The WHAM Salutes Billy Miller

Lenny Kaye and Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus pay homage to their fallen friend, Billy Miller, at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Lenny Kaye and Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus pay homage to their fallen friend, Billy Miller, at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

As noted in previous Boogaloo Bag entries, our friend Billy Miller passed away on November 13. Billy Miller was a huge influence on the Boogaloo Bag writers, especially Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus, who knew him quite well. Billy, along with this wife Miriam Linna, founded the legendary Kicks Magazine; the important Norton Record Company; and he was the lead singer for the incredible A-Bones. To get an idea of the breadth of his activities and importance to the musical community, please read the New York Times obituary. Billy sold Phreddie some of his favorite records. They often talked about records and recording artists. When Billy was in the hospital, Phreddie visited with a stack of records and a portable record player.

About a month ago, when The Phast Man was rounding up a guest DJ for the December WHAM-O WATUSI at the Bootleg Bar, our hero Lenny Kaye agreed to appear and turn some records. Billy and Lenny have been friends since the late seventies. After Billy passed, Lenny suggested the WHAM-O night be transformed into a tribute to Billy by playing some of his favorite records, records Norton issued, records that reminded us of Billy, records by artists that were important to him and especially records emblazoned with the Fortune label–the Detroit record company that Billy was in the process of writing a book about.

The event took place on Saturday December 3. Although this was not an official Billy Miller memorial, it had the blessing of Miriam, who shared the Facedog event page and expressed pleasure with Lenny and Phreddie for arranging it. It looked as if she may even show up, but alas, she was still overcome with grief at Billy’s loss and could not make it. Many of us are still overcome with grief; however, some of us were able to celebrate Billy’s life and the music he loved at the Bootleg Bar on this WHAM-O WATUSI night.

Lenny Kaye swings with Jonathan Toubin, Bobby Rich (Bootleg Bar), Drew Redmond, Todd-O-Phonic Todd, Danny Rozelle (Pretty Quick) at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Lenny Kaye swings with Jonathan Toubin, Bobby Rich (Bootleg Bar), Drew Redmond, Todd-O-Phonic Todd, Danny Rozelle (Pretty Quick) (Avi Spivak in the back!) at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Among the celebrants were people who were close to Billy, including Avi Spivak, the artist for Kicksville Comics; Brian Hurd, singer for the boss blues with rhythm combo Daddy Long Legs, whose records are issued by Norton; Reyes Rodriguez, who currently works with the Norton people; WFMU DJ Todd-O-Phonic Todd (AKA The Boss Groover); Jonathan Toubin (Soul Clap). Boogaloo Bag photographer Nancy “Jeannie” Gardner made chocolate crinkles that gave everyone a sweet taste.

Pixie 66 tastes one of Nancy "Jeannie" Gardener's chocolate crinkles at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Pixie 66 tastes one of Nancy “Jeannie” Gardener’s chocolate crinkles at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

One of the highlights of the evening was about forty minutes of Lenny and top reet music DJ Drew Redmond spinning 45s from the Fortune Records catalog. That was a gas and a half! There was a fellow who brought an album by the Flat Duo Jets (issued on Norton) that he said changed his life, so a track was played. With a photo of Billy in the DJ booth, his presence was definitely felt, and one can only hope that he would have enjoyed this little tribute to him. A larger, official memorial is being planned for the spring and we hope that all the Boogaloo Bag readers will be able to attend.

A photo of Billy Miller was in the DJ booth in order to inspire rockin' records.

A photo of Billy Miller was in the DJ booth in order to inspire rockin’ records.

Billy Miller was a major force on the reet music scene, here in New York City, as well as around the world. To give you just an idea of how great of a force he was we can tell you that no less than ten WFMU DJs presented tributes to him on their respective shows in the immediate days after his passing.

Lenny Kaye and Brian Hurd swing at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Lenny Kaye and Brian Hurd swing at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

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Lenny Kaye and Drew Redmond played a bunch of records from the Fortune catalog at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

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Lenny Kaye swings with Jonathan Toubin at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

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Lenny Kaye got visited by Todd-O-Phonic Todd at the WHAM-O WATUSI.

Even more than being such a music impresario, Billy was a great friend and one of the most wonderful human beings that anyone will ever meet. The world cannot afford to lose people like him—especially in these trying times. His absence is going to leave a significant hole in our soul forever. Nearly every one of Phast Phreddie’s DJ gigs are spiced with records that are connected to  Billy in some way, and in the future they will evoke a special poignancy and reflection.

Here is a list of all of the records played by Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus at the WHAM-O WATUSI tribute to Billy Miller:

None of these records are for sale.

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