The first time I saw The Cramps they were opening for The Ramones at CBGB IN 1977. It was the original lineup which in addition to Lux and Ivy included hot rebel girl Miriam Linna laying down a deep voodoo groove on drums and the diabolically dashing Bryan Gregory strafing the audience with his deadly guitar. They were a fucking dynamite combination. But as much as I loved the band as a whole, I found myself particularly drawn to Bryan Gregory. While Lux was funny scary, Bryan was really fucking scary. And sartorially speaking, I always thought Bryan was the best-dressed Cramp (a tough call).
Bryan left The Cramps in 1980. He worked as a tattoo artist, did bit parts in horror films, managed an adult book store and re-entered the music scene with several bands, none of which really caught fire. There was a bit of buzz and excitement surrounding his collaboration with Andrella Canne in Beast (sounding a lot like Siousxie and The Banshees) and a decade later The Dials, but that phase of Bryan’s musical career got snake bit when Canne became too ill to continue performing and The Dials broke up. And bad luck followed Bryan when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 49 just as he was putting together a new band called Shiver. While most heart attacks are unexpected, Bryan’s shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anyone close to him. His health had been lousy for awhile and he wasn’t doing anything to make it better. His body was breaking down and whatever death spiral he was in had begun to spin out of control. The heart attack didn’t kill him, it just weakened him beyond what he could handle. Bryan died of “multiple system failures” in a hospital in Anaheim, California.
Gregory never achieved the kind of fame that his undeniable star quality warranted. He had a vibe, a style and presence, that was as magnetic and intensely mesmerizing as any guitar player I’ve ever seen. Only artists as charismatic as Lux and Ivy could share a stage with Bryan and not be overshadowed. When he left The Cramps, the band felt less dangerous without him.
There’s not a lot of video footage of Bryan out there. Here’s something that was shot for Memphis TV when The Cramps were recording their debut album, Songs the Lord Taught Us, at Sam Phillips studio with Alex Chilton producing. The quality is lousy and the bits with Bryan are brief but you take what you can get.
Bryan Gregory and The Dials after the jump…