Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Brushes With Greatness - The Phonoluxe Years

As most of my loyal readers know I once worked at Phonoluxe Records in Nashville from 1993 until 1998. The store is still going strong so if you're ever in Nash Vegas be sure and stop in at 2609 Nolensville Road. There are plenty of used CD's, DVD's, and old records to cull through, just as long as you don't expect the staff to be overly friendly. The time I spent working there was incredible. I received one of the best musical educations in the country and got paid for it. The owner, Michael Smyth, is a walking encyclopedia of rock and roll and blues. One of the managers, Allenette, is an expert on Sixties garage bands. Besides also being a blues nut, the other manager Jeff is a surf freak with a top notch surf combo Thee Phantom 5ive. The surliest member of the crew who's still around from my old days is a dude named Dunneback and if you need to know anything about classic rock he will let you know if you ask him nicely. The sweetest person still at Phonoluxe is Olivia. I met her at a Fourth of July party thrown by Allenette when she was just fourteen and hobbling around on a broken foot and I knew she was destined to be a record store clerk like the rest of us at the party. Two of the best people I know left the store before I did and they have gone on to much bigger and better things: Chad, who was the little brother I never had, now works for and he edits the awesome webzine Friends Of Sound that you link to from the sidebar, and Mike, who works for the Country Music Hall Of Fame where he helped produce the fantastic Nashville soul box set Lost Highway released last year. Chad was the resident hip hop genius and college rock maven. Mike is a giant of jazz knowledge, but had in interest in anything good. I probably knew more about punk rock, but I'm a genre jumper attracted to all kinds of music which led to manic obsessions that would last for months and often as not coincided with Chad's interests. There was the Latin jazz phase including a huge bossa nova spell followed by acid jazz, lounge, Burt Bacharach records, samba, old school hip hop, and Dischord Record release to name but a few of our common pursuits. Some of my more personal fixations were on The Who, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Sir Lord Baltimore, Oasis, Pulp, Blur, and garage rock in general. It was a dream job being around music and music lovers all the time. The best was getting first dibs on incoming items although internal squabbling occurred lots of times - the most notable fight between Chad and me over an original Fat Albert record.


Enough of all that, I'm sure you fame hungry folks are just dying to hear about the big stars that walked through our doors. Well here's an initial list: Bill Lloyd, Steve Forbert, one of the Everly Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw, Lucinda Williams (I used to be the one who bought promo CD's off her, boy is she cool), David Allan Coe, Rick Nielsen, Tom Peterson, Ken Coomer, Billy Gibbons, Radney Foster (I bought the first 20/20 record after he sold it to the store), Peter Frampton, Raul Malo, Sonny Burgess (he told great Elvis stories), the Dr. Hook dude who didn't wear the patch, Emmylou Harris (her daughter worked at the store briefly), Webb Wilder (we sold a pair of his Doc Martens), Jason Ringenberg, Tanya Tucker (well, I don't know if she ever came into the store, but I bumped into at the Mexican store next door), and Kristi Rose. I'm sure I'll think of more when I get the chance.


Here's the scoop on Rick Nielsen. The dude is very tall and large. He also didn't spend very long in the place. For some reason when a rock star came in who wasn't a regular like Bill Lloyd or Steve Forbert I was always given the task of seeing what they wanted. I was never star struck so it was cool with me. I went up to the legend of Cheap Trick and asked him what he was looking for. I believe it was in 1997. He asked me if we carried any Not Lame releases. Not Lame was fairly new then and I asked him to repeat the question so I could make sure of the label. "You know, Not Lame, they're out of Boulder, Colorado," he said. When I said no, he just grumbled and quickly stalked back out. I knew then that I would need to find out what Not Lame Records was all about.




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