For fans of Norton Records, the Brooklyn-based peddlers of some of the rawest punk, R&B and garage rock you've never heard, the news that their Red Hook warehouse was flooded during Hurricane Sandy was a gut-punch. While much of their back catalog was destroyed, some 13,000 records were miraculously salvaged, with hands-on help from their friends and fans.
Founded by former Cramps drummer Miriam Linna and her husband Billy Miller in 1986, Norton Records is responsible for releasing material from Hasil Adkins, Sun Ra and Reigning Sound, to list a few more well-known names. But their strength is elevating the obscure and forgotten. Their Fort Worth Teen Scene and El Paso Rock series showed they aren't just underground tastemakers; they're devoted archivists responsible for preserving some of rock and roll's lost history, and acts that may have otherwise remained regional footnotes. They're the reason I discovered the Real Kids and the weird world of King Uszniewicz & His Uszniewicztones.
So it makes sense Fort Worth would put on an all-local benefit for the label, which happens this Sunday, December 9, at Magnolia Motor Lounge and features Casa Magnetica, Street Arabs, Ape Hangars, War Party, Oddlot, Year of the Bear and Dove Hunter. Mark Nobles, owner and producer of Flyin' Shoes Films and author of Fort Worth's Rock and Roll Roots, saw an opportunity to help out.
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"After learning of Norton's situation, I wanted to help, so I called [Fort Live's] Lyle Brooks to see if he would be interested in putting on a benefit," Nobles says. "He liked the idea and ran with it. I've just been pitching in here and there."
He also had a hand in producing Melissa Kirkendall's Teen A Go Go, a documentary on the DFW garage rock scene in the '60s, and cites Norton as the inspiration for the film.
"The Norton Fort Worth Teen Scene records inspired the doc," he says. "I had no idea such a scene existed in the '60s until reading about it when the records came out. I thought it was a story that needed to be told. The music is great, the personalities are sparkling and the film has been well-received. To tell you the truth, I didn't know anything about Norton or the whole underground garage band thing until the records came out and I started the research. One of the perks of producing documentaries is you learn just enough to be dangerous about a wide range of topics. I'm great at small talk at cocktail parties."
The Norton Records benefit happens this Sunday, December 9, at Magnolia Motor Lounge. Starts at 1p.m.