This Saturday, April 17, is Independent Record Store Day worldwide. 

Many’s the happy hour I spent in Record World, Tower Records, Dayton’s, Happy Tunes, and more . . . perusing, considering, talking, hanging out, pouncing on something I’d never seen, wondering whether to spend twenty dollars (1972 dollars!) for BUCK MEETS RUBY or EASY NOW.  I grew up in suburbia, where every department store had a record section.  Those days are mostly gone, although I live near enough to Mr. Cheapo’s to visit, and Academy Records and Second Hand Rose still offer New York thrills. 

But here’s novelist Nick Hornby’s commentary, very much to the point:

“Yes, yes, I know it’s easier to download music, and probably cheaper.  But what’s playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it?  Nothing.  Who are you going to meet in there?  Nobody.  Where are the notice boards offering flat shares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom?  Who’s going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this?  Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid.  The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul.  Record stores can’t save your life.  But they can give you a better one.”

I would disagree only with Hornby’s understatement: I think record stores did save my life, or, at least, they helped me find something that has continues to make me very happy. 

And he is also correct about the social context: a Jiffy bag with a CD from Amazon through the mail is a great thing, and I am delighted to receive one, but it just isn’t the same as visually eavesdropping on what the fellow in the next browser is looking at or (one afternoon in Dayton’s) getting yelled at my the cashier for making an insufficiently reverent remark about the late Bud Powell record he was playing.  Yesterdays, oh, yesterdays!

Thanks to Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services for Hornby’s exhortation.


  1. dakotayellowred

    it’s true,the record store is ever the best place for to buy a cd or lp and now is very good Amazon for quality and price


  3. Darn you MS! You bring back a flood of memories… at “Jimmy’s” (way downtown)- Tall and thin Jeff Atterton, jazz devotee, so suave and polite, so glad to see you, so knowlegeable! “Hi Jeff.. what’s new?” “Have you seen… or do you have… THIS?” One of my best finds was a release with Davey on it, a live club performance (Philladelphia?) on which Bill Harris was on as well… one number- “John Hardy’s Wife”- wow! OR- happy, but serious, little Harry Lim- at the store in the vicinity of the 802/Roseland Ballroom and B’way… “The Colony” was it? Harry- always happy to see a musician’s face. Founder of “Keynote”- what a gift to us all he was! Found JT’s (Verve) there on which he does Willard R’s tunes, “‘Round My Old Deserted Farm” and “Don’t Smoke In Bed.” Short Harry… Tall Jeff- keepers of the Jazz Record Bins! Happy to have known them.. and to be guided by them! Amen! Fantastic post, Michael– Tears–mb

  4. I think Harry Lim was at the midtown Sam Goody’s (was it on 43rd or 46th? — I think there was a classical store on one side of the street and the “popular” one on the other). What a delight it was to go into a record store and have knowledgeable, hip scholars floating around. Jeff Atterton, as you know, was also a pal of Pee Wee Russell’s, and a number of the best pages in the late Bob Hilbert’s biography of PWR are his letters to Atterton. And (one more four-bar break, like a Condon Town Hall concert) Jack’s version of DON’T SMOKE IN BED is a great sorrowing masterpiece.

    Darn you MB, right back! MS

  5. Nancie Beaven

    You could go into Goody’s and hum a few bars and whomever was working could tell you what the tune was and who recorded it. Great memories, Thanks Michael.

  6. John P. Cooper

    How was the Jazz selection and knowledge at King Karol? No one ever seems to recall that store when the stories begin.

    I worked for Goody’s for 2 years in the Huntington, LI store, so I have my memories. Too early to be nostalgic or philosophical, but I met a trombonist from Bunny Berigan’s orchestra, sold “Ellington At Newport” to a woman who had sung with Stan Kenton, one time had the guys on the sales floor spontaneously singing along to Cab Calloway’s “Boo Wah, Boo Wah” which they had heard 20 times by then (and that was 1970!), had an Ellington fan defend Glenn Miller, saw my first copy of “New Hot Discography” when a customer was using his copy to look up recordings, told a customer that the Lee Castle/Jimmy Dorsey LP on Pickwick was a stiff and then had him tell me that he was Lee Castle’s manager…and admit it *was* a stiff, saw a brand newly recorded LP by Sammy Kaye come out on the ultra cheap Vocalion label and heard my co-worker say, “Oh, come on! That’s not even trying!”….plus….and endless parade of beautiful girls and women live and in 3-D each and every day.

    So many memories!

