While New York bands like the Ramones and Television were redefining American rock 'n' roll in the late 1970s, The Cramps looked back with a menacing eye. The quartet took the rumbling sound of 1950s rockabilly and surf music and slowed it to a haunting crawl.
Lead singer Lux Interior, born Eric Lee Purkhiser, was the ultimate showman. He threw himself around the stage, and his growl hiccuped like Buddy Holly. Interior took his lyrical and theatrical inspiration from midnight movies, spawning a new generation of kitsch complete with leopard prints.
Growing more craggy with age — just like zombies in his favorite B-movies — The Cramps continued to perform until 2006. Interior died Wednesday of an existing heart condition in a Glendale, Calif., hospital. He was 62.