Numero Group: By The Numbers

Michael L. Abramson 1948-2011
March 22, 2011, 7:18 pm
Filed under: A Light On The Southside, Obituaries | Tags: ,

Early Monday morning, our friend and collaborator Michael L. Abramson peacefully succumbed to his long battle with kidney cancer.

Based in Chicago, Illinois, Abramson had contributed photography to numerous national and foreign magazines and his work has been exhibited at museums and galleries including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Milwaukee Art Museum, and The Philadelphia Art Museum. In 1978, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in response to documentary work on the South Side of Chicago.

Michael’s important historical photographs of Chicago nightlife in the mid-1970s were the centerpiece of Numero’s double album/book hybrid Light: On The South Side, which has received accolades globally—including a Grammy nomination—for this remarkable portrait of a rarely documented and lively Chicago scene.

Of Michael’s work, the writer Nick Hornby says:

“There is something extremely poignant about these pictures: there comes a point where the transience of the laughter and the music, the booze and the cigarettes and the drugs, pushes us into a contemplation of the mortality of the participants, and then on to our own. And life has always been shorter for the inhabitants of the South Side, too—at the time these pictures were taken, the average black male would just about see his sixtieth birthday, but not much beyond that. Carpe diem means that little bit more when the dies are in shorter supply. This is a special book, about one tiny corner of the world over a handful of evenings a long time ago; but that tiny corner of the world has, for decades now, meant a great deal to an awful lot of people scattered all over the world.”

Mike was a real mencsh, a true gentleman, and an important artist. We will miss him tremendously. If you’re out tonight, lift a snifter of Hennessy for him. He preferred Scotch, but it seems appropriate.

Your Numero Group gets nominated for a Grammy
December 2, 2010, 10:23 am
Filed under: A Light On The Southside, Newsworthy | Tags: ,

And so it came to pass that in our 7th year “in business,” the National Academy of Recorded Arts and Sciences has seen fit to shine a light in our direction. In our 2nd year, we submitted both Eccentric Soul: The Bandit Label and Fern Jones: The Glory Road, making it all the way to round two before receiving the customary “Thanks for playing!” letter. Seemingly a waste of 28 promos. So we stopped submitting altogether.

Last Thanksgiving, our friend Henry Owings at Chunklet (and NARAS member) gave us the “Must be present to win” speech, giving us cause to change our stance and submit 14 copies of last year’s Light: On The South Side.

This morning we woke up to dozens of congratulatory emails. Turns out our little box set got nominated in category 88: Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package. While we harbor no illusions that we will actually win a mini gramophone (We’re guessing the White Stripes tie it up handily), it’s nice to know that someone out there is paying attention to our little corner of the world. That said, if you’re on the NARAS committee or know someone that is, encourage them to vote for our little record.

Light: On The South Side @ Austin’s Breakaway Records
September 16, 2010, 2:12 pm
Filed under: A Light On The Southside, Newsworthy | Tags:

Tomorrow, Sep. 17th, at 8pm in Austin, TX, Breakaway Records will be projecting Light: On The South Side in all of its hi-res glory on a big screen while playing the LP’s on a big ‘ole sound system.  The Book/LP Box Set will be available for a discounted price, and will include exclusive autographed prints from photographer Michael L. Abramson.  Some of our limited edition trading cards will also be available and Breakaway is offering a 15% discount on everything in their store for the event.

Thanks to Gabe at Breakaway for organizing this sweet multimedia experience.

Fresh Air: On The South Side
March 23, 2010, 1:11 pm
Filed under: A Light On The Southside | Tags: , ,

Our good friend Ed Ward recorded a piece on Light: On The South Side way back in November of last year. After many delays, including his review being entirely re-recorded, Fresh Air is finally running their five minutes on Light.

The timing, actually, couldn’t be better. We’ve been out of the book+2LP set since early January, awaiting the repress as it makes its way via boat to our pressing plant in Nashville. The massive stuffing process is underway now at United, and we should have the books back in stock tomorrow. Order at will.

Photos from the massive unload to follow.

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?

Pimp Oil salesman found
January 15, 2010, 1:11 pm
Filed under: A Light On The Southside | Tags:

(Words and photograph by Michael Abramson).

Early Sunday morning I received a call from Reggie. I recognized the voice that I had heard many times around 1975 at Pepper’s Hide Out. Reggie had played bass and sold Pimp Oil for Mac Simmons back then but now was a professional tap dancer and had just returned from a world tour sponsored by the Old Town School in Chicago where he teaches tap dancing. His sister had seen his photograph in the Dave Hoekstra  Chicago Sun Times article about Light: On The South Side and he had purchased the book. A few days later we met for lunch and to make a current photograph of Reggie. He praised the book, including the Hornby introduction, as an “instant classic showing the people that really created the life of these clubs.” He also added some captions to the photographs:

PG. 24: Tampa the “pool shark” and Cheryl at Pepper’s bar

PG. 72: Little Howlin Wolf in his RV

PG. 75: Mac Simmons in his shag band car

PG. 79: Jimmy Mitchell, the radio broadcaster who “once did a radio show from Pepper’s telling his audience to come down to the bustling club–when there were only 2 people in the place”

PG. 94: Tampa’s wife

PG. 108: James “the transvestite who sometimes waitressed at Pepper’s

PG. 113 and cover: More Mac Simmons cars

LP Jacket: Walter Scott and the Scott Bros. on the LP cover

Reggie talked about Pepper, his “father figure” and the competitive relationship between Pepper and Mac Simmons.  He was a teenager when he first visited Pepper’s club on Michigan Ave. which preceded Pepper’s Hide Out. He referenced Norma, Mac’s step daughter (PG. 45), Berenice who managed Pepper’s, beautiful Carole the bartender,  and others I had known and photographed. He talked about his girlfriend,  a young Polish girl who actually called him from Warsaw during our lunch-I  spoke to her. Many times he expressed great happiness with his life and his art and his escape from a lifestyle that had worn down many he had known.

More Light, from the South Side and beyond

Nice interview that Richard Steele, host of WBEZ’s 848, did with our own Tom Lunt and Michael Abramson.

Joe Tangari chimed in yesterday with an 8.3 on Pitchfork. Seriously, what’s it going to take to crack 9? Are we going to need to reissue an entire city block circa 1968 replete with trees and dogs? Just asking.

Lastly, Blurt blurted a 9 star review this morning. Give it up for Jason Bugg who, when sending the link this AM, included this tidbit:

“I love your label. Seriously. Half of the songs on my wedding CD came from your releases. If I ever get divorced I’m leading off that CD with “Your Replacement is Here.”

If Jason wife is reading this, I’m pretty sure he was joking.