In its 30 year history, Backstreets magazine has has served as the ultimate Springsteen fan resource

and is commonly recognized as one of the best rock n’ roll fanzines ever created.


In this two part series, we spoke at length with the two men who crafted the success of Backstreets,

original founder Charles R. Cross, and current owner and publisher, Christopher Phillips.  We examine

the magazine’s unique history and find out what it takes to satisfy the most rabid fans in rock n’ roll.


Visit Backstreets on the web at http://www.backstreets.com

Charles R. Cross was born in Richmond, Virginia. He spent much of his childhood in Ashland, Virginia where for over one hundred years his family ran the local grocery store, H.J. Cross and Brothers. His father left the grocery business to become a professor of psychology, and the family traveled to a variety of university towns, as Dr. Herb Cross pursued advance degrees. The family lived in Richmond; Syracuse, New York; Storrs, Connecticut; and finally, Pullman, Washington, where Charles graduated from high school. He attended Parsons School of Design in New York, and Washington State University in Pullman, before graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle with a degree in Creative Writing. At the UW, he served as Editor of the Daily in 1979, and caused a whole lot of ruckus when he left the front page of the newspaper blank. The only type was a small line that read “The White Issue,” in deference to the Beatles’ White album.


After college, Cross served as Editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s music and entertainment magazine, from 1986 through 2000. The Rocket was hailed as “the best regional music magazine in the nation” by the L.A. Reader. Cross wrote stories on such seminal Northwest bands as the Sonics, the Wailers, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, the Screaming Trees, and hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser known bands. In addition to The Rocket, Cross’s writing has appeared in hundreds of magazines including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, Spin, Guitar World, Q, Mojo, Salon, Spy, Uncut, NME, Request, No Depression, Revolver, Ray Gun, Creem, and Trouser Press. He has written for many newspapers and alternative weeklies including the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Seattle Weekly. He has lectured and read at universities and colleges around the world, and has frequently been interviewed for film, radio, and television documentaries including VH1’s “Behind the Music.”     Visit Charles on the web at http://www.charlesrcross.com

Christopher Phillips was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, son of a Jersey girl and a Philly guy. After a childhood in Maine and upstate New York, his family moved to the Deep South town of Thomasville, Georgia. He saw his first Bruce Springsteen concert just across the Florida line, with his brother Jon, when Tallahassee was a late addition to the 1984 Born in the U.S.A. tour itinerary; he reviewed Tunnel of Love for his high school newspaper. Attending Duke University, Chris earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in both English and Studio Art, with a focus on book design. Following graduation in 1993, he moved to Seattle and began working with Charles R. Cross at Backstreets that summer.

 

Phillips has provided Springsteen-related content for AOL.com, Amazon.com, and Brucespringsteen.net; his writing and design have also appeared in The Rocket, Seattle Magazine, WHERE Seattle, Revolver Magazine, and Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader. But Backstreets has remained his primary focus: after serving as managing editor for a few years under Cross, Phillips became sole owner, publisher, and editor in 1998. Since that time, Chris transitioned Backstreets magazine to full-color, all-digital production; interviewed Springsteen twice for its pages; and created (and continues to maintain) the Backstreets.com website. After seven years in Seattle, he relocated Backstreets to the east coast: to Washington DC in 2000 for a four-year stint, and then to North Carolina in 2004, establishing an office in Carrboro, where the magazine will soon celebrate 30 years of publishing. In 2008, the Chicago Tribune selected Backstreets for its “50 Favorite Magazines” list, calling it “The gold standard of minutiae mags… Three decades later, it's matured into a thoughtful, sometimes sharply critical meditation on community, integrity, and rocking.” Chris, his wife Laura, and their daughter Lucy Rose live in Chapel Hill, NC.

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