A great, though now largely forgotten country and rockabilly cat, Houston-born Eddie Noack recorded one of the weirdest and wackiest country songs of the 1960s. Its title is "Psycho."
Coy Prather told the story of the song in Texas Music: "Noack wrote “These Hands,” a gospel song that became a Top 10 hit for Hank Snow and would become Noack’s best-known song. Noack decided to concentrate on songwriting in the early ’60s, often writing for George Jones and recording occasionally on small labels. By 1968, he was a heavy drinker, and dipsomania affected his career. Noack was regulated to cutting vanity records on the tiny K-Ark label for amateur poetry writers who wanted their poems put to music.
Noack, who knew both Jackie White and Leon Payne, used some leftover recording time to record “Psycho” and three other murder and bedlam songs in 1968, including a song he penned called “Dolores” (about a serial killer who accidentally murders his wife — by coincidence, Noack once had a wife named Dolores).
John Capp, who owned K-Ark, released the records hoping for a hit, oblivious to a solemn fact of the era: radio stations of the day weren’t going to play a song as eerie and depraved as “Psycho,” which includes the murder of a little girl, whacked by a wrench in a park, and the killing of a puppy.
Noack’s chilling and emotionless first-person reading of the song is a tour de force. You actually believe the killer is singing. Reportedly a disc jockey in Grand Rapids, Mich., played “Psycho” on a midnight radio show — the DJ denied playing the record when his job was threatened — but whatever occurred, some people heard the jaw-dropping song, and a cult hit was born.
Rumors sprang up about “Psycho.” One rumor was that Payne wrote it after Charles Whitman’s shooting rampage at the University of Texas. Another rumor held that Payne said it couldn’t be released until after his death.
Payne’s daughter, Myrtie Le Payne, clarified the song origin for the Nashville Scene several years ago. “My father wrote the song after discussing Richard Speck’s mass murder of the nurses in Chicago in 1966,” she said.
“Dad and his steel guitar player, Jackie White, were discussing the murders, and Dad, being a history buff, had mentioned other notorious demented murderers. The song sprang out of this conversation.” Myrtie dispelled the notion that Payne wished for the song to be released only after his death. “My dad was in the business of selling songs,” she added, “so he wouldn’t have waited to have it recorded.” Myrtie believes Payne probably pitched the song to Noack.
Leon Payne would die on Sept. 11, 1969. Noack would continue to struggle for years, performing in dives and juke joints. He taught songwriting briefly at the University of Tennessee. Recording sporadically, Noack cut an excellent tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers in the early 1970s. He had a brief tour of England in 1976, where it’s possible he may have played “Psycho.”
But Noack couldn’t shake his demons — after his mother committed suicide, his drinking worsened. Noack died of cirrhosis of the liver Feb. 5, 1978, in Houston."