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Nick Knox, drummer on the Cramps' first four albums, dies at 60

Nick Knox, drummer on the Cramps' first four albums, dies at 60
The Cramps' lineup included Poison Ivy, left, Bryan Gregory, Lux Interior and Nick Knox. Knox's death was announced on Friday. (I.R.S. Records)

Nick Knox, the furrow-browed drummer for the great punk band the Cramps, died Friday at 60. The musician played with the band on its first four classic albums, driving the so-called psychobilly outfit across songs including “Human Fly,” “Sunglasses After Dark” and “Call of the Wighat.”

Knox was the Cramps’ drummer during the band’s infamous 1978 concert at Napa State Mental Hospital, where the Cramps tore through a set for the institution’s patients.

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Knox, who was born Nicholas Stephanoff, was also the drummer for the seminal Cleveland proto-punk band the Electric Eels, whose song “Agitated” remains a classic of early 1970s American underground rock.The drummer’s death was confirmed by the Electric Eels’ founder, John Morton.

On social media, peers celebrated Knox’s way with the sticks. Kid Congo Powers, who also played with the Cramps (though not at the same time as Knox), called Knox the “coolest of the cool.”

Miriam Linna, the rock ’n’ roll writer, drummer and historian, recalled her early years in Cleveland seeing Knox at the same hard-rock and proto-punk shows she was attending.

“Nicky and I had been friends since the early 70’s, when my sis Helen and I started coming into Cleveland to see bands,” she wrote in a blog post. “In 1973, we saw the Dolls at the Allen Theatre and then the Stooges and Slade in January of ’74. When I say ‘we,’ I mean every Cleveland no-count between the ages of 14 and 24. It seems that every person in NE Ohio who ended up in a band was at those shows.”

Marc Riley, the influential British DJ and former guitarist for the Fall, mourned Knox’s passing, too, writing on Twitter that “this fella never broke sweat.”

Another former member of the Fall, Paul Hanley, echoed many who saw Knox bang on the drums: With a stone-faced demeanor, he created what has been aptly described as “a cadaverous heartbeat,” intimidating anyone unlucky enough to open for the Cramps at their peak.

And Dave Catching, the founder of the Rancho de la Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree, recalled attending one of the Cramps’ recording sessions with Alex Chilton at Ardent Studios in Memphis.

It’s been a rough week for drummers. On Wednesday, D.J. Fontana, who played with Elvis Presley during his prime, died at 87.

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