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.”

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

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.

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




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