For the love of records

On Saturday, April 13, legions of music lovers around the globe will join together in celebration of Record Store Day. According to the Record Store Day website (which contains a trove of valuable information about RSD releases, participating stores, and the like), events will be held on every continent except Antarctica, which for as yet unknown reasons doesn’t have a record store.

The genesis of RSD is firmly rooted in the promotion of independent record stores of the brick-and-mortar variety, and the serendipitous vinyl resurgence since RSD’s inception in 2007 has only served to edify its position in the musical firmament. While global in scale, it could be argued that RSD is the preeminent proponent of shopping local.

The Great Escape is the grand dame of Nashville’s independent record stores. I worked at the original store — located in Midtown where Division Street splits off of Broadway — back in the early ’80s. It’s where I met Grimey’s New & Preloved Music co-owner Doyle Davis, as well as a host of other music lovers with whom I’m still friends to this day. Making any money was problematic, though; I always blew my check on records. Vinyl records, that is, because even though CDs hit the market in ’82, no one I knew could afford to spend a grand on a player, and the early CDs really  were noticably inferior — sonically speaking — to their 12″ counterparts.

Anyway, a decade or so later I’d gotten into the recording studio business and had a place in Berry Hill. One day while driving down Bransford I noticed a “Grimey’s” sign on a non-descript, mid-century-ranch house and decided to investigate. In I walked and was greeted by hand-me-down display racks filled to the brim with records. Actually, records were everywhere — in stacks on the floor, in boxes — there was nothing else in there. “Hello,” I called, and in walks Mike Grimes from the back of the house. “Hey man,” he said wearing his usual wry smile. “I don’t have any room left at my house for records, so I thought I’d open a store and sell some.” I seriously doubt he had any inkling of what his local empire would eventually become; nor did I, for that matter. The point is, Grimey and his partner Doyle do what they do for the love of music. And it shows — in the diverse collection at the new store on Trinity Lane and in the support they
give artists.

I can’t speak for them, but I would imagine they’d be the first to acknowledge they stand on the shoulders of giants. As Managing Editor and contributing writer Randy Fox’s story “The Emperor of Grooves” explains, independent record stores have had a presence in Nashville for well over a half century. Buckley’s Record Shop — along with Ernie’s Record Mart and Randy’s Record Shop — dominated not only Nashville’s retail-record landscape, but also, through their mail order businesses, the global one.

Young British kids with names like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and Mick and Keith, wouldn’t have had access to the music that inspired them were it not for these early pioneers. Needless to say, the world would be a much different place.

So, while you’re out on Record Store Day visiting The Groove or Vinyl Tap or Grimey’s or the Great Escape, it might be worth remembering the fact that independent records stores don’t exist in a vacuum; they didn’t just pop into existence for the benefit of “new” Nashville’s trustafarian crowd. On the contrary, they are steeped in traditions. These traditions have always underpinned everything that’s cool and groovy and musical about our fair city.