From The Editor: The Old Hometown Record Shop

Gene KnappIt was January, 1964, and school had just let out for the day. I set my destination the second I woke up: Abrams Music Store. Meet the Beatles was being released and I had to get the first copy. Of course I had to buy it from Abrams’ because Bruce’s parents owned the store and he worked there after school.

Bruce and I had become friends in a way that is almost impossible these days, largely because those record stores are almost nonexistent today. Yeah, every Saturday was the same thing—sleep till noon, get up, meet Jim and Bob, run into the store and visit with Bruce while he played every new record that came in that week. “Check this out. It’s a new Orbison.” Then he’d follow it with Gene Pitney just to compare their voices. I got to hear “I Laughed So Hard I Cried,” the flip side of “I Wanna Love My life Away,” before I ever played the hit side. Who plays flip sides? Wait, CDs don’t have flip sides. Hours passed like seconds while we soaked in every sound—Chuck Jackson, Jerry Butler, The Jive 5.

Sometimes—OK, every week—I’d buy something. And Bruce always found something new. Looking back on his life at the store, he recalled that some of the most exciting days came when the salesman brought in new records and he heard “new sounds.” “In those days there were only two local AM (radio) stations, so there was less choice.” The salesmen brought the latest records, more than those we heard locally. “Remember, we were a little country town.”

Then came The Beatles and everything changed except the store. Bruce’s mother usually came over if she heard something unusual: Dylan, The Stones. We’d try to get her to listen to the lyrics but she found no use for them. Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman were her mainstays. Too bad nobody bought them anymore. They were so old! But she played them anyway. Thanks, Mrs. A—they rubbed off .

That’s what made the store so special. It was a second family. Sometimes we’d gang up at his piano and he’d play “redundant piano triplets” while we struggled to recreate the sound that brought us to the store in the first place—”Shoo doo shooby doo – in the still – shoo doo shooby doo – of the ni-ight?” “Gonna tell Aunt Mary ’bout Uncle John?” “Brother that’s, that’s when your heartaches begin..” Yeah, all those sounds. Today you can hear them on XM satellite radio.

Hey, life changes, tastes change, and time flows like it always has. Abrams Music Store stopped selling records in the ’80s and closed when Bruce’s brother retired. Now kids download the songs they want and listen in the privacy of their iPods. Bruce, thinking about his kids and those he inspires every day in music class, remembered that “we had local dances —no arcades—just places associated with music. Today there is no personal touch. It was fun sharing the music and getting together with kids in the store. It’s sort of like a live band—a live band is for sharing with the public.”

Today, in our high tech world, we have access to so much different music. Sadly, anyone too young to remember their favorite local record store will never know what it was like to watch that 45 spin for the first time with your best friends or your latest girlfriend next to you. Obladi oblada.

—Gene Knapp

Got something to say?