  7. We probably crossed paths: I used to note the date and price and place on the back of my vinyl, and I remember driving out to the Huntington Goody’s and buying a copy of the Prestige reissue of Berigan’s SWING CLASSICS (the Parlophone / Deccas) in 1971 — forbidden thrills! It’s never ever too early to be nostalgic or philosophical, so consider yourself encouraged to be both or either. As for King Karol, I remember trekking through the then-fascinatingly grotty 42nd Street (near Eighth) to go to that store, which had an interesting selection of jazz, although I don’t recall ever asking the sales staff to suggest anything. We could even get nostalgic about the vinyl at Tower Records — and the nice CD selection — and the astonishing vinyl at J&R Music, where I haven’t been for fifteen years or more. All online, for better and often worse. The more things change, the more things change. Cheers! Michael

  8. John P. Cooper


    Probably so. I was there from 9/69 until 7/71. If you were a Jazz buyer in the Swing realm, you may have spoken with me b/c I would often zero in on people I saw browsing in that section and I still have friends that were once upon a time customers there.

    You may remember one of the fixtures of the store, Leo Feinstein. He near always wore a button down green sweater and was often smoking a cigar. (You could smoke, eat and drink on the sales floor at that time.) He was a big Jazz fan and played several instruments, idolized and knew Buddy Rich. He was with Goody’s from near the beginning until his passing just a few years ago.

    We had another Jazz expert in the store. Ken Bruton was his name and he was also the manager of the classical record department. He was an older black man and usually quite reserved unless you riled him. He turned me on to Ellington and we were pals, but got into a huge shouting match from opposite sides of the store one day. What a spectacle!

    That Huntington store came to Sam Goody’s attention b/c, by coincidence, we had a very wide wealth of knowledge and experts on the sales floor. We had 3 or 4 Jazz experts (if you count Larry the avant guy), we had a classical expert, plus sale clerks who could at least find your classical selection for you, we had a country expert who took a lot of crap from us kidding him yet he was a good guy, we had an Oldies expert, 2 Elvis experts and a host of others. Plus, we had a crew that actually cared and who took pride in knowing about music that they had no personal interest in. If someone came in and wanted “Lara’s Theme” by Andre Kostalentez, we wanted to know which LP it was on so as not to look mentally deficient. I remember one of our hippie-style clerks flipping through the Andy Williams section or some MOR artist just to get familiar with the product. And I remember a clerk named Earl standing there stunned as he flipped through the Los Indios Tabajares section – “I never even heard of these guys and they have like 60 albums here!”

    One time, as I was leaning against the wall, our fine clerk Richie had been asked by a customer for an artists he was not familiar with. As he passed by me an aisle away, all he said was “John. Art van Damme?” And all I said was “Accordian”. I got the thumbs up sign and another customer was on his way to happiness.

    And talk about Jazz fans – I was walking past the Modern Jazz section one afternoon and I noticed the entire bin of Stan Kenton LPs was empty – even the divider card was gone. Maybe 75 LPs – gone. Then Eileen the cashier (cutie) calls me to the front and says there was a guy standing at the check out counter with a huge stack of LPs and she turned her back and he had disappeared! Hahaha! The guy was drunk and a Kenton fan and he simply walked out with them all. LOL!!!! I think we sent some guys running out into the mall and we found him. OMG!

    I met Sam Goody only one time at the Maspeth HQ. Very nice guy it seemed to me.

    So, yeah – unique store with many of us still in touch after 40 years. Leo is gone, but we found our old boss alive and well and living in Florida. This boss, Alan Mazur could be a terror, especially if he didn’t like you and many of the guys feared his wrath which consisted loud and public berating of you. If you did your job and if he liked you, you were generally spared and even got some leeway or maybe a joke or two exchanged and you survived the day. Haha.

    I first met Dave Weiner in the store and Vince Giordano, too…still pals to this day. I have a friend who lives in E. Northport – a huge Jazz of all kinds fan – who I met at the store and we are still friends today. Your pal, Bill Gallagher knows him. You may know him, too.

    Anyway – that’s what a store could do that online shopping cannot. The store was an interactive human/music experience for many people and we got to see the people go home happy with their purchases….and we liked that. They both have their pluses, but their is no parade of pretty girls and women to liven things up in 3-D. For that, you have to leave the house!

  9. John C Graham

    Every city in every country on every continent must have had their particular retail establishments that served the cravings of the jazz record collector. In Toronto it was Sam’s, A&A’s and the Jazz & Blues Centre and later the used record stores with names like Harmony, Vortex(still in business), Around Again, Record Peddler and others that I’ve momentarily forgotten.
    It was the anticipation of what I might find, that rare gem of a disc that had always eluded me, that kept me returning, week after week, to the same shops on a pre-designated route that only changed if one of the shops closed down or a new one opened up…you’d get to know the clerks and others whose search you shared.
    To see the copy of The Jazz Giants autographed by Wild Bill, Herb Hall, Claude Hopkins, Arvell Shaw, Benny Morton and Buzzy Drootin that was picked up and purchased at the moment I cruised into one of those stores has stayed with me now for almost forty years. It would have been mine if I’d left home a little earlier. Darn it !! The search continues….

  10. Oh, I know. Yeats was right — the imagination dwells the most on what has eluded us, been lost. But at least you saw it! I have the same odd experience with this blog: I see something I would love to have (if I had money stacked to the ceiling) and know I can’t — so I post a picture of it, which is, in an oblique way, the same as owning it. Dwell on the moment of seeing it rather than the moment of someone quicker / more lucky buying it.

