|Hasil Adkins, The Hunch
Although he won't confirm the exact year (maybe he doesn't really know) Hasil appears to have been born on April 29th, 1937 in Boone County, West Virginia. Located in the southern most part of the state, Haze's region is dominated by coal mines. Hasil's father, Wid Adkins, dug coal for decades and sternly warned, "Don't you ever go in those mines."
While Haze was drawn to music by the pure joy of making noise, music would eventually offer a way out of the mines. Hasil took to music as a child, turning it into a form of play. By making sounds out of whatever he could find, ordinary objects like wash tubs, bottles and jugs became instruments.
A lot of people didn't believe it when Hasil first took to the stage in the mid-1950's. His crazy gyrations and hepped-up vocal attack were mind boggling to the fair-goers and other inhabitants of the biggest small town near Hasil's house... Madison. They did know it was sort of the same thing that Elvis Presley was doing, so they dubbed Haze, "Elvis Hasil Adkins."
Hasil's one-man-band approach arose in part from his reckoning that the other musicians he heard on 78's were playing everything by themselves. As the one-man-band began to hit his stride, the hunching-like movements of his sexed-up fans gave birth to a new dance. In 1957, Haze christened the new dance and the first of its many offshoot songs, "The Hunch."
ROCK-A-BILLY ARTIST HASIL ADKINS DIES
By JOHN RABY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Rock-a-billy artist Hasil Adkins, a one-man band whose screaming vocals and freestyle approach to rhythm landed a cult following, has died at 67.
Adkins' body was found Tuesday at his Madison home, where he lived alone. The cause of death has not been determined but it does not appear to be suspicious. The body has been sent to the state medical examiner's office, Boone County Sheriff's Deputy J.M. Thompson said Wednesday.
"Someone had gone to check on him and had found him," Thompson said.
Guitar. Harmonica. Drums. Foot-rhythm instruments. Adkins played them all - often while singing. A yodel, screaming and a high-pitched female's lark were some of his many voices.
The son of a coal miner, Adkins learned to played guitar before he was 10. He claimed the only time he practiced his songs was on stage.
Known to his fans as The Haze, Adkins struggled for decades to get noticed. In a 2002 interview, he said he mailed out thousands of tapes and records over a 30-year period while fishing for a record deal.
Even Richard Nixon got one, courtesy of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. The president's reply to Adkins came on White House stationery in 1970: "I am very pleased by your thoughtfulness in bringing these particular selections to my attention."
"Hasil was one of a handful of artists I think (who) are truly unique and truly individual. There aren't very many people whose music you can identify in seconds. But he was one of them," said Michael Lipton, a Charleston musician and writer who wrote stories about Adkins for newspapers and magazines and later became friends with Adkins.
"And like those kinds of singular artists, they have good nights and bad nights, on a good night it was the most rhythmic, primal music I think I've ever heard," Lipton said Wednesday.
"On a bad night, it was still good."
Adkins was the original star of Norton Records, a label built around the primal recordings Adkins produced in his mountain home, beginning in the Eisenhower era.
"People told me they wondered how I could stick with it, so many heartaches and letdowns. I had 'em by the hundreds, millions I guess," Adkins said. "I said, well, I didn't start to quit."
Adkins, who claimed to have written more than 7,000 songs, first emerged hooting and wailing in the 1950s, only to disappear again. European fans kept the rock-a-billy rage alive, and when the Cramps did an early 1980s remake of Adkins' "She Said," his records suddenly became hot again.
What Adkins sang about was just as unique as his delivery, which was fueled by a 2-gallon-a-day coffee habit.
New York-based Norton Records combined new and previous recordings to release "Poultry in Motion," a collection of 15 Adkins songs about chicken from 1955 to 1999.
His "Chicken Walk" and "The Hunch" became two short-lived dance fads.
There also were tunes like "Chocolate Milk Honeymoon" and "Boo Boo The Cat."
Despite his antics, acquaintances described Adkins as good hearted.
"He'd do anything for you, sing any song for you if he knew it," said Juanita Pridemore of Washington Heights.
Adkins often performed at Charleston's Empty Glass bar, where some out-of-town acts stipulated that he open for them.
"It was just amazing. It was like nothing you've ever heard," said Leslie Nahodil, a Boone County nurse who met Adkins during his occasional visits to her hospital's emergency room. "It was just pure, homespun, country rock-a-billy music."