The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Today’s weirdo was suggested to us by a fellow named Bunche, who has a nifty little blog called The Vault of Buncheness that we highly recommend checking out. He mostly seems to write about movies and comic books (and was apparently once on the staff at Marvel Comics—we’re not worthy!), but he’s also a connoisseur of weird music, and suggested we get better acquainted with a dude called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, whom he calls a “phantom genius who unfairly hovers deep in the outskirts of musical limbo while other far less trailblazing country stylists such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. have gained immortality.” Holy crap, Bunche! Calm down already. You convinced us.
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—or “The Ledge,” as he likes to call himself—is the stage name of one Norman Carl Odam, an early rockabilly performer from Lubbock, Texas whose greatest (well, okay, only) claim to fame was a 1968 novelty hit called “Paralyzed.” Clocking in at roughly two and a half minutes, the song is basically just one long proto-psychobilly freakout, with The Ledge wailing and yodeling incoherently over one frantically strummed chord and some frenzied drumming (played, oddly enough, by T-Bone “I somehow survived this to go on and produce the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack” Burnett), punctuated by what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, a bugle solo. (“Bugle rape” might be more accurate.) It makes the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” sound like a Puccini aria by comparison.
By his own account, The Ledge cooked up “Paralyzed” because he wanted to write “a wild song that would captivate everybody.” Improbably enough, it worked. The song got Odam a recording contract with Mercury Records, landed him on Laugh-In (which was a very big deal in 1968), and even attracted the attention of a young British singer named David Bowie, who later created a character named Ziggy Stardust as a nod to The Ledge. This part sounds made-up, we know, but it’s really true. There’s a widely circulated photo of Bowie and The Ledge together from around 2002, when Bowie covered another Odam song, “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship,” for his Heathen album. They’re buds.
Unfortunately for The Ledge, he would never be able to repeat the success of “Paralyzed.” But that sure as hell hasn’t stopped him from trying. Odam continues to record and perform to this day—mostly, it seems, for people who are just interested in making fun of him, but he soldiers in with the cheerful demeanor of someone who’s either batshit crazy or has achieved some Zen-like level of enlightenment the rest of us poor suckers can’t even conceive of. It’s probably a bit of both.
We’ll leave you with one of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s most famous clips. This is from a performance of “Paralyzed” that was done for an Australian variety show called Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The image quality is atrocious but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the sound is pretty top-notch. If The Ledge were actually forming words, you could almost make out what he was yelling.
- The Legendary Stardust Cowboy official site
- The Legendary Stardust Cowboy fan site
- The Legendary Stardust Cowboy on MySpace