The Bestest Music Stores….
Wow. Been a little time between posts here, but thank you for sticking with me.
There has been a lot going on both in my day job and with just the stuff of day-to-day life. As a result I have not done as much of this kind of writing as I should like to, but rest assured there’s a lot of music that I’m going to want to share with you.
Both “In a Minor Key” and “Clouds” are in the final stages of mixdown. Terrance has been doing incredible work with these tunes, making them pop in ways that I hadn’t really appreciated they could. I am really, really excited to share them with you, and we will do some kind of a formal release in the coming weeks. I will post details here when we are ready.
I was thinking just yesterday about how the ability to pick up a guitar and play, write, and sing for people has been such an incredible relief during this period.
I was also thinking back to when I was learning to play, and the things that both sustained me, and also could very easily have caused me to stop. I was thinking of this in the context of what has happened to music stores over the past 20 years, and I began to wonder a little.
Those of you musicians who know New York of old know that 48th St. between 6th and 7th was where all the guitar stores were. I can think of at least seven, including Sam Ash, Manny’s, Rudy’s, and the aptly named We Buy Guitars. Now of course I used to go there as a teenager and stare at the guitars all the time (“Hey kid – got a credit card? Gonna buy…. anything?”), but somewhat later I had the fortune (misfortune?) of working at the corner of 6th between 47th and 48th for about six years.
You might or might not be surprised at the change in a sales associate’s demeanor when you walk in wearing a tie rather than as a 16-year-old long-haired kid.
And I guess that’s my point because let me give you a contrast:
There’s a fabulous music store called O. DiBella Music on Washington Ave. in Bergenfield, NJ. It’s the kind of place that my Jewish not-quite-my-grandmother would refer to as haimish. Now over a hundred years old, the store was very much a neighborhood tradition, and they knew their clientele.
My 16-year-old self was their clientele.
16-year-old me did not have a car, so I would pedal the 6.2 miles from my house down to DiBella to shop for, lust over, and occasionally buy musical equipment. There was never any snotty question out of anybody running the counter, and in fact exactly the opposite. Tons of encouragement, tons of help, tons of questions answered.
One particular summer day, I rode all of those miles on the bicycle down to the store and purchased this little beauty. An early 80s Gibson “The Paul” that has been with me ever since.
By the way, I did not buy a case that day. I carried that guitar by its neck while I pedaled the 6.2 miles back home.
The guitar has been through a lot. It’s been dropped on 89th St. in Manhattan, had its headstock snapped off, and repaired – ironically – at Rudy’s Music Stop on 48th St. – and oh my god it is still my favorite guitar. It feels fabulous; it moves air like you wouldn’t believe. The action is wonderful. And if there is anything that truly defines my tone, it’s that guitar.
So, is Sam Ash still on 48th St.? Does Manny’s still exist? No.
Is O. DiBella still going strong in the original location? Oh hell yes. And I cannot thank them enough for the support and good advice they gave a 16-year-old kid.
Be safe. Rock on.