Roky Erickson, Texas Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Heads to Dallas

Roky Erickson means many different things to many different people. To most, he's a torchbearer of psychedelic rock and beloved Texas institution. To informed music connoisseurs, he’s the wailing voice behind such cult masterpieces as “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” “Starry Eyes” and “Two Headed Dog.”

To those that dig a little deeper, he’s the tortured human who has spent the past five decades juggling his personal and professional life while battling the effects of paranoid schizophrenia. And, still for others, he’s a warm and lovable mentor, lending a hand of collaborative outreach to present-day kindred spirits like The Black Angels and Okkervil River.

Though still a cult figure, his music has made fans out of famous folks like Shaun White and Matthew McConaughey, scored several film scenes, and is heard in promotional jingles on national ad campaigns. It’s a pretty solid career for someone whose career has been written off more times than he probably cares to remember.
Universally adored in his native Austin, Erickson has also been a frequent crowd favorite here in Dallas, so much so that he will serve as the penultimate headliner for Granada Theater’s “Free Week: A Celebration of Music” on Saturday evening.

In advance of that show, the Dallas Observer chatted with Erickson last week on what just happened to be his 69th birthday. He already celebrated by dining out with his wife and having taken a few calls from some out-of-town well-wishing friends, Erickson took the call from the Observer with a mix of cheer and reticence. His voice lit up when discussing daily happenings, but became more guarded and reserved when asked some musical specifics. He stressed his excitement for the upcoming show and seemed eager to get on stage. Erickson’s always found a home with his guitar in front of a microphone.

Dallas Observer: As the one of the forefathers of the psychedelic rock movement, you once famously defined it as “where the pyramid meets the eye.” What are your thoughts on the genre these days?

Roky Erickson: I still enjoy figuring it out. I try to decode the term and come up with new meanings. I belong to a mail club where I communicate with other authors and artists. We talk and use this forum as like a class in school to redefine psychedelia and other relevant terms.

You surely have a wealth of knowledge to add to these discussions.

That’s right [laughs]. It’s something everybody ought to be interested in doing, you know.

Do you have touring or recording plans scheduled beyond this Dallas show?

No, I mostly have been taking it easy. I’ve gotten a doctor’s checkup recently that I got a bit worked up about, but everything is okay, which we’re all happy about. We’ll have to see about hitting the road.

Who will we see you playing with at the Granada on Saturday?

I will be with my current crew of players. They’re a good and fun group of guys and they really know how to play rock 'n' roll.

You’ve carved out quite a legacy both nationally and particularly here in Texas. Do you take the time to think back and reflect on your career?

I read a book called All Over the Map [All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music, by Michael Corcoran] which features some passages about me being a rock 'n' roll singer. I liked that book and I’m always proud to call myself a Texas musician. I love all the Texas singers, you know. I listen to the radio a lot and I just got an Amazon Echo that I can connect to all of my Pandora and downloads and things. I love the efficiency and I’m sure I’ll be listening to lots of Texans through that.

Do you keep up with the current music scene?
I watch Channel 7 Music in the Morning here in Austin. They always feature a lot of good bands and artists that are playing in the city. That’s a good way for me to stay connected and I don’t have to leave home.  
Roky Erickson at the Granada Theater, July 23; doors open at 7 p.m .; show begins at 8 p.m.; $5
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Jeff Strowe now calls DFW home after stints living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and New York City. He enjoys writing about music, books, beer/wine and sports. His work is also featured in Glide Magazine and PopMatters, and he has written for No Depression.