Bobby Womack at City Winery for The New York Times

I had the great pleasure of photographing one of my idols, Bobby Womack, on assignment for The New York Times (review by Jon Pareles here).  Bobby cannot be contained in just one photo so I wanted to share some favorite outtakes from the edit. The fantastic lady singing duet with Bobby is Alltrinna Grayson.


Bobby Womack at the City Winery

Bobby Womack at the City Winery

Bobby Womack at the City Winery





The Green Berets Storm Dig Deeper

Chicago soul group The Green Berets (a.k.a High Society, Walter & the Admerations, and, with Andre Williams, Velvet Hammer) made a return appearance to “Dig Deeper” (hosted at the Bell House). “Dig Deeper” has been bringing some incredible, under-appreciated Soul artists to NYC for over 2 years. Check them out Dig on Facebook for future events.

Click here for more Dig Deeper posts.

Norton Records Needs Your Immediate Help

Billy and Miriam at the Norton offices


Sandy hit Norton Records hard. Their storage warehouse in Red Hook, used to store dry goods since the 1850′s, was completely flooded, damaging the vast majority of their inventory which is estimated to be around 250,000 LP’s, CD’s, and books, along with irreplaceable historical archives and personal items.

Miriam’s family Bible, inherited from her parents, was waterlogged. She said the first page she opened to was this depiction of the flood.

While I’m also heartbroken at the destruction of entire neighborhoods and communities in the area, it’s important to understand that Norton is much more than a record label run by a few people. Norton is a community that has existed as many years as I’ve been on the planet that has done an enormous amount of good for musicians and music fans. I know of no other label as broad and as generous in their fanatical advocacy of otherwise neglected and easily forgotten artists, often generating new opportunities for them to perform and earn income from their creative work. Every Norton Recording Artist is treated like a star in a business where if you haven’t had a hit in 2 years (let alone 40) you are out with yesterday’s garbage. Case in point, Miriam showed me the first letter typed on Norton stationary sent to a judge on behalf of Hasil Adkins, advocating for his release from jail. Norton got him out of the clink by convincing the judge of his prospects as a performing artist and by paying off his legal fees, a grand total of 93 dollars. Another Norton Recording Star was born.

As far as the culture of Real American Music goes, Norton should be considered Too Big To Fail. Below is a message from Miriam and photos from the clean-up efforts at Norton’s offices. They need volunteers to clean and salvage their stock as well as monetary donations.

Most Urgently:

If you would like to volunteer with our salvaging effort and clean records at our Prospect Height, Brooklyn office any day or time between 11AM-11PM, please e-mail us at nortonrec@aol.com with VOLUNTEER in the subject line or call 718-789-4438 (office) or 917-671-7185 (Billy’s cell phone) and we will give you directions and updated information. No text or Facebook replies for volunteering please.

Volunteers open soaked LP’s, removing soggy sleeves and washing the vinyl for repackaging.

Full statement (edited for clarity):

For the first time in Norton’s history, we are asking for your help. It has been entirely against our policy and nature to ask anyone for anything in the entire history of our magazine and label. It hurts us to even suggest that any of you who have supported the label and our artists by purchasing Norton records over the years support us over and above with a donation. But it has indeed come to this. We have added a donate button to our website.

Here’s the story: Every penny of what you donate will go into re-manufacturing record jackets and sleeves for the vinyl that we salvage. No donation money will go into our day-to-day expenses so long as we can go forward on a minimal budget. If we get to the point where we cannot meet our monthly budget, we will ask again. But now, all donations go into getting the Norton label records back out to the public. We will write more about the procedure in days and weeks to come. Several people have benefits in the works, and we are grateful to you all. Send us any benefit links and we will post and propagate on the Norton site. If any of you are computer, website, or internet geniuses, share your smart thoughts with us.

