Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Friday, April 8, 2011

Is Memphis the Northern Soul and Garage record capital?

There are two types of record shops in this world. On one end of the spectrum, you'll find the neat, well-organized stores with clearly defined sections and price tags on every record sleeve. Shangri-La Records and Goner Records in Memphis fall under that category.

Then there's the pack rat. Unmarked boxes of 45s dangerously staked on top of each other as far as the eye can see. A classification system? Usually non-existent. "Do you have any soul or 60s garage 45s?" is often met by "It should be somewhere in that area. Start with that corner."

It's where dust is as prevalent as a cheap copy of Donny and Mary. It's the kind of place that most probably breaks half a dozen fire code regulations and where cats often outnumber the customers.

River Records in Memphis is one such place. Located at 822 South Highland Street, it's a 45-minute bus ride from downtown. If you are a treasure hunter at heart, like I am, this should be right up your alley. Owned by a 73 year old man that has been in the business for 40 years, it's a crate digger's paradise. Jerry claims that he has 300 000 records in his collection. Does he really? I can guarantee that he doesn't have an Excel spreadsheet to prove it.

Usually, with a place like this, if you have a lot of time to spare, a little luck and a very understanding girlfriend, you can strike gold with a pocket full of change. This is not the case here. When you do find something worthwhile, you bring your stack up to the counter to have it appraised. Out comes the thick collectors price guide. Now, I have nothing against owners who choose to operate that way. But when you spend 3 hours rummaging through piles of sleeveless 7" to find a few rough copies of interesting northern soul tracks, you don't expect to pay full price for them. Especially when you can buy a nicer copy on eBay for the same price. It's simply not worth it.

You probably can sense that I had high expectations for this place but ultimately left disappointed. Better luck next time I guess. I did not leave empty handed. These are the few records that made the cut.

I bought a copy of the single Amen, Brother by The Winstons to find out, once home, that it had a small crack in it. So much for that one!

- Loosen Up - The Short Kuts - Pepper Records

Great Northern Soul track from this talented local Memphis group.

- I Live For The Sun - The Sunrays - Tower Records

Not Mod at all but a nice little surf number from this group from California. They were once the opening act for the Beach Boys.

- The Toys Sing "A Lover's Concerto" and "Attack" - LP - DynoVoice Records

An all-girl soul trio from Queens, New York.

So is Memphis the Northern Soul and Garage record capital? It guess it depends where you look...


  1. We've got an awful reality TV show here in the US (I've never seen it just viewed the commercials) called "Hoarders", set in people's homes who have too much stuff, I've often thought they should do one on book or record stores and I now know where they film the record shop episode!

  2. Yes! I've heard of that show. I believe it's on A&E. He would probably be a good candidate.

  3. Ugh. I can only imagine how pissed you'd be after digging out the records in the dust to have them "appraised" without regard for their condition or your time spent.

    -Capital Soul Club

  4. They found the owner dead tonight. Tragically his life was taken Thursday night when police say someone barged into the store on Highland, robbed the place and then opened fire.

    When detectives arrived, they found Gibson inside just feet from the front door.

  5. The guy who owns (owned) this place was robbed and killed last week on the evening of 12/8/16 I believe. Jerry Gibson, brother of Gibson Donuts founder. He was 80? So sad...