Music Oral History: Miriam Linna interviewed by Christine Ohlman

Sunday, April 2, 1 pm

Miriam Linna starts her VersoFest expedition by DJing the Smithereens, Amilia K Spicer concert on Friday 3/31. 45rpm selections will come from Linna’s collection—one of the most revered in the world. Linna will be the subject of VersoFest’s Music Oral History program on Sunday 4/2, moderated by Beehive Queen and SNL singer, Christine Ohlman.

Ohlman’s stunning Joshie Jo Armstead music oral history was attended by tri-state area rock ‘n’ roll glitterati and highly regarded as one of VersoFest 2022’s best offerings. This past year has been a banner year for Ohlman and Verso Studios with a rave winter dance party and a sold-out Mark Naftalin Blue Sunday concert slot with Willie J. Laws.

Linna will take the audience through her wild rock ‘n’ roll ride as a founding Cramp, Nervous Rex, Zantees, and Nobody's Babies member, Flamin’ Groovies Fan Club leader, Norton Records, Kicks Books, and Kicksville Radio and so much more as one of the leading lights of rock 'n' roll. The oral history program coincides with Linna’s upcoming biographical chapter book coming soon via Kicks Books. Preorders will be available. In addition, Miriam will be hosting a Norton Records/Kick Books table at the VersoFest Record Fair. She’ll have the familiar r&b, rock ‘n’ roll, primitive grease on hand, as well as rare memorabilia from the Norton archives, never seen anywhere before.


Miriam was born in Sudbury, a mining town in Northern Canada, but the action really began for her when her family relocated to a sleepy town east of Cleveland, Ohio. Already hooked on AM radio, she soon tapped into Cleveland’s early "underground" FM stations WNCR and WMMS.

Miriam Linna donning Murray The K's hat

WMMS was bringing in all of the British bands of the day, inspiring teenage Miriam and her big sister Helen to head for London themselves. They spent 1973 hitchhiking across the isles, catching their favorite bands in small venues, buying records, and forming lifelong friendships. By the time they returned home, they were doused in early glam and pub rock. Miriam was 15 when she began her first year at Kent State University, writing about music for the KSU college paper, corresponding with fellow fans, and collecting records.  

Who drummed it best? Tommy Ramone (left), Miriam Linna (right) at CBGB. Photo by Godlis.

Linna became close friends with a small group of musicians in Cleveland including future members of Rocket From The Tombs /Pere Ubu, The Electric Eels, and The Dead Boys. During a weekend trip to New York City to check out the scene she had been reading about in Rock Scene magazine, she ran into a couple of people who recognized her as an Ohio fan. Those people with Lux Interior and Ivy Rorschacht of the future Cramps, traveling under their real names Erik and Christine. They asked her to join them as the drummer in a band they were forming. This seemed far-fetched, as Linna was still in school in Ohio and had never played the drums before, but within three months, the Cramps had learned to play onstage at the two places that mattered – Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s.

Miriam Linna (front, far right) as a Cramp

During the first year, the Cramps played virtually every night, and in between, Miriam was writing for the New York Rocker, working for Marty Thau at his new label Red Star Records, and running a fan club for her favorite band from years before, the Flamin’ Groovies. She met her future husband Billy Miller in the fall of 1977, and left her post on the traps with the Nervus Rex to join Billy’s newly formed combo, the Zantees, which would evolve in the A-Bones. Their life together revolved around playing and recording music, writing about records and artists, and eventually founding Kicks Magazine and forming the Norton Records label.

The late great Billy Miller (left), late great Link Wray (middle), and Miriam Linna (right)

During their 39 years together, the pair saw Norton Records through the release of hundreds of LPs, 45’s, and CD’s for artists they believed in, with a focus on unknown and undercelebrated rock n’ roll and rhythm n’ blues, bringing lost artists back into the limelight. Norton to this day is home to thousands of recordings including the earliest and best from Hasil Adkins, Esquerita, Link Wray, The Sonics, The Wailers, The Bobby Fuller Four, Dion, all the way through to the first recordings of artists from their first days of the punk scene -- the New York Dolls,  the Ramones, the Real Kids, and others.

Linna and Question Mark from ? and the Mysterians

Miriam took to her dream as book collector to becoming a book publisher, founding Kicks Books, issuing the unknown works of Sun Ra, the autobiography of Kim Fowley, the first reissues ever of Harlan Ellison’s 1958 gang stories, the unexpurgated Nick Tosches, and first new editions from beat poets Royston Ellis and Charles Plymell. She also publishes Bad Seed, a magazine focused on juvenile delinquency from the “golden age” 1949-1959, which draws from one of the largest collections of vintage paperbacks, pulps, magazines, posters and ephemera in the country.

