoos, a few days razor stubble, and bushy black hair poking out his fishnets. He was very far from fetching in his calico dress, I tried to imagine who would want to bed this guy down for free, let alone pay for it. I'd had a few fears before going down. I'd seen Motörhead in a biker bar in Cleveland and had nearly gotten the shit beaten out of me, so I was a bit worried about having problems with rednecks. The other was I figured with my luck the Saturday that I drove from New York, New York to Charleston, West Virginia to see Hasil Adkins, would be the Saturday that he gets too drunk to play. Sure enough I walk in the bar and there's the Haze sitting on the floor flopped against the bar barely conscious swigging a fifth of vodka. "Don't worry," one of my new friends told me, "he'll sober up by show time." I looked at him and wasn't so sure. The Levee's owner came up to me and showed me the back room and tried to reassure me, "Don't worry he's always like that, he'll sober up by show time." By the time I came back out Hasil was horizontal and I was getting pessimistic. This middle aged guy with strong Appalachian accent came up to me and asked me "Are you that reporter from New York?" I told him I was just a fan with a camcorder but was indeed the guy who had sent the telegrams. "My name's CLATE COOPER. I'ma goood fry-end of Hasil's. You warna stay at my place " I accepted of course. "Don't worry," he said, "Hasil's always like this before shows he'll sober up by show time." He was snoring and drooling at that point so found it hard to believe he'd be able do anything but piss in his pants that evening. I decided to drown my sorrows with rye. A couple of hours later Hasil had some coffee poured down his throat and was able sit and hold his guitar. He sang and played a bit but was horrible, he just plain sucked. If you can't beat'em join'em so I had a few more drinks. At some point the invitation changed. Instead of staying with the friend I was going to stay with Hasil himself. The club owner was going to lead the way, I was going to follow with the Haze in my (parent's) car. The plan then changed again the club owner left me to fend for self. "Don't worry Hasil will tell you how to get there." Hasil could barely talk at this point so I wasn't so sure. Luckily on the way we met Clayton one of Hasil's old friends. The guy asked for a ride and I was more than happy to oblige. Hasil passed out but kept on coming to, telling Clayton what a great piano player he was and that. "Little Richard ain't got nothing on you," and passing out again. The piano player directed the way to Madison (the town where they lived) and his house. To get to Hasil's all I had to do was, "Drive five more miles down the road and turn left a the top of the hill." The Haze however insisted on back tracing to the closest bar for a "nightcap. I didn't think that was a very good idea but Hasil was very insistent and I was staying at his house. So I consented. He bought us both drinks and insisted I have mine. I was having a hard time driving at this point so went into the can and gave my gin to a wino. We got back in the car and passed Clayton's house. After about four miles I woke Hasil up and asked him if we were close. "No, keep on going!" After about six miles we got to the top of a hill. I woke him up again. "Hasil are we getting near your house yet?" "No, keep on going!!" Every mile or so this pattern keep on repeating. The only variation being that each time I woke him Hasil got more and more hostile. He kept on flopping over on me so I tied his seatbelt around his headrest, I was just hoping he wouldn't choke to death. Eventually after 10 miles or so we got to a sign welcoming us to some Monroe WV. I woke Hasil one more time. He was so pissed off I though he was going to hit me. "Keep on going!!!" "Hasil, don't you live in Madison?" "Yeah, Keep on going!!!!" "But..." "Keep on going!!!!!" "...we're not in Madison any more we're in Monroe!" I showed him the sign but he insisted that we "keep on going!!!!!!" We eventually go to the end of the road. I shook Hasil awake. "Keep on going!!!!" "I can't." "Why not?" "Look" There were a bunch of dismantled tractors and trucks in front of us but no more road. "We'll I guess you better head back." "You know the way?" "Hell no" I tried back tracking but started seeing houses and I hadn't seen before and went back to the last fork. I saw more houses I hadn't seen before so went two forks back, before realizing I was hopelessly lost. I weighed my options. I was almost out of gas so driving around all night was out. I though about pulling over and sleeping in the car but couldn't find a shoulder on the curvy mountain road and drunken maniacs kept on speeding by at high speed so I was afraid someone would hit us. I tried stopping a few cars without success. I considered pulling into a driveway but though the owner might shoot first and ask question posthumously. I finally got a pick-up full "good ole boys" to stop. They looked spookily like the guys from Deliverance and I hoped I was not going to made to "squeal like a pig." "Hey you know this guy?" I asked pointing to a drooling Haze. "Yes Sir, that's Hasil." "Hey Hasil it's Goober how yah doooing?" The Haze mumbled and drooled some more "You know where he lives?" "Yes Sir it's real easy you go down to the bottom the hill turn right, pass the church turn left...go left at the fork..." After a two or three turns of his directions I was lost. I explained that I had never been in West Virginia before and was very drunk and asked if they could lead the way. "Sure, no problem Sir." Goober speed off before I could get back in the car. In my drunken state it wasn't easy to keep up with them on Madison's roller-coaster like roads. Eventually we got the top of one hills were Hasil told me to "Keep on going!" and turned down an incredibly steep dirt trail. I wasn't sure Mom and Dad's Chevette would make it. At the bottom was a clearing with an all but collapsed shack, the remnants of an outhouse, some rusty old cars, a NYC bus and about a dozen howling scraggly mutts. There weren't any bowls just a giant sack of dog food ripped open and spilt on the warped porch "Hasil get up we're home." "You live here?" "No, YOU do!" "Are you sure?" I this point I though I'd been set up. But Goober and his buddies helped Hasil into bed. Once inside I knew we were in the right place, there was Hasil Adkins memorabilia every where. Hasil was up before I was. I saw him mixing a screwdriver in a coffee mug and he asked me if I wanted some "tea." Hoping that some "hair of the dog" would cure my headache I accepted. He introduced me to his "wife," a paper-mache skeleton. He explained she'd been dead for five years and would bury her in another two. We went to a store in town to get "supplies" (booze). The girl at the register asked what I was doing in Madison. "Visiting Hasil Adkins." "Who?" She called all the other clerks but none of them had heard of him. I was surprised, he was know all over the world but his neighbors never heard of him. Sunday morning we went to a church service where the minister let himself be bitten by rattlesnakes and said he was protected by the "Holy Ghost." All and all it was one of the most interesting weekends I'd ever had. A couple of years later I was booking a GG Allin tour and arranged a double bill at the Levee. The two of them met and sang together in a house near the club. That was the tour that Dee Dee Ramone was supposed to play so I fantasized about the three of them meeting. Dee Dee of course bailed out. That story will have to wait though.
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