Nick Knox
You told me you was high-class
But I could see through that
Yes, you told me you was high-class
But I could see through that
And daddy, I know
You ain't no real cool cat

“Hound Dog” -Big Mama Thornton

The realest, coolest, most high-class cat of them all...

was born in the Brooklyn of Clevo on March 26, 1953. High school kids in Nick Knox’s hood were so damn cool Elvis played a swingin dance party in their gym when our hero was two years old. In the drive-in movie version, Nick’s beautiful mother is a chaperone at that sweaty mess and couldn’t get a sitter. It’s a week before Halloween. Close up on the cool cat night owl toddler -- on his mama’s hip -- diggin Elvis’ hips -- and that crazy DJ’s snare and voodoo heart thump, casting spells in the blue light night.

Drawing by Jack Snyder

Blow yourself up, get under my car
Tell all your rat friends that we'll be in the bar
Zoot zoot zoot zoot zoot zoot
Blow yourself up, it might cool you off
Get under a truck and watch me get off

“Zoot Zoot” -electric eels

 

Nicky told me that the coolest place to be when he was the coolest kid in town was down the road from that sweaty gym: the corner of Memphis and Fulton Avenues in the Brooklyn of Clevo, where sometimes on a full moon if the wind was right you could hear the Clevo Zoo wolves howl. Hep cats and kitties played backseat bingo in souped-up boneyard specials cruising to Mad Daddy howlin on the radio. Our hero grew up at the Memphis Drive-In creature double feature, streetwise, lean and fast. He worked at the coolest wax slinger in town, Record Rendezvous (of course the sponsor of the very first rock ‘n roll show in the world). He joined the coolest band - electric eels. So icy cool, they only play one gig after Nick joins and then dissolve in a barroom rumble that tumbles across the big screen, as Nicky says in voiceover: “I was only ever in two bands.”

 

Oh baby I see you in my Frigidaire
Yeah baby I see you in my Frigidaire
Behind the mayonnaise, way in the back
I'm gonna see you tonight for a midnight snack
But though it's cold
You won't get old
'Cause you're well preserved in my Frigidaire

“TV Set” -The Cramps


 

The other Band was the Cramps. Sweet Miriam, my Canadian girlfriend from Ashtabula, stopped pounding the skins for the Cramps in 1977 and Nick sat in and stayed. He made a record in the Memphis of Tennessee studio run by the same guy that recorded Elvis. Nick’s razor-sharp, spike-through-the-vampire’s-heart snare and ultimate ice box cool defined the Cramps til 1991, when our hero left the band, moved back to Clevo and changed his name. He wouldn’t talk about showbiz or pose for a picture for a long long time. In the drive-in movie version it’s cuz he’s so damn cool he won’t show up on film. Close up on the center of the frame - even though we can’t see him, we can hear his giant hero heart’s steady, voodoo beat.

I got somethin' to say to you and you better listen
I'm'a tell ya how to be cool in one easy lesson
Go! Sunglasses after dark!
AAAAAHHHH! They're so sharp!
And you'll be cool...And the squares'll drool
It's real simple...Sunglasses after dark!
AAAAAHHHH! They're so sharp!
Listen to this:
Went out last Saturday night
Got myself in a knife fight
Everybody got cut includin' me
'Cause not one of us cats could see!
We had on S.A.D.
That's right.

“Sunglasses After Dark” -The Cramps
(as interpreted by Archie & the Bunkers)
 

So then Nick met a coupla crazy fireman’s kids with a smokin’ cool band called Archie & the Bunkers. He became their Senior Advisor and hooked them up with Sweet Miriam and her record label. Our hero and Miriam DJed at a coupla A&TB shows, one at the most haunted house in Clevo. It’s a coupla weeks before Halloween. He let me take his picture that night. Close up on Nicky in his element, all blue light night, voodoo heart thump and casting spells. He shows up on film beaming, photogenic, and as always, the coolest cat in the room.

 
Well, since my baby left me
Well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it's down at the end of Lonely Street
At Heartbreak Hotel
Well, I'll be
I'll be so lonely baby
Well, I'm so lonely
I'll be so lonely, I could die

“Heartbreak Hotel” Elvis Presley
(as interpreted by the Cramps)
 

“Cardiogenic Shock” sounds like the name of a Cramps hit record, not the creature feature Thing that killed our hero on June 15, 2018. I figure, like, photogenic = ‘genic’ attached to a word makes it a good Thing, not an evil monster that drove a spike through Nick’s heart. The fireman called to tell me our Nick was gravely ill. Sweet Miriam called from the Brooklyn of New York to say that everything was gonna be alright, but it never would be again. The coolest cat of them all was gone. But in the drive-in movie version, me and my fella turn on the blue night light, let our hair down and spin some Cramps wax. Fade out to the switchblade snap of Nicky’s snare, and the voodoo thump of his big, beautiful heart.

Meredith Rutledge-Borger
June 2019