Article by: Andrew Barker Senior Features Writer @barkerrant
In the 60 years since Gene Norman founded record label GNP Crescendo, the pioneering indie imprint has come to encompass so many different styles, genres, artists and revenue streams that current president Neil Norman — Gene’s son — finds it much easier to describe what the label doesn’t offer than what it does.
“My father purposely wanted a label that had a bit of everything,” he explains. “We have everything but opera and rap.” And it’s not hardto imagine they’d make an exception even to that rule if the right artist came along.
Since its founding in 1954, GNP Crescendo has not only survived decades’ worth or industry upheaval, but it also has forged a path and established a set of principles that have been followed in some way or another by just about every oddball indie outfit to come. With a catalog that ranges from jazz and surf to vintage Latin dance, garage rock, polka, Cajun (zydeco act Queen Ida won the label its first and only Grammy in 1982), an Orson Welles spoken-word album, “Star Trek” music compilations and all manner of otherwise forgotten soundtracks, browsing through the label’s offerings is a reminder that the long-tail sales model is hardly a new one.
Such versatility extends to the career of the younger Norman, who has worn virtually every possible hat during his career in music, which started roughly when he played his first onstage gig at age 12. Since then, he’s recorded more than 50 albums for GNP, as well as worked in its mailroom, producing other artists, serving as its A&R, its promotion department, its publicity department, and finally, its label head.
“That’s the great thing about being a small independent label,” he says. “You get to do everything.”
Norman is in the process of editing his second feature documentary, “Pushin’ Too Hard,” which explores the career of the label’s flagship signing, the 1960s garage-psych outfit the Seeds. Gene Norman, now 92, is busy writing his memoir, and one might imagine he has a wealth of stories to tell.