A Little Slice of History

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

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).

An avid rock musician and enthusiast as well as a rock history buff.


  • Rob J

    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.

  • 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!

  • Jeff Carlson

    My understanding is that she now disavows all things Cramps due to some newfound “spiritual enlightenment”.

  • PeterRaps

    … I don’t believe that (post from Jeff Carlson). She has just decided to fade out of the limelight in the years following Lux’s death. They were devoted to each other and there was no way the Cramps could possibly continue without Lux. Ivy wasn’t in good shape for the last few years of the band. I just hope she has managed to clean up and enjoy her retirement. She is may favourite guitarist of all time (M or F) and the surviving videos of the band on YouTube testify to the reasons why…… that magnificent Gretsch instrument, her looks, her sneer, her attitude, her economical and slightly-underplayed guitar style, her timing, her stage presence, her wonderful outfits and those legs! Just the GREATEST rock’n’roll guitarist EVER and one of the most underrated bands of all time…

  • Dave

    The Cramps had a mojo that was powerful and unique. Human Fly made the hairs stand up on my neck–all 96 of them. Art and shamanism indeed

  • Chris

    I bought that book at a pop up shop in the British Library when they had their punk exhibition last year and had a happy half hour extolling their virtues to the shopkeeper. I must have seen them a couple of dozen times over the years and a big regret is that I missed their last London gig at the Astoria, it was sold out and my daughter only told me to go when I was hanging around at her sixteenth birthday party looking miserable.
    Ivy always said that nobody ever talked to her about guitars and music, which is ridiculous. The outfits and image were amazing enough but would have been nothing without that brilliant Gretsch sound. Her and Lux have never been beaten for sheer performance.
    Strangely, when Lux died I was playing two DVDs of rare Cramps stuff a mate I’d made through the Alabama 3 had given me a few weeks before. I was gutted when I heard of his passing the next day at work.
    RIP Lux.

  • Amy Gower

    Saw Cramps 86 at warwick uni,was into em anyway,it was like listening to a late friday nite horror film,teenage werewolf meets Them or something,brilliant group,amazing guitarist,

  • Bill

    There is pretty much zero info on Ivy’s life since Lux passed. I would really like to know how she spends her days now. I wish someone would track her down for an interview. Long live the Cramps!

  • Naomi

    I remember listening to the Cramps with my dad as a girl, and I carried them fully with me throughout my teenage years and into adulthood. Now my 5 year old son loves it when I play their records. I remember dying my hair red and trying to curl it and desperately teaching myself to play guitar and cutting pics of Poison Ivy out of total guitar magazine for my school notebook!!! She is truly the greatest guitarist ever and the Cramps have the most unique, awesome cool as fuck sound I’ve ever heard. Even though I’m sure we were all really upset to hear of Lux’s death…

  • GG

    She doesn’t disavow anything related to the Cramps, but she is into a spiritual religion. She told me that she and Lux were always into transcendental meditation after they discovered it in the 70s and that their spirituality evolved from there over time.

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