The New Spin
Most baby boomers can remember spending hours combing through racks of vinyl phonograph records in stores looking for their favorite band’s latest release. Before most boomers even had their driver licenses, though, the music industry was already changing. Vinyl records gave way to eight-track tapes, then to cassettes, followed by supposedly superior sounding compact discs. And even those CDs seemed to be going the way of vinyl records because of digital releases and the popularity of iTunes.
But a renewed interest in vinyl recordings has been growing in recent years. Once on the brink of extinction, vinyl record stores are, in fact, rebounding. Scattered around the South are several well-known retailers where music lovers are discovering timeless reminders of a rich cultural past. The following “must-visit” record stores just might be the perfect places to search for a 45-rpm of Elvis Presley’s 1956 hit, “Blue Suede Shoes” or The Beatles 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band Club” album.
Doyle Davis and Mike Grimes founded Grimey’s in 1999. The present location opened in 2002, and Grimey’s Too was added in 2012. The addition of the Frothy Monkey Coffee shop and a Howlin’ Wolf Bookstore have also helped attract crossover customers, who have been crucial to success.
“Mike caught the music promotion bug, and it gave me the chance to quit working for someone else,” said Davis. “When Frampton Comes Alive (’76) and Saturday Night Fever came out (’77), we realized we could make big money at this. But record stores got too big and then came digital.”
Like the music itself, independent record stores have gone back to their roots, and are surviving and thriving today.
“In the beginning years, it was mostly used albums but now with so many new releases on vinyl, we sell more new albums and re-releases than used,” said Davis, who noted that United Record Pressing – the largest vinyl record manufacturer in the country – is just blocks away.
Half of Grimey’s customers are female, following breakout stars like Margo Price whose autographed picture is on the wall. Price was one of the live performances that Grimey’s hosted.
“Yeah, she’s played here and we really like Margo,” he said. “Luke Schneider who plays in Margo’s band still does a shift behind the counter when they are in town. “We have the pleasure of working with some amazing talent at Grimey’s.”
1604 8th Ave. South, Nashville
Located in the heart of Memphis, Shangri-La Records has quite a history. The site originally featured sensory deprivation tanks prior to becoming a record store and later a label. Shangri-La Projects was formed as a publishing arm for books and documentaries about Memphis Music.
“The store has hosted countless free shows from past luminaries like Ike Turner, Jim Dickinson, Little Milton and many more,” said John Miller co-owner of Shangri-La. “This tradition continues today with the likes of Luther Dickinson playing shows on the front porch.”
Miller, who co-owns the store with Jared McStay, said about 75 percent of the records sold at the store are used.
“We sell tons of records by classic independent Memphis labels like Sun, Stax and Hi records,” he said. “These include Elvis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Albert King and Ann Peebles for starters.”
Miller is also seeing a trend of younger collectors purchasing modern records from a wide variety of genres.
“You just have to adapt,” Miller explained. “We’ve taken down many of our CD racks and added 45s and album box sets.”
The owners believe the future is bright for the record industry. The explosion in interest in vinyl records brought a complementary boom in record pressing. The nearby Memphis Record Pressing is a partnership between Fat Possum Records (think Southern rocker Jimbo Mathus) and Audiographic Masterworks.
“This kind of partnership has allowed local, independent labels to expand their vinyl catalogues and reach a new audience of fans,” Miller said.
1916 Madison Ave, Memphis
End of All Music
“We take pride in being a top-tier record store with the highest quality new and used records,” said David Swider of End of All Music in Oxford. “When you come in, it’s an extension of our living room; it’s comfortable and very chill.”
Only 1,200-square-feet, the store doesn’t have space to waste. Therefore, Swider pays close attention to the titles he stocks and keeps the inventory very organized.
He estimates the inventory to be around 12,000 records, including a vast selection of 45s. End of All Music also stocks entry to mid-level turntables, a logical product extension.
“When folks walk into our shop, we want them to know we mean business,” Swider says. “There is no denying you’re in a real record store.”
“The store sells new releases from Chris Stapleton and Alex G, to reissues of The Beatles and Bob Dylan,” added Swider. “We also have a classical music section.”
End of All Music opened in 2012, and Swider thinks the storm of transition has already passed for stores like his.
“I feel pretty confident that vinyl is going to outlast all the other physical formats of music,” he said. “The digital world and streaming services are going to be constantly changing while vinyl will always be here.”
End of All Music
1423 N Lamar Blvd, Oxford
T-Bones is more than a record store and café. Open since 2002, the store has become a social center for Hattiesburg where shoppers can find a large inventory of vinyl records as well as books and food.
“We get a lot of curious shoppers who like to flip through the vinyl just to bolster conversation,” said Mik Davis, record store manager. “Once we make a connection, they visit again and again.”
Rock ‘n’ roll maintains the crown with stalwarts like Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones and Beetles as top sellers, but there is also a bit of a formula at work.
“We buy across a wide spectrum in hopes of lighting up a country release like Chris Stapleton or hip-hop like Kendrick Lamar,” Davis explained.