The Residents

The Residents were an American avant-garde/performance band of unidentified players, formed in Shreveport, La., and based in San Francisco for most of their career. Between 1972 and 1985, the band released 12 albums and assorted shortplayers on self-press Ralph Records. 

Members: Hardy Fox, Carlos (percussion, 1984–2009), Nolan Cook (guitar, 1998–) ?

The musicians who became The Residents met during the early 1960s as high school students in Shreveport, Louisiana, where they created art and made amateur tape recordings. In 1966, the group headed to San Francisco, intent on joining the burgeoning Bay Area music scene. When their truck broke down in San Mateo, Calif., they made that their base of operation. Over the next several years, they made numerous reel-to-reel recordings, including the since-leaked “Ballad of Stuffed Trigger” and “Rusty Coathangers for the Doctor.”

Around 1969, the unnamed band first collaborated with wandering English guitarist Phil Lithman and the (possibly apocryphal) Bavarian composer N. Senada, supposedly born in 1908. According to legend, Senada conceived the “Theory of Obscurity” and the “Theory of Phonetic Organization.” The former asserts that pure art can only be made with no consideration to outside expectations. The second theory asserts that musical ideas should start with sounds, not melodies, and take form when the right sounds are assembled.

In 1971, the group sent a reel-to-reel demo tape to Warner Bros. executive Hal Halverstadt, who signed Captain Beefheart to the label. Amused yet unimpressed, Halverstadt sent the tape back to the still-unnamed group with “Residents” written over the return address. They adopted this as their name, first going as Residents Unincorporated before trimming it to The Residents. (The Warner Bros. Album, long mythologized by fans, was ultimately released in limited edition in 2018.)

That same year, The Residents made their live debut at the Boarding House in San Francisco with Lithman on violin. A circulated photo from the event shows Lithman pointing at his instrument, “about to strike the violin like a snake.” This inspired his later stagename, Snakefinger.

In 1972, The Residents moved to San Francisco and set up their own studio, El Ralpho, where they began work on a musical film titled Vileness Fats. Their first publicly available record, the Santa Dog EP, appeared that year as the inaugural release on Ralph Records, established by the band as an outlet for their work.


  • Meet the Residents (1974)
  • The Third Reich ‘n Roll (1976)
  • Fingerprince (1977)
  • Not Available (1978)
  • Duck Stab / Buster & Glen (1978)
  • Eskimo (1979)
  • Babyfingers (EP, 1979)
  • Diskomo / Goosebump (EP, 1980)
  • Commercial Album (1980)
  • Mark of the Mole (1981)
  • The Tunes of Two Cities (1982)
  • Intermission (EP, 1982)
  • Title in Limbo (1983 • The Residents & Renaldo and The Loaf)
  • Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? (OST, 1984)
  • The Big Bubble (1985)
  • God in Three Persons (1988)
  • The King and Eye (1989)
  • Freak Show (1990)
  • Gingerbread Man (1994)
  • Wormwood (1998)
  • Demons Dance Alone (2002)


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