Man Conducts Space Travel Through Cowboy Music

Legendary Stardust Cowboy Still in Orbit

By 1968, psychedelic rock had gone mainstream.

The Beatles, The Doors and Donovan were charting ergot infused hits in Billboard's Top 100.

Was there any new rock to be discovered? Had Hendrix, Cream, and The Who made the loudest noise on the third stone from the sun? Maybe.....

What eventually reached Billboard's top 200 chart may have been the next piece of rock and roll history to come.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy's debut single sounds like nothing else released in 1968.

"Paralyzed," with its holler-down-a-creek vocals, and stripped-down musical accompaniment, defied any known definition of psych-rock or rockabilly, yet it melded the two forms into a sort of demented yet happy trip. Most banana peel smokers wouldn't or couldn't hang onto it for the ride.

But someone had the good notion to recognize and name the art form "Psychobilly" way back when.

Maybe it's for the best they aren't a gigantic band. Maybe that's why we can still go see "The Ledge" at bars or any kind of hayride that will allow him to take the stage like some cartoon cowboy, blowing a bugle and hurling paper plates at the audience. Were those REAL cowboy chaps that just came flying from the stage? Were those just cap-guns? I hope so...

Whatever has kept him in front of an audience seems to be a good thing. Ask him about his audience or his career and he will reel off a long list of celebrities that have joined his fan club.

"Sarah Ferguson loves me!" Indeed, she does, and so does a long roster of celebs and notorious characters which includes David Bowie, Brook Shields, Elvis Costello, among others. T-Bone Burnett, played drums on and pressed the first "Paralyzed" recording.

The San Jose resident's current band, The Altamont Boys, is made up of  Bay Area celebrity musicians.

Kalus Flouride, the original bass player for SF's Dead Kennedys says, "There's no two times we play songs the same way. We have basic riffs for songs but we sort of have to follow where The Ledge takes them. It's not sterile at all... you need to wash up afterwards."

Drummer Joey Myers, who has been with The Ledge since 1986, approaches the shows like he's backing a stripper, "They say people march to the beat of their own drummer and I've been looking for the one The Ledge marches to, but he remains aloof."

"It's always different, I enjoy all of the interesting people we meet and interesting, (chuckles) mysterious places we go," says guitarist Jay Rosen.

"Interesting places..." Like the moon, or Saturn? Our cowboy hero sings about the solar system like he's been all around there and back since '68.

Maybe he has.

Maybe he'll take you if you make it to one of his shows, like the one at 339 Cesar Chavez on June 15th in San Francisco.

Robert Wellington is an NBC Bay Area staff photojournalist, rock musician and longtime fan of outsider music and art.

Contact Us