The average dark, uncompromising guitar hero would have found it hard to hold an audience when competing with spacelord frontman Roky Erickson, but Stacy Sutherland – axe-toting psyche-warrior with shortlived Austin legends The 13th Floor Elevators – didn’t do a bad job of being second in command.
Although they remain a relatively exclusive treat for a minority of record-buyers, in their day The Elevators were the top acid-guzzling, stoner kings of over-amplified, Psychedelic preach-pop. The band was the result of a collision between two Texan garage outfits, The Lingsmen (Sutherland) and The Spades (Erickson).
As The 13th Floor Elevators (the new name coined as a reference to the ‘floor that doesn’t exist’ for superstitious American hotel-goers), they embarked upon a 2-year rampage of drug-taking. Nevertheless, they created extraordinary music as they went – the expression ‘psychedelic’ had not been seen on an album sleeve until The Elevators’ 1966 debut.
With ‘guru’ Tommy Hall playing a 1.5-gallon ‘electric’ aluminium jug, the line-up was somewhat more sedately completed by Benny Thurman (bass; later replacement Danny Galindo died in 2001) and John Ike Walton (drums). As The Elevators’ most talented player, Stacy Sutherland would have a big say in the band’s songwriting, but it was his and Erickson’s recreational habits that garnered the most column inches.
Erickson became a sort of American Syd Barrett, paranoid, deluded and convinced he was a Martian with a ‘third eye’ – he would be in and out of institutions for years afterwards. For Sutherland, the future was even darker. The Texas Rangers were almost constantly on the band’s (and especially his) tail, and he spent a jail term for drug possession in 1968. The rest of the band were put out by this development, and The Elevators dissolved some months after (Tommy Hall eventually became a Christian).
In 1977, Sutherland joined a line-up of The Elevators for a reunion show – without the unwell Erickson – but any pipe dreams that the group might one day reform were exposed as hallucinations when the once-fried guitar man, now often strung out on heroin, was shot dead by his estranged wife in a domestic dispute in Houston. He was buried in the town of his birth.
"They didn’t make any money to speak of, but they did get lots of pussy and buttloads of free drugs." Bob Galindo, Texan musician, Elevators fan and brother of bassist Danny
The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars -Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, page 102-103
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