Ben Blackwell

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Ben Blackwell
Birth nameBenjamin Jesse Blackwell
Born (1982-06-12) June 12, 1982 (age 37)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
OriginDetroit, Michigan
GenresGarage rock, rock and roll
Occupation(s)drummer, writer, archivist
Years active1999–present
LabelsCass Records, Third Man Records
Associated actsthe Dirtbombs, The White Stripes

Ben Blackwell (Born Benjamin Jesse Blackwell on June 12, 1982) is the creator and director of Cass Records, one of two drummers in the Detroit-based rock band the Dirtbombs, a music writer, and a vinyl record collector. He's a co-founder and minority owner at Third Man Records and the official archivist of the White Stripes.

Early life[edit]

Ben Blackwell was born in Detroit, Michigan on June 12, 1982 to Maureen Gillis and Morris Blackwell, he is John Gillis' Jack White's nephew. He attended Wayne State University for three years, with a concentration in journalism, before withdrawing.[1]

Recording career[edit]

The Dirtbombs[edit]

Blackwell debuted live with the Dirtbombs on December 18, 1999 when he was only 17 years old.[2] According to Blackwell, Mick (from the Dirtbombs) called Jack White and let him know they were looking for a drummer; White put his nephew on the phone.[3] Blackwell has since become one of the longest-serving members of the band, having played on four studio albums and having toured extensively all over the world.

Cass records[edit]

Cass is kind of just trying to be a Detroit record label that really just focuses on 7-inch singles. It's my favorite format for recorded music, it kind of has been the premiere medium for upcoming artists since Elvis put out "That's All Right" in 1954.[1]

Ben Blackwell with Crain's Detroit magazine, 2007

Beginning in 2003 with money given to him by his mother, Blackwell has put out over 50 releases on his Cass Records imprint.[4] Instead of signing artists, he makes one-time deals to release their songs as singles,[1] his label received some fame with the release of the song "Who's to Say..." from the country-rock band Blanche.[1] Through his label he has also released records from such artists as The Mooney Suzuki, The Waxwings, The Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players, The Sights, The Muldoons, Kelley Stoltz, Dan Sartain, Turbo Fruits, Cheap Time, The Go, the Black Lips and many others.

In 2007, Blackwell was selected by Crain's Detroit Business magazine as one of their "Twenty in Their 20s", a yearly designation given to twenty emerging entrepreneurs in southeastern Michigan. Blackwell was selected because of his work with his Cass Records label and was recognized for his commitment to the 7-inch vinyl format.[1]

Solo career[edit]

In November 2010, Blackwell self-released his debut solo album "I Remember When All This Was Trees" on his Cass Records imprint. Blackwell wrote, recorded and performed all the music on the album.

In March 2011 Blackwell participated in Esquire magazine's annual songwriting challenge along with Dierks Bentley, Dhani Harrison, Raphael Saadiq and Brendan Benson;[5] each performer was asked to write a song using the lyric "Last night in Detroit" and Blackwell's song "Bury My Body at Elmwood" is based around Elmwood Cemetery on the east side of Detroit.[6]


Blackwell has written content for many magazines including Creem Magazine Online,[7] Careless Talk Costs Lives, the Metro Times, Chunklet Magazine, Ugly Things, Arthur, Plan B and others.

Blackwell has also contributed work to the following books:

  • The White Stripes and the Sound of Mutant Blues by Everett True[8]
  • The Art of the Band T-Shirt by Amber Easby[9]
  • The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story by Robert Matheu[10]
  • Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology by Rob St. Mary[11]
  • Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip Hop and Beyond edited by M.L. Liebler[12]
  • Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges / As Told By Iggy Pop by Jeff Gold[13]

Blackwell won Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 College Journalism Award in the field of entertainment for two tour diaries he wrote for Wayne State University's The South End paper in March 2003.[14]

In November 2006 Blackwell started his own blog titled Tremble Under Boom Lights named after an EP by the band Jonathan Fire*Eater.

Blackwell's poem The World's Most Important Swimmers was selected by members of the Guerilla Poetics Project to be printed as a letterpressed broadside for the November 2008 installment of their program.[15]

Since 2007 Blackwell has been a frequent contributor to Bagazine,[16] a Mail Art "magazine in a bag" that focuses on "assemblage, handwork and print making, photography, painting, chapbooks, graphic design, typography, letterpress, Visual Poetry and the unusual."[17]

In March 2010 an anonymous guerilla stickering campaign was started in Detroit asking "Where is Ben Blackwell?" Bumper stickers with this message can still be found in the Midtown neighborhood.

On March 1, 2014, Blackwell gave a lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston titled "A Contemporary Record of Rock 'n' Roll" covering topics ranging from vinyl records, archiving, musical archeology and his personal experiences relating to them.[18]

Work with The White Stripes[edit]

From the beginning of the Stripes' existence, Blackwell worked as the band's roadie and wrote much of the group's website content. Although he is not an accredited professional archivist, he is the "White Stripes' official archivist",[19] he wrote the liner notes to Under Blackpool Lights. He also appears in The White Stripes' feature-length documentary Under Great White Northern Lights, conducting the interview that is interlaced throughout the film.[citation needed]

With funding for music education being cut every day, Third Man feels a duty to do its part. What better way to do so than to record the kids themselves and put 'em on vinyl?[20]

Ben Blackwell,

Currently, Blackwell oversees vinyl record production at Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee where his official job title "Pinball Wizard and Director of Operations."[21] He is involved in the program School Choirs & Bands at Third Man: A Vinyl Recording Experience, and initiative which, according to the website, offers "students behind-the-scenes access to Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville, TN, as well as the chance to record their own " 45rpm vinyl records."[20]


With the Dirtbombs[edit]


Year Title Label Notes
2001 Ultraglide in Black In The Red Records
2003 Dangerous Magical Noise In The Red Records
2008 We Have You Surrounded In The Red Records
2011 Party Store In The Red Records


Year Title Label Notes
2005 If You Don't Already Have a Look In The Red Records
2013 Consistency is the Enemy Cass Records

7" singles[edit]

  • Headlights on 7" (Solid Sex Lovie Doll Records, 2000)
  • Brucia I Cavi 7" (Hate Records, 2000)
  • Ode to a Black Man 7" (Sweet Nothing, 2001)
  • Australian Sing A Long with the Dirtbomb Singers 7" (Zerox Records, 2002)
  • Pray For Pills 7" (Corduroy Records, 2002)
  • Motor City Baby 7" (Sweet Nothing, 2003)
  • Earthquake Heart 7" (Velvet Tiger, 2004)
  • Merit 7" (Kapow Records, 2004)
  • Crashdown Day 7" (Corduroy Records, 2004)
  • Tanzen Gehn' 7" (Soundflat Records, 2005)
  • Brand New Game 7" (Munster Records, 2005)
  • Oh Katrina 7" (Noiseless/Live From Detroit, 2007)
  • Rocket USA 7" (Infirmary Phonographic, 2008)
  • Need You Tonight 7" (Stained Circles, 2008)
  • The Dirtbombs... Play Sparks 7" (In The Red Records, 2008)
  • Race to the Bottom 12" (Cass Records, 2009)
  • Kick Me 7" (Cass Records, 2010)

Dirtbombs split recordings with other artists[edit]

Solo discography[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
2010 I Remember When All This Was Trees (album) Cass Records all vocals and instrumentation
2011 "Bury My Body at Elmwood" Cass Records all vocals and instrumentation


Artist Year Title Label Notes
Mike Quatro 1995 "The Ocean Song" Quatrophonic Music USA uncredited group vocal
Clone Defects 1999 "Bottled Woman" Tom Perkins Records uncredited reverb crash
Lost Kids 2001 "Explode" & "Whirling Dervish" Gold Standard Laboratories drums
The Mistreaters 2003 "Ol' Sugarfoot" Estrus guitar feedback
Detroit City Council 2003 "Mary's Lil Lamb" Acid Jazz drums
The Come-Ons 2005 "Promise Me" Unrecording Records guitar solo
Dan Sartain 2008 "Voodoo" Cass Records drums
Jack White 2011 "Love is Blindness" Third Man Records drums
2013 "Alone in My Home" & "Entitlement" Third Man Records drums



  1. ^ a b c d e Snavely, Brent (Date unknown). "Benjamin Blackwell", Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  2. ^ Dirtbombs Family Tree, Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  3. ^ Miller 2013, p. 274.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 2, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Ben Blackwell: "Last Night in Detroit"". Esquire. April 19, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ E. True, The White Stripes and the Sound of Mutant Blues (Omnibus Press, 2004), preface
  9. ^ A. Easby "The Art of the Band T-Shirt" (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2007) p.227,
  10. ^ R. Matheu "The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story" (Abrams, 2009) p.55
  11. ^ R. St. Mary "Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology" (Painted Turtle, 2015) p.241
  12. ^ M.L. Liebler "Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip Hop and Beyond" (Painted Turtle, 2016)
  13. ^ J. Gold "Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges / As Told By Iggy Pop" (Third Man Books, 2016) p.336
  14. ^ (November 11, 2004). Rolling Stone
  15. ^ "The Guerilla Poetics Project". Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  16. ^ "B A G A Z I N E - G A L L E R Y". Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "B A G A Z I N E - B I O". Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  18. ^ Retrieved April 9, 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Michaels, Sean. "Jack White secretly donated funds for Detroit baseball pitch". The Guardian. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  20. ^ a b School Choirs and Bands, Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  21. ^ Knight, Blake (February 8, 2011). Owen Podcast Series: Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records, Retrieved October 18, 2014.


  • Miller, Steve (2013). Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City. Boston: Da Capo Press. ISBN 030682065X.

External links[edit]