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Jacqui Vixen of Devilish Presley in 2008

Gothabilly (sometimes hellbilly[1]), is one of several music and cultural subgenres of rockabilly. The name is a portmanteau word that combines gothic and rockabilly. The earliest known use of the word gothabilly was by The Cramps in the late 1970s, to describe their blend of somber, rockabilly-influenced punk rock.[1][2] Since then the term has come to describe a fashion and music trend that bridges both the gothic and rockabilly subcultures.


In the late 1970s, The Cramps helped to create a proto-gothabilly subgenre.[citation needed] However, the term gothabilly was not popularized until the release of a series of international gothabilly compilation albums released by Skully Records in the mid-1990s.[3][4]

Although the term is attributed to The Cramps, their musical style is closer in formula to the surf rock sound of the early 1960s combined with the traditional "12-bar blues" format than to 1950s rockabilly rhythms and vocal styles.[citation needed] Occasionally, they have been associated with gothic rock primarily because of their use of fetish clothing and outlandish makeup, including heavy, dark eyeliner on both male and female members of the band, which is also popular in the gothic subculture.[5] The Cramps are considered to be equally influential to the psychobilly genre.[6]

Gothabilly is particularly active in the western portion of the United States, with many of today's bands originating in California.[7]

Musical style[edit]

Gothabilly is a musical subgenre that developed from mixing the gothic subculture with rockabilly music. Gothabilly retains the country music and blues influences of rockabilly but adds aspects of punk rock and gothic rock to create a distinct combination of styles.[citation needed] The gothabilly sound was defined in the mid-1980s embodied by a slower tempo and melancholy ambience with romantic, literary, occult and religious themes. More recent adopters had brought a faster pace and horror themes often with a humorous or comic attitude with deliberately cheesy themes, such as camp 1960s monster movies and the television shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters.[citation needed]

Gothabilly is frequently viewed as a sub-sect of the psychobilly subgenre, as both use the upright double bass and simple rhythms of rockabilly chord progressions and incorporating punk influences.[citation needed] However, gothabilly differs from psychobilly in that gothabilly lacks much of psychobilly's aggression and incorporates aspects of gothic music such as jangly guitars drowned in reverb, rolling jungle drums, organs, and tends to be slower and more atmosphere-oriented.[citation needed] While both incorporate monsters, ghosts and other horror imagery and themes, gothabilly adds aspects of the romantic and paranormal.[citation needed]


Gothabilly style is a tongue-in-cheek play on 1950s-inspired kitsch aesthetics of the rockabilly subculture, but with a dark gothic influence, blending retro rock and roll fashions with the somber features of goth.[citation needed] Bands such as The Cramps were more influential as visual icons and stylistic archetypes than for their musical contribution to the gothabilly genre.[citation needed]

The gothabilly wardrobe incorporates some style elements from the retro culture revival, including: stylized flames, 1950s' tattoo imagery, animal prints, creeper shoes, cherry accessories and ubiquitous polka dot clothes, pencil skirts, fishnet stockings and high heels, all popular in both the rockabilly and psychobilly scenes.[citation needed] The goth influence can be seen in the softer textures of black silks, satins, lace and velvet, corsets, top hats, antique jewelry, PVC, and leather.[1]


The term gothabilly is used not only to describe a musical genre but a fashion and a lifestyle as well.[citation needed] Gothabilly and psychobilly both enjoy the sound of the double bass and share interests in B-rated horror movies, kitsch, hot rods (especially hearses), vintage fashion, the macabre and all things noir.[citation needed]

The gothabilly subculture, while still comparatively small, is spreading through internet communities, blogs and chats as well as concerts and other social events around the world.[1][7]


  1. ^ a b c d Breen, Meagan (2009-03-05). "An Introspective into Gothabilly". Auxiliary Magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  2. ^ Uutela, Deanna (2007-10-04). "Case of the Zombies". Eugene, Oregon: Eugene Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  3. ^ Valarie Thorpe: Interview with Ghoultown's Count Lyle, Retrieved on April 14, 2009
  4. ^ Kirst, Sean (2007-10-31). "A Halloween Greatest Hit...The Tale of Skully Records". Syracuse, New York: The Post-Standard. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  5. ^ Montgomery, James & Aswad, Jem (2009-02-04). "Cramps Singer Lux Interior Dead At 62". Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  6. ^ Rambali, Paul (June 1978), "The Cramps: Psychobilly and Other Musical Diseases", NME.
  7. ^ a b Johnson, Daniel (April 09), "The Growth of Gothabilly", RSEE, Riverside County, CA.