So, Norton Records and our print subsidiary Kicks Books have been savaged by Hurricane Sandy. Our stock and archive has been housed for the past seven years in Red Hook Brooklyn, at the historic Van Brunt Warehouses, pre-Civil War brick warehouses that were built to warehouse DRY GOODS — tea, coffee, spices, and sugar. There was no doubt in our minds that the Red Hook warehouse was secure, it had withstood 150+ years of nature’s fury, after all. The insane and demonic combination of the hurricane, the high tide, the full moon and full-on interplanetary wrath resulted in a vortex that tore directly through the waterways separating Brooklyn from Staten Island and straight into the island of Manhattan.

Most of you know the history of the label. Billy Miller and myself (this is Miriam Linna here) started the label in 1986 as an audio offshoot of our Kicks Magazine, which we had been publishing since 1979. The label is focused on music that has been forgotten by the main veins that feed the public. It’s been a struggle from the start but in celebrating the label’s 25th anniversary exactly one year ago, we truly felt that we have reached a point where we could at least continue with releasing records and exposing people to the greatest rock ‘n roll on the planet. But here we are today, soaked to our skin with so much destruction.

Nearly all of the Norton Records stock – our LPs, CDs, 45s, picture sleeves, CD booklets, record labels and more, as well as the stock on other labels we distribute (Relic, Crypt and Stompin’) plus mail order-only stock, plus the entire Kicks Books and Kicks Magazine stock — was destroyed. We have small existing quantities of things at our home office, but very little. Thankfully, two full printings of the latest Kicks Books, GETTING IN THE WIND by Harlan Ellison and LORD OF GARBAGE by Kim Fowley, are high and dry at the printer.  Also, our new releases are scheduled in as soon as trucks are rolling- several new El Paso volumes, T. Valentine and Daddy Long Legs, the Horror Of Party Beach guys The Dynamic Delaires’ ZOMBIE STOMP, and Kim Fowley KING OF THE CREEPS LP/CD. Release date is Nov. 20 for all things new.

Our entire Norton archive went underwater, including all of our correspondence, photos, documents, reviews, master tapes, ephemera — including posters, at least ¾’s of my vintage paperback collection (several thousand books) and virtually all of the old magazines and fanzines which went back to the 1940’s (again, numbering into the several thousands) — interview tapes, original photographs, original rock n’ roll and movie posters, Norton business records, family items, furniture, and musical equipment, (including my Del-Aires-owned 1962 Slingerland drum kit), recording equipment, our 1948 Lady Robin Hood pinball machine, Billy’s baseball collection… all waterlogged, and most of it, if you will excuse the expression, dead in the water.

Correspondence damaged by the flooding.

The shock and horror of the loss on every level is difficult to deal with, but we are clinging to the hope of surviving as a label by saving the records. We will then proceed with re-manufacturing 7” sleeves and LP jackets one title at a time. We are hoping to still ship new releases by November 20th, and hope you guys and gals will get aboard with these releases, as we try very hard to get on track.

We have a mind-boggling 2013 release schedule for Norton Records and Kicks Books and it’s our hope that we can still DO IT. Billy’s Ultimate Kim Fowley Singles Discography 1959-1970 which was scheduled to appear on our website to coincide with Kim’s new book and album has been postponed indefinitely. We thank our friends at Interfuel who have worked diligently to launch our new website, which is on hold right now until we can assess what we need to remove from availability.

Please let us know if any of you geniuses have ideas on how we can carry on and move forward. We think if we get even a few volunteers with scanners and laptops and maybe drying space they can help dry documents and scan them. Maybe one person would be willing to take a few artist files, separate and hang them to dry and then scan them.. how does that sound? That’s one thing that is a race against the clock. But vital is getting the vinyl washed and dried and re-sleeved.


