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The Rebirth of CREEM by JJ Kramer

My Father Left CREEM To Me. I Was Four Years Old.

Who would have thought that there’d be a tender (well, maybe it’s more of a tragic-to-triumphant) “father-son” tale behind the rebirth of our favorite (and the only) rock ‘n’ roll magazine? Well, read on to hear CREEM chairman JJ Kramer’s telling of a story you’ve heard a million times: “Just your average guy who was bequeathed the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll magazine as a toddler and then spent the next three decades fighting to preserve its legacy”. 

Above: Barry Kramer and baby JJ. Photo by John Collier.


This article originally appeared in CREEM’s Fall 2022 issue. If you prefer to read in print, grab a copy here and subscribe to never miss another one.

My father, Barry Kramer, was CREEM’s founder and publisher. In January 1981 (just as CREEM was entering its 12th year of print), he died of a drug overdose. He left CREEM to me. I was 4 years old.

My mom tried to keep the magazine alive until I would be old enough to take the helm. But unfortunately, MTV, videogames, and all the other shiny shit in the ’80s rendered magazines less attractive. CREEM ultimately folded and was sold to the highest bidder.

I'll never forget when my mom asked me if it would be okay to sell CREEM. I said, “I guess so, if you have to. But I’m gonna get it back one day.”

The next 30 years were a series of disappointments, false starts, and brutal stomach punches. From 1989 on, CREEM was juggled among a cast of characters who seemed more concerned with cashing in on Boy Howdy’s Almost Famous cameo than bringing back America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine. There were many times when I could have (and, some might say, should have) walked away. But I refused to.

Things truly bottomed out in 2007 during a CREEM book release party at a trendy SoHo boutique in New York City. I wasn't invited, likely because I was suing the author over ownership of CREEM and release of the book, which I viewed as a piece of revisionist history that scrubbed my dad’s contributions (along with many others’).

I parked myself at a bar across the street and had a couple cocktails. Fueled by tequila (and perhaps channeling my dad’s legendary temper), I found my way past security and into the party. What I saw inside was everything I had hoped CREEM would never become—a rock ’n’ roll clown show with more ripped designer jeans, Ed Hardy shirts, and oversize sunglasses than anyone should ever be exposed to in a confined space. I confronted the author, who was behind a table signing copies of the book.

What happened next is a matter of debate, but most reports agree that (1) we called each other bad names using very loud voices, (2) we put hands on each other, and (3) he tried to sign my face with the Sharpie he was using to sign copies of the book.

I won. Not the fight—I got thrown out of the party by security—but the war. That moment, which should have been my CREEM coup de grace, ended up marking a significant turning point. Maybe the rock gods finally decided to take mercy on me and CREEM? Whatever it was, momentum shifted, and in the years that followed, I gained control and ownership of CREEM once again.

I know, I know, you’ve heard the story a million times: just your average guy who was bequeathed the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll magazine as a toddler and then spent the next three decades fighting to preserve its legacy and, in the process, got his face autographed.

Well, it was all worth it. With the support of our incredibly talented, dedicated, and passionate team of true believers (to whom I’m forever grateful), we are finally at the starting line. And, if you’re here, then you already know: Rock isn’t dead, and neither is print. CREEM is risen.

In 1969, CREEM was launched in Detroit as a raw, unfiltered, unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll magazine, and ushered in a new era of raucous, participatory journalism.

For two decades, the mag broke barriers, rattled cages, and connected people to music in a way that has never been replicated.

After a cool 33-year hiatus, CREEM has once again risen from the ashes to move the focus of music journalism back where it belongs — on the fans. As much as we love musicians, we don’t care for the corporate music machine. We don’t work for the industry, we work for you. And when was the last time you had any fun reading about music?

Today’s CREEM is a small independent operation, led by JJ Kramer (son of Barry Kramer, the magazine’s original founder and publisher) and a handful of editors, contributors, and support staff working from all over the country.


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