Wayne Kramer is proudly "a guy that comes from an era of being highly critical of the government -- and is still fairly critical of much of what our government does." But when it comes to putting rock stars on U.S. postage stamps, the MC5 alumnus is all for it.
Kramer is curating an all-star concert that will accompany the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service's Jimi Hendrix stamp on March 13 during the South By Southwest Music Conference & Festival.
"To have them honor a contemporary and a great artist is like a small step in the right direction," Kramer tells Billboard, "so I want to encourage that. I want put on a show that makes them feel good about embracing popular culture." The lineup for the free show, which will take place in Austin's Butler Park, features the Doors' Robby Krieger, Guns N' Roses alumnus Slash, Rusty Anderson of Paul McCartney's band, Doug Pinnick of King's X, former Blasters Dave and Phil Alvin, rapper Boots Riley and others.
Kramer was already planning to attend SXSW when organizers mentioned the Hendrix concert "and said they didn't quite know how to go about organizing it. So we said, 'We could probably help you out with that,' and everything started to fall into place."
His goal was to "find all the coolest guitar players that I could, who are available, to come down and play." Availability proved to be the key issue, however; "I discovered they're all in Des Moines or Stockholm or Athens or Miami -- they're all on the road, all on tour 'cause that's what guitar players have to do. They have to work. I was lucky to find the guys I did."
The evening's repertoire will be "all Hendrix," according to Kramer, who adds that "irrespective of the fact that it commemorates the Jimi Hendrix stamp, it's still got to be a great show and stand on its own and have different styles of music and bring something new to the table. Everybody who's there is going to bring something to the mix" -- including Riley, who Kramer has asked to rap on "If 6 Was 9."
The Hendrix stamp sheet was drawn by Rudy Guttierez and designed by Greg Breeding and is set up to resemble a vintage 45 rpm vinyl record sleeve. The USPS says the design "features a painting of Hendrix's face surrounded by colorful swirls and small icons that reference song lyrics or aspects of Hendrix's life...The sixteen stamps are arranged in four blocks that resemble a kaleidoscope: With their upper corners meeting, the stamps appear to spin around each other. The quilt-like positioning results in three stamps in each block resting sideways or upside-down. Text below the stamps briefly describes Hendrix's musical legacy." Pre-orders begin on March 11 at www.usps.com.
On the same night as the Hendrix tribute Kramer will also be performing with Outernational at the Grammy Museum's "Musical Milestones: The Rolling Stones" -- after sitting on a Rolling Stones panel the day before at the Austin Convention Center. On March 14 he'll host the 3rd Annual Fried Chicken Revival Jail Guitar Doors Benefit with John Doe, Alejandro Escovedo, the Alvin Brothers and more and will be part of the SXSW Tribute to Lou Reed that evening.
Kramer recently wrote score music for the upcoming Kristin Wiig comedy "Welcome to Me," and he'll be releasing a free jazz album called "Lexington," an outgrowth of his score for the PBS documentary "The Narcotics Farm," for Record Store Day on April 19 as the first release from his new label, Industrial Amusement.