    All that advice and no potatoes! Cheers, Michael

  11. SOme of my fondest memories as a teenager just discovering jazz was going to my local used record stores — Moby Disc or Rhino Records — and rifling through the bins. Just the smell of the cardboard was enough to make my day.

    Then the joy of finding a rare (blue and white label) Blue Note Hank Mobley recrod. There was nothing like it.

  12. John C Graham

    ….and my favourite clerk at my favourite store who, when he saw me coming through the door, would quickly collect a few choice items that would, when I eventually made my way to the counter, be ever so gently prodded toward me…he never said a word. I’d ask about each of the items and he’d turn his head slightly to one side and nod affirmatively, the glow of intensity still in his eyes. I knew, at those precise moments in time, that I’d accomplished a small part of the never ending quest, a piece of the puzzle if you will, that every serious collector experiences. I’d struck paydirt !

  13. There are many joys in that experience: having a jazz-friend who is wise and eager . . . and having the records that would levitate your spirits there to be purchased! Lucky man, John!


  15. Here is the text of the article about J & R and long time sale fixture, Jeff Atterton.
    EVER WALK INTO A Record store and find the sales help no help at all? You know the drill. You ask where to find Billie Holiday and the clerk sends you to the R & B section. Well, more bad news today. One more of the old-time music salespeople, the ones who really know the music, has just retired: , who since 1959 has patrolled the jazz sections of Commodore Music, Sam Goody and, for the last decade, Colony Music. And who will replace him? At Colony, maybe someone who knows jazz. But generally speaking, in an age when more and more music is sold at the Wal-Marts of the world, music has become toothpaste. Third aisle on the left, ma’am. Help yourself. Yes, some of the new superstores make an effort to recruit knowledgeable sales help, and some sales clerks are knowledgeable on their own. Stores like Colony still know the value of an informed staff, and smaller record shops still tend to be run by people who got into music retailing because they’re passionate about music. But as the Wal-Marts and superstores gobble up more market share, the smaller shops are closing and the march toward toothpaste moves on. “It’s a very bad situation, actually,” says Atterton. “The move is so much toward self-service that the salespeople often know nothing of what they’re selling. If you ask for Stan Getz, they send you off to the rock section. It’s not at all the way it used to be.

    ” That’s sad, because good clerks are like good tour guides: They show you things you might not find on your own. Not only can they hunt down what you know you want, they can suggest other music, or fill you in on background that makes music more interesting. Atterton was straight out of that school. He was a teenager in England in 1938 when he attended a Fats Waller show. The following year he heard Coleman Hawkins, and he knew he wanted a career in music. He played piano then, too, but that fell by the wayside when he spent six years in the British Army, serving in North Africa and Burma. Even those years were not music-free, however. In 1943, he heard Jimmy Witherspoon sing with Teddy Weatherford in Calcutta. In 1949, he came to the U.

    S. briefly, but returned to England before coming back permanently in 1959. He immediately became engrossed in the jazz scene, landing a gig as the New York jazz correspondent for the British paper Melody Maker and spending his nights at the clubs. To pay the bills, he also started work at the Sam Goody store at 245 W. 49th St. “That was the best store in the city,” says Atterton, who worked there until it was sold in 1978. “The stock, the organization, the way it was run. Plus being near the Brill Building and the jazz centers, everyone came in.

    ” His customers, many of whom became his friends, included Artie Shaw, Hawkins, Ben Webster, Wingy Manone, Pee Wee Russell, Cozy Cole, Red Allen, Zutty Singleton and Bud Freeman. “I was pretty good at finding music,” he says. “I don’t recall anything I couldn’t get.

    ” The key, of course, is that his work is what he would have been doing anyway. “Jazz,” he says, “has been quite consuming for me.

    ” His personal collection includes some 3,000 LPs, which he prefers to CDs, and goes back to his British Parlophone 78s. Musically, it runs to the traditional. “Kenny G,” he says, “is not playing jazz. When some of today’s ‘jazz’ musicians play ‘ ‘Round Midnight,’ to me it sounds like it’s barely ‘ ‘Round Noontime.

    ‘ ” As for the future, he plans to take it easy. “I’m just going to retire,” he says. “My steel legs aren’t quite as reliable as they used to be.

    ” Nor is the retail music biz.

  16. I would often run into Jeff at the old J & R on Park Row, during my days in NYC ( 1981 – 1986 and 1992 – 1996 ). He was indeed very knowledgeable: something like a fish out of water, as the article indicates. I believe that he also worked as a record producer. Petty sure he was responsible for a Max Morath album on Vanguard. I recall looking for a particular This Is Jazz LP re-issue. Not the Rarities, which I already had. In any case, Jeff knew the history of Rudi Blesh, and his association with ” Jazz on the ( Hudson ) River “. Rudi introduces a James P. solo performance of Ain’tcha Got Music, as something that he played on one of those boats on the Hudson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s