The 13th Floor Elevators was a pioneering American psychedelic rock band, formed in Austin, Texas in 1965. The band, active until 1969, is recognized as one of the the first bands to popularize psychedelic rock, influencing such bands as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Pink Floyd, and The Doors. While the psychedelic movement had exploded in the early-mid 1960s, the 13th Floor Elevators began its unique blend of psychedelia and folk music with an R&B aesthetic, propelling a steady stream of music innovations during the coming years.
The original members included lead singer, bassist, and songwriter Tom Hall, drummer John Ike Walton, vocalist and guitarists Roky Erickson and Stacy Sutherland, and a musician billed as "Baldy" who occasionally played a tambourine. The recording of the group's first 45 record led to a contract with California-based International Artists.
In 1966, the first full length album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, was released. As the LP title indicated, the sound was "psychedelic,â€ incorporating Eastern-influenced raga structures, Eastern harmonies and inventive instrumentation from bells and sitars, organ and electric guitar. Their lyrics, by Erickson, toed a thin line between deep religious conviction and a fierce promulgation of LSD laced "acid-rock." Nevertheless, the music filtered into the mainstream at the time and into the charts on college radio.
The single â€œYouâ€™re Gonna Miss Me,â€ released In 1966, was their first major single mostly because of its prior release on a local label. The single achieved moderate success and broke new ground with its echoed, reverb-bed outro and fuzz lines. Following the success of their first single, the 13th Floor Elevators recorded a second album, Easter Everywhere, that further cemented their distinct sonic landscape with more liberal use of the fuzz guitar, vocal drones, and didgeridoos. The refusal of Hall to use his vocals on the album also contributed to their unique sound.
By 1967 the 13th Floor Elevators were labeled "The First Underground Band" by the counterculture press in the United States. This title came from the mediaâ€™s fascination with the membersâ€™ liberal use of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. This alleged usage and other institutional indiscretions such as Roky Erickson's being hospitalized for shock treatments, eventually led to the downfall of the 13th Floor Elevators.
Despite the break-up, the band left a lasting legacy not only with showcase albums but also with their single to group to fame, â€œYouâ€™re Gonna Miss Me." Artists such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cramps, R.E.M., and Primal Scream later drew from the their sonic palate, enshrining the13th Floor Elevators as a pivotal influence in the development of the psychedelic rock genre. Although their career was short the pioneers of Austin's music scene; The 13th Floor Elevators remain a beacon to researchers of 1960â€™s garage rock.
Subsequent live performances in the late 1980s and early 1990s featuring Erickson and original drummer, John Ike Walton, showed that the music of the 13th Floor Elevators was still effervescent and carried a special aura that reverberated with audiences. The elevation of the 13th Floor Elevators has come across two centuries, prolonging and deservedly honoring their innovative musical achievements, cementing them as timeless influences for artists and fans alike.