Creem Magazine’s Colorful History to be Chronicled in Documentary


–Joe Lund

Great news for rock fans: a crowdfunding effort to produce a behind-the-scenes film documentary about one of rock and roll’s most seminal publications has proved successful. “Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM Magazine” will chronicle the history of the legendary rock periodical from its inception in Detroit in 1969 to the death of its publisher, Barry Kramer, in 1981.

For rock fans (and rock artists) who came of age in the ‘70s, Creem was more than just a go-to source for all-things rock-related; the magazine brilliantly captured the unkempt, zany, and often unhinged nature of the rock and roll lifestyle. At a time when mainstream music publications were focusing on the likes of Hall & Oates or the Moody Blues, Creem was championing up-and-coming rebel rousers like the Ramones, Alice Cooper, the MC5, Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls.

“They were interested in music that was more far out,” observes Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore, in what even he would likely admit is an understatement. “For me, Lester Bangs and the other writers at Creem … I equated their names with the names of the musicians I liked.”

Indeed, Creem served as an incubator, of sorts, for writers and photographers (and even musicians, occasionally) who later went on to forge exceptional careers. In addition to Lester Bangs, the staff and contributors included, at various times, Greil Marcus, Patti Smith, Dave Marsh, Robert Christgau, Jaan Uhelski, and future filmmaker Cameron Crowe. “We were a fan mag gone amok,” says Uhelski, a former Creem senior editor (and associate producer of ‘Boy Howdy!’). “This is a film that will go a long way in defining what made Creem so extraordinary and so mad.”


As indicated in its Kickstarter statement, the documentary will “explore the sometimes larger than life personalities of the magazine’s staff and their relationships to the artists they covered.” “Obviously there was no internet,” says the film’s writer and director, Scott Crawford, speaking with Slate. “The only way you were able to connect with musicians was through photos in magazines or through their album cover artwork and liner notes. Creem’s approach to capturing artists was a bit more personal and intimate than some of the other magazines at the time, and I think that’s something that really resonated with their readership.”

Spearheading the film project is Barry Kramer’s son, J.J. Kramer, who says the Creem saga is one he’s wanted to tell for years. To that end, he and Crawford are traveling the country, speaking with “musicians, artists, poets, eccentrics, and ex-Creem staffers to bring the story of the most unflinching and uncompromising music magazine in America.” A sampling of people slated for inclusion reveals the wide-scope nature of the endeavor. Iggy Pop, John Lydon, Michael Stipe, Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper, Lenny Kaye, Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, and former Runaways lead singer Cherie Curie are among the artists scheduled to be interviewed or featured. A trove of archival footage will be included as well.


“This is a story that I’ve wanted to tell my entire life,” says Kramer. “Creem is more than a magazine; it’s a living reminder of my father.” He adds: “The early days at Creem were lightning in a bottle: the right people, the right place, the right time. [It’s] the story of the merry band of misfits from Detroit who got together, took no prisoners, and forever changed rock and roll journalism.”


The Kickstarter campaign for “Boy Howdy!” wraps up this Friday (Aug. 5). You can check out all the pledge-reward details – plus a fun-filled film trailer – at the project’s Kickstarter page below.