CHARLESTON — A music legend from Boone County will be honored by the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on Feb. 10 when the late Hasil Adkins is inducted.
The ceremony will honor three living and three dead artists, also includes Michael W. Smith, Ann Magnuson, The Morris Brothers, Frank Hutchison and Fred “Sonic” Smith.
Adkins, who died in Madison in 2005, was born in Boone County in 1937 and lived there his entire life. He was the youngest of ten children of Wid Adkins and Alice Adkins. His father was a coal miner and the family lived in a tar paper shack.
The multi-instrumentalist is credited with pioneering psychobilly music, a hybrid fusion of rockabilly and punk rock. In the 1970s, his music expressed a more traditional country style.
He began performing and recording in the 1950s and was known for his "one man band" style that saw the performer play on-stage with drums, guitar, (sometimes other instruments) and sing simultaneously much to the entertainment of those in his presence. His whiskey and cigarette influenced tenor vocals coupled with songs about subculture themes and wild nights with wild women made him a favorite and he drew international fame, particularly in Europe.
In 1961 Adkins traveled to California in search of fame. He auditioning with talent agencies in and around Los Angeles. He soon returned home to West Virginia, playing the club circuit once again.
By the early 1980s, a resurgence in Adkins' fan base was clearly present when the American punk rock band The Cramps did a remake of Adkins' "She Said"
The Norton records compilation album titled "Out To Hunch" hit record stores in 1986 and became an underground success. The 1990s saw his work influencing a whole new generation of retro-rockers around the world.
Seattle based film orchestrator and arranger Johnny Mercury is a native of Spring Hill and he remembers his encounters with Adkins well. In the mid 1990s, Mercury had struck out on his own after years as a guitar slinging sideman. He had formed the rockabilly trio, Johnny Mercury and the Hot Rockets.
"I got some good momentum out of the gate, so I was asked to open for Hasil Adkins at The Empty Glass for a live album he was recording," Mercury said. "At this point I knew who Hasil was, but no idea of the impact he had outside of the regional area."
The gig wasn't Mercury's first encounter with Adkins. In 1986 or 1987, he had shared the stage as a teenager with the legend while he was playing guitar in a southern gospel group at the West Virginia Salt Festival in Madison. Mercury remembers that Adkins went on shortly before his group.
"His set was cut short and he was escorted off of the stage," he said."I think he may have been drunk and yelling, while getting rowdy over the mic. So, I had associated him with being a local yokel."
Mercury later realized that Adkins influence was global and that he was ultimately very talented.
"The 1990s was a glorious time for me musically and a few of the great moments was centered around meeting and opening up for Hasil Adkins," Mercury said. "How one man could perform all of those instruments and entertain a crowd is still mind boggling."
Mercury recalled one of the Empty Glass gigs where he opened for Adkins.
"When I opened up for Hasil it was not only a full house, rows of people were watching from the street, looking for any chance to get a glance of him," Mercury said. "Most of them were people I had never seen before and when mingling, I found that they were from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe. This was kind of mind blowing for the guy I had seen just eight or 10 years prior."
Mercury shared one very special interaction with the performer.
"I hung out with Hasil after the show and he was a trip," he said. "There was a lot of random quips and banter, but he was nice and complimentary. I would hang out with him a few times after that and he always remembered my name and took the time to chat it up. My fondest memory was the last time I opened for him, he looked at me and said, "Are you ready?" and I replied, "I'm ready." He then said "No!" and then took off his hat and put it on my head and said, "Now you're ready."
Adkins' songs could be hilarious or horrific, depending on the perspective of the listener. In "We Got a Date," the songwriter tells a dark tale of a beheading, a theme that regularly appears in his work. He recorded hundreds of songs in his home studio during the 1950s and 1960s.
Nicknamed "The Haze,"Adkins style of performance came via his influences which included; Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Little Richard. He thought as a boy that that they were playing all of the instruments on their records. He claimed that he formed his "one man band" style from that experience.
All in all, Adkins made more than 10 albums and has appeared on numerous compilations and documentaries including, "The Wild World of Hasil Adkins." (1993)
Saturday's ceremony will be hosted by actor Michael Cerveris and Wheeling native Mollie O’Brien. It will include performances by Patti, Jesse and Jackson Smith, Tim O’Brien, Southern Culture on the Skids, John Ellison and Madison native and songwriter Alan Griffith.
The show will feature appearances by Kate Pierson of The B-52s and a video presentation from Paul Reubens, of PeeWee Herman fame.
The induction ceremony will be held on Feb. 10, 2018 at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston. Tickets are $75 in advance; $95 at the door. VIP tickets are $250 each and are limited to 100. Ticket information can be found at wvmusichalloffame.com.