10 Things I Learned About Poison Ivy (and The Cramps)

10 Things I Learned About Poison Ivy (and The Cramps)

Jan 25, 2016

It is no secret that I am a Cramps fanatic. In fact, when my band goes on tour I only wear Cramps t-shirts and I have a cat named Lux. There’s something about them that I just love. Manic and crampsbooksultry, The Cramps exude rock n’ roll like no other. I read Journey to the Centre of the Cramps by Dick Porter and would like to share 10 interesting things I learned about my heroine Poison Ivy Rorschach and the Cramps.

  1. Poison Ivy has always been a bad girl. Born Kristy Wallace, her family moved a lot growing up so she never had time to make friends at her new schools. She said she always felt like an outsider so she bought into the feeling by becoming the bad girl, wearing heavy makeup, sexy clothes and smoking.
  2. Kristy Wallace became Poison Ivy at Sacramento State University. The name was slightly influenced from Batman but also from the Coaster’s song, “Poison Ivy.”
  3. Lux and Poison Ivy met while she was hitchhiking, Lux and a friend gave her a ride. They met again during their class Art & Shamanism. Lux sat next to Poison Ivy and the rest is history… rock n’ roll history.
  4. When Poison Ivy and Lux lived in New York, Ivy worked as a dominatrix at the Victorian. She had been a waitress previously but found being a dominatrix paid much better than any job she had before.
  5. The Cramps first show was November 1, 1976 at CBGB with fellow Ohioans, the Dead Boys. Miriam Linna was on drums at the time. She was replaced by Nick Knox and went on to start Norton Records with her husband in 1986.
  6. Poison Ivy’s hero is Link Wray. He is her favorite guitarist and you can definitely see his influence on The Cramps’ music. What she admires about his style is “the drama that’s created by not overplaying” (p. 57).
  7. When the Cramps played their infamous show at the Napa State Mental Hospital the inmates thought the Cramps looked crazier than they were so they kept shouting “Ward T” at them. “Ward T” was apparently the unit where they keep patients for life. Their performance at Napa State inspired over a dozen patients to attempt escape.
  8. In 1982 The Cramps filed a lawsuit against their label, IRS. The lawsuit dragged on and during this time, IRS released both Off the Bone and Bad Music for Bad People without the Cramps’ approval.
  9. The Cramps’ first bass player was Jennifer “Fur” Dixon from the Hollywood Hillbillys who went on tour with them for a few months in 1986. She was replaced by Candy Del Mar who played on Stay Sick.
  10. Poison Ivy had complete control of the Cramps. She managed them as a band and as a gang. “If something bad was happening, Ivy would snap her fingers and point and we’d have to beat someone up. It was like being in a gang– like a juvenile delinquent band– and it was great” said Kid Congo Powers (pg. 178).

3 comments

  1. Saw The Cramps many times in the 1980s, and they were great.
    Their performance at the Hammersmith Palais, London in early 1984
    was the most demented concert I have ever attended.
    As for their albums, rock’n’roll meets Ed Wood on an LSD trip.
    Utterly unique and brilliant.

    “Garbageman” is the best tribute to Lux. What a class act.

  2. John Liddle /

    The Cramps Forever!!!!

  3. Norman Gaines /

    Ivy was and still is one of the great American rockabilly guitarists, and she never got her props during The Cramps existence, mostly due to the overwhelming sexism in both the music industry and in American culture. I really hoped someone would be far-thinking enough to either include her in an all-female rockabilly group or have her become the guitar voice of an existing group. Sadly that didn’t happen, so we have this fantastic resource sitting on a shelf when she should be out rocking, inspiring men AND women to get involved in music and showing what that life can be like. Wherever she is, God bless her!

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