Roky Erickson, frontman of the 13th Floor Elevators, from Austin, Texas, died on Friday May 31 aged 71. The band’s debut single, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, released in January 1966, is one of the most celebrated songs from the psych-rock scene and was described by REM’s Peter Buck as “Louie Louie, sideways”. The single reached No 55 in the US charts.
Erickson’s death was confirmed in a statement that described him as an “heroic icon of modern rock ’n’ roll and one of the best friends the music ever had”. The cause of death has not been announced and representatives appealed for privacy for his family.
In 1990 REM appeared on Where the Pyramid Meets The Eye, a tribute to Erickson that also featured ZZ Top, Primal Scream, Julian Cope, T Bone Burnett and The Jesus & Mary Chain.
ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, said: “It’s almost unfathomable to contemplate a world without Roky Erickson. He created his own musical galaxy and early on was a true inspiration.”
Erickson was born in Austin, Texas, and The 13th Floor Elevators released their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, in 1966, when he was just 19 years old. The band advocated the use of LSD and Erickson started exhibiting erratic behaviour. He pleaded insanity in 1969 to avoid a prison sentence for drug possession, and was committed to a psychiatric facility, at Texas’ Rusk State Hospital, where he underwent electroconvulsive therapy.
Afterwards, he started a sporadic solo career starting with Roky Erickson And The Aliens and The Evil One in 1980 and 1981. Erickson again returned to performing and the studio in the early 2000s and his life was chronicled in the 2005 documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me. Okkervil River’s Will Sheff produced Erickson’s 2010 solo album True Love Cast Out All Evil. The 13th Floor Elevators reunited in 1984 and again in 2015 for a concert at the Austin’s Levitation music festival.