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Hasil Adkins

by Len Colby

(From Roctober #34, 2002)

Back in 1986 I knew nothing about our Hero. A college friend of mine told me we had to go see this crazy one man band hillbilly guy, who played guitar and drums and sang all at the same time. Besides it was going to be the last show ever at Edie's Folk City (where Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary and decidedly less folky acts such as Husker Du and the Minutemen played). I waited for my friend outside the historic Manhattan club but he never showed up. Despite being stood up I went in. This one man band guy intrigued me.

I'd seen lots of Punk bands and other weird acts, but nothing like what I saw when I first glimpsed the stage that night. Hasil was already playing, strumming discordant cords, hitting the crash cymbal with the head of the guitar, slapping the snare drum with a spare hand, franticly kicking the bass drum pedal screeching something indecipherable about hot dogs. He had this look on his face that made me think of a serial killer. He seemed to be exercising some personal devil. He alternated between tearjerkers that actually made me want to cry and growling howlers that went beyond anything anybody from the 50's did without missing a beat. It later occurred to me he was sort of like a missing link between country crooners Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers and 60's punks like Jerry Roslie and Iggy.

Despite his manic performance the audience was staid that night. They hooted and hollered a bit but other than that they didn't do very much. I think we were all a bit taken a back, stunned even. A night or two later across the river in Maxwell's (in Hoboken) it was a different story. Things even got bit outta hand what with the audience jumping all over the stage and every thing.

From then on I was a dedicated fan. I picked up a bunch of his records (no CDs of course, I think I bought my first in 1993). But what I really wanted was to see him live again. Every once in a while I would see shows of his advertised but they would inevitably get cancelled. About six years later after one such disappointment I called the good folks (Billy Miller and {ex-Cramp} Mirriam Linna) at Norton Records. I think it was Billy who told me a drinking problem was to blame but that the Haze played every Saturday night at this club called the Levee in Charleston WV. He even gave me the phone numbers of some people down there. I called them up and they confirmed that yes he did play every Saturday and that he was always sober (at least sober enough to play). "I've seen Hasil every Saturday night for three years and he ain't never been drunk yet," one guy told me

I decided if the Haze won't come to Lenny, Lenny will go to the Haze. Still I found it hard to justify going all the way to West Virginia just to see Hasil. I had a T-shirt business though, so I talked my Ps into lending me the hatchback and decided to shop my wares to stores in Philly, Baltimore, DC and Pittsburgh and to stop in Charleston on the way. I sent Hasil a few telegrams (he didn't have a phone) asking if I could videotape a show and interview him after. He never got back to me but I decided to go anyway. I called the club owner and he said videotaping wouldn't be a problem and even offered to let me sleep in the back room. I had a friend in DC so it was shaping up to be a cheap road trip.

I got Charleston Saturday afternoon and had sold a bunch of shirts so I had plenty of cash. I was hours away from seeing the Haze again after years of anticipation so I was quite happy. Thanks to Billy and Miriam I hooked up with some of Charleston's non-conformist/oddball/freak/punk crowd (my kind of people). They took me around at night before the show to see the sights. The high point of my cultural tour was seeing the out-of-work coal miner transvestite hustlers. I remember one huge guy, chomping on a cigar (over 6 feet tall and 300 pounds) with tattoos, a few days razor stubble, and bushy black hair poking out his fishnets. He was very far from fetching in his calico dress, I tried to imagine who would want to bed this guy down for free, let alone pay for it.

I'd had a few fears before going down. I'd seen Motörhead in a biker bar in Cleveland and had nearly gotten the shit beaten out of me, so I was a bit worried about having problems with rednecks. The other was I figured with my luck the Saturday that I drove from New York, New York to Charleston, West Virginia to see Hasil Adkins, would be the Saturday that he gets too drunk to play. Sure enough I walk in the bar and there's the Haze sitting on the floor flopped against the bar barely conscious swigging a fifth of vodka.

"Don't worry," one of my new friends told me, "he'll sober up by show time." I looked at him and wasn't so sure. The Levee's owner came up to me and showed me the back room and tried to reassure me, "Don't worry he's always like that, he'll sober up by show time." By the time I came back out Hasil was horizontal and I was getting pessimistic.

This middle aged guy with strong Appalachian accent came up to me and asked me "Are you that reporter from New York?" I told him I was just a fan with a camcorder but was indeed the guy who had sent the telegrams.

"My name's CLATE COOPER. I'ma goood fry-end of Hasil's. You warna stay at my place "

I accepted of course.

"Don't worry," he said, "Hasil's always like this before shows he'll sober up by show time." He was snoring and drooling at that point so found it hard to believe he'd be able do anything but piss in his pants that evening. I decided to drown my sorrows with rye.

A couple of hours later Hasil had some coffee poured down his throat and was able sit and hold his guitar. He sang and played a bit but was horrible, he just plain sucked. If you can't beat'em join'em so I had a few more drinks.

