Numero Group: By The Numbers

From the Desk of Jon Kirby : Brotherman and Dimona

When Ken Shipley called me last Spring and asked, “What are you doing right now?”, I told him the truth. I was in my hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, and I was on my way to purchase Krispy Kreme donuts, alone. It was 1 pm on what is popularly considered “a work day.” Little did I know he was about to offer me a job at the Numero Group, the only drawback to which has been the relative scarcity of Krispy Kreme donuts. I’ve managed to adapt.

Having written about so many Numero releases during my time at Wax Poetics, I was surprised to learn upon my arrival in Chicago that these same titles, those that I had spilt so much honest ink over, were just okay sellers. And while Kid Soul seems a consistent draw, Soul Messages from Dimona and Brotherman seem to have plateaued somewhere in the fiftieth percentile. Soul Messages chronicles the origins of my absolute favorite international vegan soul food franchise, and Brotherman is a thoughtful collection of sophisticated scratch tracks for a Blaxploitation flick unrealized. What else needs to be said? So while I look forward to researching, developing, and catapulting many new Numero titles into the marketplace, I felt compelled to post a few of these articles—to reintroduce myself to all of the label’s fantastic supporters, and reintroduce these fantastic records to folks who may have passed them over in the past. They’re very good records. But don’t take my word for it [cue Reading Rainbow sound bite]!

The Walkman is dead, long live the Walkman
October 25, 2010, 11:28 am
Filed under: Brotherman, Newsworthy | Tags: , ,

31 years ago, Sony brought the Walkman to market and simultaneously started the portable music boom. Most of the Numero staff has fond memories of rewinding and fast-forwarding homemade tapes, and even though we’ve graduated to iPods, we’ve remained suckers for the format. On Friday, the Japanese multinational conglomerate announced it had ceased production of the Walkman, and although there are plenty of other competitors in the field, it’s a sad day indeed for those who prefer their shitty portable music on 1/8th inch tape.

To commemorate the device’s passing, Numero is trotting out an item that we’ve never featured for sale on our website; the Brotherman cassette.

We generally only trot these out for special events, but for the next week we’re making them available here for the low, low price of $5 postage paid. There’s only 30 or so left, and once they’re gone, they’ll go the way of the Walkman. That is to say, on to eBay for a sum well above what we’re asking.

It wouldn’t be Numero if we didn’t give you a summary of the history the device (courtesy of intern Ryan Razowsky):

We can all thank Sony audio-division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for his effort in developing the first Walkman in 1978. Despite possible names such as “Pressman”, “Watchman”, “Scoopman”, “Discman”, “Sound-About”, “Stowaway” and “Talkman” (all trademarked by Sony) and Sony Chairman Akio Moritas dissatisfaction with the Walkman name, it was a junior executive at the company that mistakenly solidified the name by sending it to their promotion division. The Walkman turned out to be a massive hit right off the bat, selling upwards of 50,000 units during the first two months. It proved to be the best damn combination of portability and privacy this country had ever seen when it was released in the States in June of 1980.
We can essentially call the next two decades “The Era of The Walkman”, dominating the world from dim lit city street hoodie pockets to armbands of suburban aerobic queen champions. By 1983, with the help of the Walkman, cassette tapes outsold vinyl for the first time. Between 1987 and 1997 the popularity of portable cassette players led to a 30% increase in the number of people who said they walked for exercise. Even through the 90’s, that brought the technology of portable CD and Minidisc players, it would be the over 300 different models along all three formats that elevated popular culture to a world that listens to music wherever and whenever.

Mind-Expanding Conversation

Join us tonight for a little informal lecture/conversation between Rob Sevier of the Numero Group and Steve Krakow AKA Plastic Crimewave of Galactic Zoo Disk and Secret History of Chicago Music at the Hungry Brain in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood (2319 W. Belmont). Check out the illustration Crimewave did for us last week. Coming soon to a bin card near you!

Check out the write-up in The Onion’s AV Club, and though they do have all intended topics down, we stand by no claims of “mind-expansion”.

Fan Fic
January 19, 2010, 10:02 am
Filed under: Brotherman | Tags: , ,

When people we find out we work out of a crummy little basement on the SW side of Chicago (sans brushed metal name plates and glass doors), they’re always impressed with the quality of work that trickles out of somewhere so shabby. We take no offense and allow the work to speak for itself.

