When I was growing up, there was several important business at the corner of 43rd and Indiana. Virtually everything you needed was found at that intersection. There was Battle’s Drugstore, The Food King grocery store, Elite Cleaners, a laundry mat, and a beauty salon where my sister did hair. There were also 2 barber shops – I got my hair cut at Vi’s from the time I was a toddler until I was into my twenties. And there was also Cherry’s.
I can remember being very young and walking into Cherry’s. I walked up to the bar, climbed up on one of the padded stools and placed my order. Cherry quietly turned around and filled my request. She wasn’t a bartender. She owned Cherry’s Records. It was sandwiched between the cleaners and the laundry. She was like a bartender though because she didn’t say much. She listened to her customers and to the music. She always had the top hits and new releases. She would go over to her racks, pick out the 45 or album you requested and place it on one of her turntables. She would place the needle on the record, and, after a few seconds, you would hear the music through the speakers on the walls. Yes, this was the one you asked for. Then, a voice would confirm it. It might be Michael or Smokey or Diana. She would let the needle float over the wax for a moment or two. Then, she would play the next request, if you had one. And sometimes, if she didn’t have other customers, she might let the entire song play. She pressed the button, the arm lifted the needle and swung back to its original position. She placed the record back in it’s sleeve, rang the sale and placed your purchase in a flat, brown paper bag, folding it over at the top.
Cherry was not just selling records. She was selling the music of the times, the music we loved. She wanted to make sure you had the right song before you left the store. And she wanted to make sure the record wasn’t warped and that it didn’t skip when you played it at home. She had all of the accessories too. Needles, spindles, sleeves…and if memories serve me correctly, her prices were a bit more than you would pay at other places. But they didn’t have the experience of Cherry’s.
National Record Day occurs on April 20th each year. And it’s an important celebration for me for several reasons. Personally, I have loved music all of my life. I grew up in the church and sang in the choir so I have a strong connection to gospel. I attended predominantly white schools until I was about 15. So, I was exposed to the rock of the 60’s and 70’s. As an African-American, my community, my neighborhood and house was filled with the sounds of Motown, Stax and Aretha Franklin. And in high school and college, my musical world expanded as I studied classical music and listened to jazz as I studied and did homework.
The other reason this day is important is because record stores truly don’t exist anymore. Neither do records for that matter. And the 8-track and cassette are extinct. They have evolved into the CD. And now, the next stage of evolution: the invisible mp3 or some track “in the cloud”. In the age of Kindle and the Internet, this generation does not have the experience of placing a wax disc on a turntable. And trying to steady your hand as you move the arm and place the needle over your favorite track. Or turning the cassette over to play side B. Instead of those wonderful Peaches crates to store a record collection, it’s all on a iPod, laptop, or even a phone. This certainly saves on storage. But they will never have a Cherry’s.
So today, I remember some of my favorite record stores in Kansas City:
- Tiger’s – Where the CDs, cassettes and albums were always even dollar amounts when the tax was added.
- Peaches – Home of the crates to store your 45’s, cassettes, and albums.
- Caper’s Corner
- Corky’s Records
- 7th Heaven
- PennyLane – In November of 1985, on the day I lost my job, I walked into PennyLane to buy an album to cheer me up. They were celebrating a milestone anniversary with a giveaway. If you had the winning ticket, you won an album a week for a whole year. Guess who got to increase their music library?
So, today, if you have a turntable, dust it off, grab an album and let the wax spin. Dig out that old cassette player and listen to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. And go to the Yellow Pages…ah, never mind. Go to the Internet and do a search for record stores in your area. Go there and buy a 45 or album…or even a CD if they have them. Buy several if you can because those record stores might be going the way of the 45, 33 1/3 and the 78.
As for me, I’ll be making a trip to Vinyl Renaissance to see what I can find. And I’ll be using my Crosley turntable to Ask Rufus and Chaka Khan.