June 23, 2021

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Chronicling Rock and Roll’s Neglected Stories

2 min read

Miriam Linna met Billy Miller in 1977, while browsing at a record fair. She was looking for “You Must Be a Witch,” by the Lollipop Shoppe, a sixties garage band, and he had a copy back in his apartment. Their marriage—a celebrated meeting of the minds, ears, and shelves—lasted until Miller’s death, of cancer, in 2016. In addition to some musical collaborations (Linna, before meeting Miller, had been the founding drummer of the punk band the Cramps), they became perhaps the country’s preëminent archivists of old rockabilly and doo-wop records, among other treasures. They started the underground magazine Kicks and the Norton Records label, and Linna established a Kicks Books imprint, which published works by Sun Ra and Harlan Ellison.

Miriam LinnaIllustration by João Fazenda

At the time of Miller’s death, he had been working for more than ten years on a meticulous history of a relatively obscure Detroit label called Fortune Records. Its catalogue, catholic of genre, was a kind of Gnostic gospel of rock and roll, embodying an alternative and mostly neglected story line of rock’s disparate roots. At first, Linna was too grief-stricken to take up the project, but after a few years she and Miller’s co-author, a musician and writer named Michael Hurtt, got down to the harder-than-they’d-thought job of finishing it, with the encouragement of their editor, Marc Miller.

Nick Paumgarten
2021-03-22 06:00:00

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