I grew up in Arkansas, in a town called Malvern, a town of about 9,000 people. We had this one little record shop in town, Paula’s Records. It was the only place you could buy records. The old lady that ran it, Paula, used to chase us out of there because we’d stay all day, just looking at the records. We couldn’t really afford to buy them.
The first record I ever bought was in Paula’s, it was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. I bought the 45 and it was the time I’d ever bought anything with my own money. To this day, that record is the thing I credit as being the catalyst for me wanting to be in the entertainment business, particularly in a band.
When we went in there, we’d just look through everything. We would thumb through the 45s in those paper sleeves and look at the pictures. We had these fan magazines in those days, and we’d see the bands and then there we were, looking at their records. Most of the time we couldn’t afford to buy them, so we’d just stare.
I remember every label, and that’s one of the things I miss, even about CDs. CDs are fine, its what we have now, but, in those days the labels were so important to us, to see Vanguard or Columbia or RCA or Capitol or Verve or any of those.
The spirit in that store was so incredible to us. It was like walking into the Magic Kingdom. We didn’t care about going to Disneyland, but we loved to go to the record store.
She sold a few musical instruments, not much stuff, but enough for us to stare at. We’d look through the Dave Clark Five records, the Beatles, the Stones, Tom Jones, and some of the country records, but when I was a kid it was all about the British Invasion and the 60s pop rock records, and we’d stay so long that Paula would chase us out, make us leave. She’d say “If you’re not gonna buy anything, you gotta get outta here.” She was a nice woman, at least when you first got there, but she could be a little cranky. Still, that store, to me, to this day, is just a magical memory. We don’t have those stores much anymore, and the ones that are left are the only remnant of that childhood that was so beautiful.
Hopefully Independent Record Stores will stick around. I hope the corporations don’t obliterate every one of them. I’m a big fan of actual record stores. I wish they’d bring vinyl back, period. I wish we didn’t download songs, but that’s the way it is. Hopefully that spirit’s going to be here from now on no matter what we have. Just don’t close the doors. Don’t close the doors to our history.
If I had any advice for young musicians coming up it’d be to learn the history of music. Study what came before, in the 40s and 50s. If you don’t know that stuff, the foundation of what you’re doing is built on, then you’ve really got no business doing it. Rock and Roll, and music period, were created a long time ago, its not something that just came up yesterday. Music is too attached to fashion now. It always has been, but now it’s mainly the fashion, and a little music. So hopefully people are going to look back and see where it all came from. There was a period in rock and roll from the mid-fifties through about 1973 or 1974 when they did pretty much everything, so don’t try to reinvent something. Have your own mind, but do study where it came from, and the independent record store is where you can do that.
—Billy Bob Thronton, front man for The Boxmasters