Fortune Records superstar Nathaniel Mayer with Miriam Linna

Norton Records took on catastrophic losses with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Billy Miller would succumb to multiple myeloma in 2016.  

Through the personal and business challenges that ensued following these years, Miriam continued to find purpose in working with music. Working to release fabled lost 1960s Dion recordings as a Norton album Kickin’ Child brought refreshed purpose, which she followed by completing work on Mind Over Matter, Billy’s massive history of Detroit’s Fortune Records, which was not completed at the time of his passing.  

Miriam Linna, saving rock 'n' roll - one LP, book, and archive at a time!

In December, 2022, Miriam took to the airwaves by launching a radio station called Kicksville Radio, with a confirmed purpose to beam rare and lost recordings by unsung heroes, while staying true to the original goal of preserving music that otherwise will be forgotten. Miriam co-hosts the “Crashing The Party” radio show with WBCN alumnus and partner in tyme, Marc Miller, showcasing rare doowop from the pair’s respective collections. Through records, radio, books, publications, lost recordings, and the Kicksville Archive, the mission is clear: rock n ‘roll is most definitely here to stay.


Christine Ohlman (a/k/a "The Beehive Queen" for her mile-high platinum-blonde hairdo) is the current, long-time vocalist with NBC's Saturday Night Live Band—and the one of the undisputed queens of American rock n’ soul— whose sixth critically-acclaimed CD with Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez, "The Deep End," was honored on numerous national end-of-year Top Ten lists.

Beehive Queen and Connecticut Legend, Christine Ohlman

Born in the Bronx, this Connecticut queen is as deeply embedded in the southern music scenes in Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Nashville, and she is in New York's—she counts them all as true artistic homes. Her live shows are legendary for their fiery musicianship and superb storytelling. Ohlman is an inductee to the National Blues Hall of Fame of American Heritage, International. She appears in “Bonnie Blue,” the 2022 documentary on the late, great bluesman James Cotton. Her voice graces Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” (in a guest-vocal turn with the Rolling Stones on their classic cut “Out of Time”).  

Ohlman landed the Top Female Americana Vocalist honors on The Alternate Root's International Readers' Poll (she shares top slots with Paul Thorn, The Mavericks, and Rodney Crowell). She is fresh from emceeing the star-studded 2022 Celebration of Life for iconic girl group star Ronnie Spector, as well as from appearances onstage in NYC with Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, Trombone Shorty, Jon Batiste and Paul Shaffer; at the Paris Conservatory and the Royal Academy at Ghent with The Sessions Panel; on the SNL 40th Anniversary broadcast and Post-Broadcast concert at the Plaza Hotel;  "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon;” multiple appearances on the soundtrack for the HBO series “Vinyl,” including a duet with Elvis Costello;  the Carnegie Hall Tribute To The Rolling Stones; the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Concert in Cleveland (HBO) and The WC Handy Festival in Muscle Shoals, where she’s been the special guest of the Blind Boys Of Alabama and led an All-Star Shoals tributes that included Bonnie Bramlett, Candi Staton, and other Southern soul greats.

Her numerous studio and live collaborations encompass Grammy-nominated recordings with Charlie Musselwhite; "Evenings of Duets" with the late Mac Rebennack (Dr. John); Dion, Ian Hunter, Marshall Crenshaw and the late Levon Helm (all of whom guested on “The Deep End”);  a longtime, continuing onstage collaboration with legendary NRBQ guitarist Big Al Anderson; plus appearances with Al Green, Steve Miller, Smokey Robinson, Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, and the late George Harrison. With JoJo Hermann of Widespread Panic, she leads the “Down On The Bayou” New Orleans Jazz and Heritage benefits for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. She guests on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and legendary Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham's "The ALO Orchestra Sings The Rolling Stones Songbook Vol. 2,” named “Coolest Record Of The Year” by SIRIUS/XM’s "Little Steven’s Underground Garage.”

Christine Ohlman, rocking Verso Studios, Trefz Forum

She was proud to be part of the inaugural 2022 VersoFest, emceeing the Oral History Project interview of legendary soul singer and Renaissance woman Joshie Jo Armstead.

Ohlman is a noted musicologist and record collector who was one of the original contributing editors to the All Music Guide. Mixing a fiery brand of rootsy Americana with an old-school soul music flavor, she serves up a style that's been dubbed by SIRIUS/XM's Dave Marsh "Contemporary Rock R&B.”  Her six critically-acclaimed CDs will be joined in 2023’s by the upcoming “The Grown-Up Thing.”  

© 2022 The Westport Library | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram