Returning to Sudbury is a little bittersweet for Miriam Linna.
“I always wonder how it would have been if I hadn’t left,” said Linna.
Well, chances are she wouldn’t have become the drummer for The Cramps, the iconic punk band out of New York City that formed in the 1970s. While Linna came of age in the Big Apple, her love of music was forged right here in Sudbury.
She’s back in town this weekend for Up Here festival to hang out with her friends in The Fleshtones and scope out her childhood digs.
Linna was born in Gatchell and raised in New Sudbury before her family moved to the U.S. in 1967. She was born at 666 St. Clair St., but Linna’s upbringing was far more wholesome than the number would suggest.
Linna’s parents came to Sudbury from Finland in 1952, drawn by the large Finnish community.
“They wanted to be with their own birds of feather,” said Linna.
She and her two siblings were raised in a strict, church-going household. Her brother Jack wasn’t even allowed to go to Sudbury’s multiple downtown movie theatres, although that didn’t necessarily stop him.
Linna’s rebelling brother and older sister were the ones who first introduced her to rock n' roll.
“I was a kid with two teenager siblings, both rock and roll fanatics, radio nuts,” said Linna. “I thought, I gotta grow up and be as cool as those guys.”
Her sister brought a transistor radio and the two girls would listen to it all night long in their shared bedroom. Despite all the rock n' roll, Linna said Sudbury’s tight-knit immigrant community made for an idyllic, innocent childhood.
“Everybody was in a bilingual family and on the same social strata… when we left when I was in seventh grade to the States, it was like the Wild West compared to protected Sudbury,” said Linna, who was cornered in the girls’ bathroom by a couple big, tough girls on her first day of school there.
“It was a rude awakening.”
She was so unhappy about the move she pretended to be sick at her new school in Ashtabula, Ohio, until her family caught on.
Music remained a constant, though. She would visit her brother at his fraternity to see bands like The Amboy Dukes, or go to Detroit with him to see Bowie.
Eventually, Linna found her crew in the punk scene in Cleveland in her teens. After a stint in London, England, paying her way by working at a meat pie factory, she made it to New York on July 4, 1976. Her first day in New York was the American bicentennial with “the biggest fireworks ever” and a show by the New York Dolls.
There, she became a founding member of The Cramps and embarked on a musical career that included a drum lesson from Tommy Ramone — her only lesson ever — and being called “my favourite female drummer” by Bob Dylan.*
Still, 50 years since her emigration and a lifetime of rock n' roll, Linna thinks of Sudbury often and was excited to return for Up Here this weekend with The Fleshtones.
Festival goers won’t want to miss their show tonight, they may even get a chance to see Linna in action if they’re lucky.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Linna started The Cramps.