We could not have even gotten this far without the help of so many amazing volunteers – friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers. Fellow record companies like Sundazed, Daptone, Telstar (US) and even Sony Legacy have sent their able people over to provide their muscle and hustle. Norton Records is still in desperate need of volunteers to clean vinyl. Some much needed good news – the wonderful folks at the Spin-Clean Record Washer Company have donated a dozen record washing machines and gallons of cleaning fluid to help our cause. We can’t thank them enough as this will speed up our recovery process. If you would like to volunteer with our salvaging effort and clean records at our Prospect Height, Brooklyn office any day or time between 11AM-11PM, please e-mail us at nortonrec@aol.com with VOLUNTEER in the subject line or call 718-789-4438 (office) or 917-671-7185 (Billy’s cell phone) and we will give you directions and updated information. No text or Facebook replies for volunteering please.


Thank you

The Norton staff


Loading cleaned records to be taken back to the manufacturing plant for new sleeves.

Billy and Miriam’s wedding invitation was tucked inside Miriam’s family Bible.

Family photos damaged by the flooding

Taking Another Look at Ramsey Lewis: An Interview

Interview and Photographs – Jacob Blickenstaff

Some jazz aficionados might unfairly characterize Ramsey Lewis’ music as a “gateway” into more serious jazz, as if popular Lewis albums like The In Crowd were meant to lead the novice listener to Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come. But Lewis’ commercial successes should not be viewed as a liability to his legacy in jazz history.  Lewis is one of the great musicians of his generation, and just as Ornette Coleman has, he’s carved out his own singular voice that he has innovated and adapted with creative success for over half a century.

Lewis had major crossover hits with his exuberant interpretations of sixties popular music—”Wade in the Water,” “The ‘In’ Crowd,” and “Hang On Sloopy”—and, with the Earth, Wind & Fire collaboration, Sun Goddess, topped three charts simultaneously in 1974 (no. 1 R&B, no. 1 jazz, and no. 12 pop).  In the meantime, he has released over 70 albums (seventeen of which preceded his first hit single), always keeping his elegant and heartfelt acoustic piano at the heart of his music. He is currently touring with a five-piece group to support his album RAMSEY…Taking Another Look, which explores both his acoustic and electric approaches to making music.

Lewis’ music is no gateway, it is a destination in itself. His music offers the opportunity to connect with something universal, joyful and profoundly human. If the smile that he flashed repeatedly during his performance at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts on October 20, 2012 for the “Pace Presents” series is any indication, Ramsey Lewis has never had difficulty with that.

JB- How are you, Mr. Lewis?

RL- Life is good.

JB- Most people know you best for The In Crowd and Wade in the Water, but I didn’t realize that you had been recording for almost ten years before that.

RL- I started recording in the middle 50’s. Back in those days it was customary to do two albums a year, and when they put out a “Best of” and a couple of compilations, by the time I had done The In Crowd that was my 16th or 17th album.


Twelve (Out)Takes on Americana

I was very excited to have a lengthy review and photo essay published in Mother Jones covering the Americana Festival in Nashville (The Romney Tapes went live the day after I confirmed the assignment!) This is the first time I’ve written a long-form (ish) piece about music, and it’s probably harder than making the pictures, certainly more nerve-wracking to see it published. Anyway, I’m proud of it and pleased to see it given a great editorial home, and also expose new people to the amazing music that I experienced at the Americana Music Festival.

There was so much to see that many of my favorite images didn’t make it to publication, so here’s a more personal look at what I heard and saw. -JB

The Ryman Auditorium, lit for a TV broadcast.

Shovels and Rope, Grimey’s Basement

Mary Gauthier, Station Inn

Mike Mills sings “The Songs of Big Star”

Orchestra, “Songs of Big Star”

Robert Ellis, Cannery Ballroom

Buxton, Grimey’s Basement

Luella and The Sun, Americanarama V at Grimey’s

Chris Masterson of the Mastersons, Americanarama V at Grimey’s

Kinky Friedman, The High Watt

Rodney Crowell and Band, Station Inn

“No Parking” at the Station Inn