In the midst of a week filled with rotten news, things were made even worse when we lost a kindred spirit…
Billy Miller was a true champion for the foot-stomping, hip-shaking, soulful roots music we call rock ‘n’ roll. Along with his beloved companion / partner Miriam Linna, they established an incredible legacy designed to honor, archive and celebrate in the grandest possible manner, the rich heritage of American garage rock music with their Norton Records label, Kicks magazine and their musical group, The A-Bones.
In the Norton comic book “Kicksville Confidential,” (illustrated by Avi Spivak) Billy shared his story about how they got started….
I really loved KICKS magazine – a fantastic hodgepodge of music reviews and historic overviews of forgotten oddball performers, all blended together with a healthy sampling of humor in the jugular vein.
Here’s a sample page from issue #3….
When Billy and Miriam shifted their focus from a music magazine to a record label, they created a wonderful showcase for some truly unforgettable entertainers…
“Norton’s got a six and a half foot Cyclops drag queen, a pair of singing Siamese twins, an Indian with a lung, at least three murderers, the nation’s number one art thief, the world’s first wheelchair confined bad guy wrestling manager, a hillbilly who sings about the joys of chicken, cheese and decapitation, at least three pimps, an elephant thief, a convicted pornographer, about a dozen guys that wears turbans for no apparent reason, one guy who claims to be from Saturn and another who claims to be from Mars, and we haven’t even gotten to Kim Fowley!” – Billy Miller, as quoted in interview with Ugly Things Magazine
..and their own band, The A-Bones, wasn’t too shabby either!!
The legacy of Billy and Miriam’s empire has been a great inspiration for us that love this kinda stuff!
(a cool photo of Billy & Miriam with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – a wild and crazy guy)
Four years ago, Hurricane Sandy destroyed a lot of the Norton Records inventory, but they were able to salvage what they could, and continue what they were doing, opening a retail shop earlier this year.
To celebrate the spirit of Billy, we’re sharing a special performance of him singing a “LOUIE relative” with a video clip of the A-Bones live at Otto’s Shrunken Head’s Tribute to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on February 13, 2014. It’s a cover version of a Paul Revere & Raiders song written as a sequel to Richard Berry‘s timeless ditty.
As promised, here’s more on Buck Ormsby, who passed away recently…
My friend Alec Palao wrote an excellent tribute to Buck that was shared at the Ace Records website.
Here’s the first paragraph…
BUCK ORMSBY defined the term “rocker” better than anyone I have ever met in the music business. Not in the clichéd sense of an extrovert who struts the stage and lives life with abandon; rather, Buck was a clear champion for, and a willing slave to, the cause that unites us all. Unlike others in a similar position, he was never overbearing or proprietary; eschewing the spotlight, Buck Ormsby proffered no agenda other than to keep the faith for what he felt need nurturing and preserving: real rock’n’roll.
My friend Merri Sutton shared a wonderful memories of Buck on her Facebook page:
He heard our son, Peter (11 years old at the time, 2004), playing guitar one Wednesday night in the Guitar Center store in Tacoma. We had been amp shopping for what seemed like months. While I wandered around, memorizing all of the guitars on the wall, Peter was playing “San-Ho-Zay.” A fellow walked up to him and said, “Hey, kid, where’d you learn that song?” Peter said, “From Jho Blenis, my guitar teacher.” “Well, my band recorded that song. You play it pretty good. Would you like to come play with my band next week at the Silver Dollar? We do a radio show there.” “Sure, but I’ll have to ask my mom.” The mom was standing behind Buck by the time…. Buck turned around, smiled, extended his hand, and said, “Hi. I’m Buck Ormsby (like he needed to introduce himself). Your boy here is pretty good. I’d like him to come out and play with The Fabulous Wailers, if that’s okay.” I nodded like a drunken seal. “Yes, that would be fine….” And so it began. By the summer of the next year, Peter was on the poster for Louiefest, a huge music festival of which I had become an organizer, playing on the Main Stage with some of the top guitar players in the PNW. He played with The Fabulous Wailers at their gigs all summer – at 12 years old. I was asked by Buck and Kent Morrill to be on the board of the Wailers Performing Arts Foundation, and then I found myself in the position of photographer for The Fabulous Wailers and The Sonics… being mentored by the legendary Jini Dellaccio. I still pinch myself because it’s so surreal.
I’ve learned so much from Buck over the years. He has been so giving of his knowledge, encouragement, mentoring and, most of all, friendship. We’ve done a lot of work together and had even more fun. He’s helped me connect with many amazing people, and because of him I will hopefully be able do a lot more with and for the PNW music community – and help finish some of the projects he has left undone. I will miss him so much. He was my buddy.
Merri Sutton shot this photo of Buck (right) with Kent Morrill and Jini Dellaccio, as well as the lead photograph of this blog post.
Tacoma Weekly did a nice write-up on Buck, featuring some wonderful words from his long-time friend and former bandmate Bill Engelhart.
“Of all of us, that kind of started the ball rolling in Tacoma, if any of us really tried to keep the history of that going it was Buck,” Engelhart said. “That was a focus that he seemed to have all the time. He wanted people to remember. He would give us light, and it was really important to him.”
Today, I’m sharing a video I shot of Buck performing “Willie and the Hand Jive” live at the Kent Morrill tribute concert that took place on May 4, 2011 in Tacoma, Washington.
This was the first and only time I’d ever heard Buck sing lead vocals!!