'Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela'. 

Lucia Pamela was an American singer, often classified as an "outsider musician". She recorded one album in her lifetime, 'Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela' (1969), which combined naïve science fiction with bizarre music. The 1976 re-release of this album came with a colouring book which follows the narrative of her concept album. It was completely drawn and written by herself. Another outsider musician who was active as a cartoonist was Daniel Johnston.

Early life
Lucia Pamela was born in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother was a composer and concert pianist. Her father died before she reached her teens, whereupon Pamela's mother supported the family by publishing a newspaper, The Public School News. When Pamela was two she suffered a horrible accident. As she reached for a cookie on a hot stove she burnt herself so badly that her fingers were all melted together. A doctor had to use a knife to slice her melted hands into finger forms again. As Pamela remembered: "He didn't give me any thumbs, so it made be a better piano player." Her interest in music started from an early age, when she traveled to Germany and studied at the Beethoven Conservatory of Music and Voice. She was sent away from school for being "overqualified". When she was eight years old, she met the legendary pianist Ignacy Paderewski (who'd later become Prime Minister of Poland). He saw Pamela perform and gave her mother a note, which predicted "she will be the finest pianist in the world when she grows up."

Musical career
Pamela studied music at Washington University and earned extra income by recording paper rolls for player pianos. She joined the Ziegfeld Follies dance revue in 1926, the same year she was voted Miss St. Louis. Pamela became a jazz band leader and led the first orchestra where all members were female: the Musical Pirates. The musicians literally dressed up as pirates too. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, her group broke up and Pamela became a solo accordionist in Lionel Hampton and later Paul Whiteman's orchestra. By the late 1940s, when big band became less popular, she gave vaudeville shows at drive-in movie theaters. She hosted her own local radio shows, 'Gal About Town' in Fresno and 'The Encouragement Show' in Kansas City.

Illustration from the sleeve of 'Into Outer Space with Pamela'. 

Into Outer Space with Pamela
Pamela was always an eccentric. She played the characters 'Venus in Spookyland' at the Odeon Theater in St. Louis and 'Mother Goose' at the theme park Storyland in Fresno. At home she kept a decorated Christmas tree in her living room throughout all seasons. The artist was able to memorize the lyrics of more than 10.000 songs, which even landed her a mention in an episode of Robert L. Ripley's cartoon feature 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not'.

As such it wasn't that surprising that some record producer actually took a chance with her. In 1969 Pamela recorded 'Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela' (Gulfstream Records, 1969). Released two months before Neil Armstrong made his historic voyage, it's a musical concept album for children about her supposed trip to the Moon. Pamela describes how she saw a city, a Native American wedding and a bunch of barnyard animals on the lunar surface. She sings with tremendous, somewhat grotesque enthusiasm. While not a skilled singer, her musicianship is impressive. She plays all instruments (piano, clarinet, drums, accordion and even household appliances) personally. The singer claimed that her moon voice was different from her voice on Earth, because "the air is different up there, you know." In reality the odd echo effects were supplied by the producer, Vince Ferino, an old man who recorded everything with the sound-on-sound button activated.

Perhaps the strangest aspect about the album are the lyrics. Only a few songs are directly about the moon. The others are more general songs about love, happiness, singing and the then future year 2000. Yet in between songs Pamela sometimes reminds listeners that she is "still on the moon". Overall, 'Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela' has a quirky, yet charmingly innocent oddness to it. 1969 seems to have been a great year for classic outsider music albums, by the way, since Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica' (1969, produced by Frank Zappa) and the Shaggs' 'Philosophy of the World' (1969) also came out. 

Illustration from the sleeve of 'Into Outer Space with Pamela'. 

Despite Pamela's efforts, the album didn't sell much copies. In 1976 she nevertheless felt the world could use another merchandising item attached to it. She drew her own colouring book, 'Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela in the Year 2000' which mostly follows the narrative of the album, but also includes some new material. For instance, she mentions a visit to Nutland village, "where all people are made of nuts", and Inuit people living on the moon. Much like the record, the colouring book is the work of an adorable innocent amateur. Her ambitions were quite high. She invited all buyers "all across the world, between age 3 and 80", to colour everything in and mail the results to her home address, as part of a contest. Nobody actually seems to have done this, but then again she never announced a time limit to the contest either. 

Together with Daniel JohnstonUrbanus, Schoolly D., Kurt Cobain, Def PSerge Buyse, Adam Wallenta, Charlie Watts and Dallas Tamaira she is one of the few musicians to have designed her own album covers and make comics-related artwork. 

Illustration from the sleeve of 'Into Outer Space with Pamela'. 

Final years, death and legacy
In the early 1980s, Pamela suffered a stroke. During the same decade, music collector and radio host Irwin Chusid heard some of her songs on a tape sent in by a listener. In 1988 he managed to obtain a copy of the album through artist Jim Shaw. Later Chusid got in touch with the legendary singer herself and put his shoulders behind a 1992 re-release of her album by Arf Arf Records, though this time on CD. He devoted a chapter to her life and career in his book 'Songs in the Key of Z: The Strange World of Outsider Music' (1999) and included a song on the accompanying CD, which increased her notability among music fans. In 1998, Belgian filmmaker Danielle Lemaire actually travelled to L.A.  to make a documentary about Pamela's life. Unfortunately, the project is still unreleased due to difficulty getting the rights to her work. Lucia Pamela passed away in 2002 at the age of 98 from cardiac arrest. The same year Tony Kushner based a short play, 'Flip Flop Fly!' on her life.

Pamela's colouring book inspired the song 'International Colouring Contest' (1994) by the band Stereolab on their album Mars Audiac Quintet, which also features an audio sample of her voice.

Illustration from the sleeve of 'Into Outer Space with Pamela'. 

Series and books by Lucia Pamela you can order today:


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