We admittedly operate in a bit of a bubble, taking our own cues as to where we should go next, what we should release, what taqueria we should eat at. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in this little universe that we forget how much of the outside world we’re affecting. The things that leave this dank record rathskeller have not only made it into thousands of record collections, but are now inspiring their own creative endeavors. We’ve gotten fan mixes, a chalk board rendering of Bill Moss, and now this:

This piece comes courtesy of Jake Nevill down in Little Rock, Arkansas. Notice how he interpolates imagery from Light: On The South Side into the world of Brotherman, something we hadn’t considered, but seems extremely appropriate. Light is Brotherman’s world. Mac Simmons went from pusher to preacher for shit’s sake! That’s his car!

It’s little things like this that make the trek down to the basement worth it. You start a record company hoping to have some kind of impact on something, somewhere and maybe make some money. We’re not rich by any means, but fuck if we haven’t achieved the other half. Who needs a Grammy when you’ve got a homemade Brotherman poster out there?

Chicago’s Zenith/DB Studio circa 1975
December 8, 2009, 10:12 am
Filed under: Brotherman | Tags: , ,

We just got some pictures of the former Zenith/DB Studio in Chicago.  This is now home to Wall To Wall Recording where we’ve done tons of tape transfers with Dan Dietrich and his crew, including our 22nd release, Final Solution: Brotherman OST.  The importance of these pictures is that it gives us a clear glimpse into the gear used on the Brotherman release since it was coincidently tracked at DB back in 1975.  Look at all those Ampex decks.

Numero In Black Dynamite!!!
October 28, 2009, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Brotherman | Tags: , , ,


I saw the completely crazy-assed Black Dynamite last weekend. The placement of Lord Rhaburn’s “Disco Connection” from Numero 006: Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up is insane. Go see this movie – it’s the Brotherman that never was!

Black Dynamite Yo’ Self here.

From Lunar Rotation to standing ovation, or, how The Numero Group took Twinight from twilight and put it back on the stage.

Our 2007 compilation Eccentric Soul: Twinight’s Lunar Rotation was the product of over two years of cold calls and random door knocks on the south side of Chicago. In the process we turned up dozens of DJs, promoters, backing musicians, managers, and performers that had circled the Twinight label’s bowl on their way out to the sea of forgotten 45s. We found them, we interviewed them, and we paid them, but it seemed that these dusty relics required something more than a check and a commemorative 2CD set. They wanted their due.

The idea of a live soul revue had been kicked around at many an office meeting, but the logistical nightmare of flights, hotels, and rehearsals always kept it on the whiteboard. In the end location made everything possible.  Twinight was in our backyard, and its artists were in the garage.

On April 4th 2009, The Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul Revue will make its debut at Chicago’s Park West Theater. And while Syl Johnson, the Notations, and Nate Evans perform regularly around the world, Renaldo Domino, the Kaldirons, and the Final Solution haven’t been on stage in over 30 years. In true revue fashion, we’ve hired Chicago’s stalwart Uptown Sound to back the entire performance and expanded their tight rhythm section to include horns, backing vocalists, and strings. The show will be preceded by an interactive slideshow of Chicago soul memorabilia and a DJ set from The Numero Group, followed by an autograph and photo line.

You can buy tickets for a mere $22 on our website with no service charges now, or wait until Ticketbastard puts them on sale on January 2nd and tacks on an additional 8-10 dollars in “convenience” fees. Either way, this is the must see Chicago soul event of the year, possibly the decade. Tickets purchased from our site will be held at will call and can be picked up at the show.

See you there.

There’s Got To Be A Way
October 13, 2008, 1:53 am
Filed under: Brotherman | Tags:

On Thursday there was great anticipation at the office when we received a package from United Record Pressing. The vinyl edition of Numero 022, Final Solution: Brotherman OST had been pushed back for five long weeks as multiple lacquers got cut, plates got pressed, and flawed test presses were sent to us taking the project back to stage one each time. It’s been an arduous process with lots of needle skips and head shaking to say the least but, after a fantastic new lacquer cut by Prairie Cat Mastering, the Final Solution’s previously unreleased blaxploitation soundtrack will finally be heard on the medium it was intended for 33 years ago.

If you need a little refresher on how vinyl is pressed & printed, here’s a video in two parts showing how it’s done properly.