At some point the invitation changed. Instead of staying with the friend I was going to stay with Hasil himself. The club owner was going to lead the way, I was going to follow with the Haze in my (parent's) car. The plan then changed again the club owner left me to fend for self. "Don't worry Hasil will tell you how to get there." Hasil could barely talk at this point so I wasn't so sure.

Luckily on the way we met Clayton one of Hasil's old friends. The guy asked for a ride and I was more than happy to oblige. Hasil passed out but kept on coming to, telling Clayton what a great piano player he was and that. "Little Richard ain't got nothing on you," and passing out again.

The piano player directed the way to Madison (the town where they lived) and his house. To get to Hasil's all I had to do was, "Drive five more miles down the road and turn left a the top of the hill." The Haze however insisted on back tracing to the closest bar for a "nightcap.

I didn't think that was a very good idea but Hasil was very insistent and I was staying at his house. So I consented. He bought us both drinks and insisted I have mine. I was having a hard time driving at this point so went into the can and gave my gin to a wino.

We got back in the car and passed Clayton's house. After about four miles I woke Hasil up and asked him if we were close. "No, keep on going!"

After about six miles we got to the top of a hill. I woke him up again.

"Hasil are we getting near your house yet?"

"No, keep on going!!"

Every mile or so this pattern keep on repeating. The only variation being that each time I woke him Hasil got more and more hostile. He kept on flopping over on me so I tied his seatbelt around his headrest, I was just hoping he wouldn't choke to death.

Eventually after 10 miles or so we got to a sign welcoming us to some Monroe WV. I woke Hasil one more time. He was so pissed off I though he was going to hit me.

"Keep on going!!!"

"Hasil, don't you live in Madison?"

"Yeah, Keep on going!!!!"


"Keep on going!!!!!"

"...we're not in Madison any more we're in Monroe!"

I showed him the sign but he insisted that we "keep on going!!!!!!" We eventually go to the end of the road.

I shook Hasil awake.

"Keep on going!!!!"

"I can't."

"Why not?"


There were a bunch of dismantled tractors and trucks in front of us but no more road.

"We'll I guess you better head back."

"You know the way?"

"Hell no"

I tried back tracking but started seeing houses and I hadn't seen before and went back to the last fork. I saw more houses I hadn't seen before so went two forks back, before realizing I was hopelessly lost.

I weighed my options. I was almost out of gas so driving around all night was out. I though about pulling over and sleeping in the car but couldn't find a shoulder on the curvy mountain road and drunken maniacs kept on speeding by at high speed so I was afraid someone would hit us. I tried stopping a few cars without success. I considered pulling into a driveway but though the owner might shoot first and ask question posthumously.

I finally got a pick-up full "good ole boys" to stop. They looked spookily like the guys from Deliverance and I hoped I was not going to made to "squeal like a pig."

"Hey you know this guy?" I asked pointing to a drooling Haze.

"Yes Sir, that's Hasil."

"Hey Hasil it's Goober how yah doooing?"

The Haze mumbled and drooled some more

"You know where he lives?"

"Yes Sir it's real easy you go down to the bottom the hill turn right, pass the church turn left...go left at the fork..."

After a two or three turns of his directions I was lost. I explained that I had never been in West Virginia before and was very drunk and asked if they could lead the way.

"Sure, no problem Sir."

Goober speed off before I could get back in the car. In my drunken state it wasn't easy to keep up with them on Madison's roller-coaster like roads. Eventually we got the top of one hills were Hasil told me to "Keep on going!" and turned down an incredibly steep dirt trail. I wasn't sure Mom and Dad's Chevette would make it.

At the bottom was a clearing with an all but collapsed shack, the remnants of an outhouse, some rusty old cars, a NYC bus and about a dozen howling scraggly mutts. There weren't any bowls just a giant sack of dog food ripped open and spilt on the warped porch

"Hasil get up we're home."

"You live here?"

"No, YOU do!"

"Are you sure?"

I this point I though I'd been set up. But Goober and his buddies helped Hasil into bed. Once inside I knew we were in the right place, there was Hasil Adkins memorabilia every where.

Hasil was up before I was. I saw him mixing a screwdriver in a coffee mug and he asked me if I wanted some "tea." Hoping that some "hair of the dog" would cure my headache I accepted. He introduced me to his "wife," a paper-mache skeleton. He explained she'd been dead for five years and would bury her in another two.

We went to a store in town to get "supplies" (booze). The girl at the register asked what I was doing in Madison. "Visiting Hasil Adkins."


She called all the other clerks but none of them had heard of him. I was surprised, he was know all over the world but his neighbors never heard of him.

Sunday morning we went to a church service where the minister let himself be bitten by rattlesnakes and said he was protected by the "Holy Ghost."

All and all it was one of the most interesting weekends I'd ever had.

A couple of years later I was booking a GG Allin tour and arranged a double bill at the Levee. The two of them met and sang together in a house near the club. That was the tour that Dee Dee Ramone was supposed to play so I fantasized about the three of them meeting. Dee Dee of course bailed out. That story will have to wait though.