Lately, it’s been harder and harder to come by the good old local music shops that I fondly remember as a kid, and that was a big part of my experience as a musician who was growing up in a very special era, when the music store became a very big deal indeed. In fact, the music shop had become among my first really great “performance” spots! It was not unusual, (and still isn’t!) to find me in the shop, working out bigtime on a guitar, and to be developing a nice little crowd of onlookers.
Even “back in the day”, this used to help develop my reputation as a player, as you simply would never know who might be listening….
These days, many stores have gained in size, and have by that fact alone, become a bit more impersonal. You also have to remember that growing up in NYC, I always used to go to 48th street, and check out all the stores there on “Beatle Boulevard”, as it used to be called.
On that one little street, one could find the entire breadth of music store types in one small area, You had the impersonal, chaotic, yet legendary, Manny’s Music, where you almost had to be a star to even feel free to ask to play something. There was the incredibly friendly Terminal Music…they used to have a slogan “We’re the nice Guys!”, which actually carried some real meaning behind it, especially if you’d already gotten the Manny’s treatment! Ben’s Music was a simple, old school, crowded, yet friendly place, where even when buying my first electric guitar there meant I would also meet Charlie Watts of The Stones, who later remembered me as “the first kid in America to recognize me!” when his friend called me up on British radio, when I was guest-deejaying, and telling that story some 25 years later! I noticed at that time, that the music stores in the U.K. had all resembled the closeness and laid-back quality of Ben’s Music, which now tells me why Charlie must’ve chosen to go there instead of the larger, more hectic stores.
There was also a great shop in the Bronx, where I was from, called Bronen’s Music, where I used to get off the school bus every day just to look, and seemingly left a deposit daily on yet another beautiful guitar I had fallen in love with. This of course, with full knowledge that my Dad, due to financial reasons, would have to say “no”. Still, I always tried. I still fantasize about going back there are trying to claim all the classics I had put $10 deposits on way back then in ’66! Especially a certain ES 355 I can’t get out of my mind! (I was also falling in love with B.B. at that time!)
So, to this day, I am still on a constant quest to seek out these great places of the past…and not only music shops with that great old character, but also old car dealerships, pawnshops, you name it! Till next time, wish me happy hunting!