MORE ABOUT ......................................
MY MEMORIES OF TIMES SQUARE RECORD SHOP
memories of Times Square Records go back 35 years, to when I was 15 years old.
In those days, I listened to Alan Freed on the radio during the week and heard
many great songs by different vocal groups. That began my infatuation with vocal
groups and R&B records - when I heard a song I liked , I had to have
Saturdays, my friend Marty Dorfman and I would go up to Manhattan looking for
any records by singing groups that we didn't already have. We bought used
records for 5 & 10 cents a piece, paying up to 25 cents for hard-to-finds we
really wanted. At those prices, I was able to amass a fairly large collection.
of the best stores Marty and I came across was a little store off the corner of
43rd Street & 6th Avenue. It was a costume jewelry store that also sold
records at twenty for a dollar. I guess I must have visited that store six or
seven times and got most of the records in my collection there. The store's name
escapes me now, but I do remember that it was owned by a couple named Slim and
Arlene. As winter approached in late '58, our trips to the store had to stop
because of the weather and our responsibilities as high-school students.
April or May of 1959, we went back to the store and found it was no longer
there. On our way back from the record stores on 42nd & 8th Avenue, we
entered the subway at the foot of the Times Building at 42nd & 7th. As we
walked down the first flight of stairs to the landing, I glanced into the store
near the entrance and saw the gentleman who had owned the store on 43rd Street,
remember walking into the store & meeting Slim at the doorway. I noticed he
didn't carry records any more; his new place was strictly a costume jewelry
store. I asked him what had happened to the records from the other store. He
told me he had them all stored in boxes at the back of this new store. He said
he didn't think he wanted to sell the records here, since this new store was
fairly small, and selling costume jewelry was much more profitable. I asked him
if it would be all right for me to go through the boxes of records in the back
room; maybe I would find some records I could buy from him. Out of five or six
thousand records that I looked through, I picked out maybe three to four hundred
that interested me. I only had about two or three dollars with me at the time,
so I asked Slim if he would hold the records I couldn't pay for and I would come
back in the following Saturdays to pick them up, and he agreed. I asked if he
thought about putting the records out in the store again and if he would be
getting any more new records in. He said he really didn't know.
asked Slim if he would be interested in letting me work in the store after
school every Friday, and on Saturdays and Sundays so I could pay for the records
I had picked out. He said he really wasn't doing enough business to be
able to afford any help; it was just him and his wife. Besides, he didn't
feel there was any need for another worker in the store. I suggested that
maybe if he brought the records out from the back, I could run the "Record
Department" for him. Slim laughed and told me that with the amount of money
he had been taking in on the records in the other store, he couldn't even afford
to buy lunch.
I suggested to Slim that he wouldn't even have to pay me in cash, he could pay
me in records. I thought it could become a very profitable business.
The records he had were very desirable and he probably could do a lot better
than a nickel a record. He didn't really understand what I was getting at, and I
showed him that if we took the sleeve of the record and wrote on it the artist,
title, the release date, and put 250 or 500 or $1 or whatever on the sleeve, we
could take in more money than just the 50. Because of the larger profit, it
would make a lot of sense for him to hire me. He really wasn't getting what I
was saying; he couldn't comprehend that someone might actually want to pay more
than a nickel a piece for these records. I said, "Let's try it for a
week and see what happens. You don't have to pay me unless you take in more than
the nickel a record you were getting before."
wrote up the info on the sleeves of maybe 50-75 records and took push pins and
put them along the back wall of the store, the wall facing the customers as they
walked in. With a Magic Marker, I wrote the word "Records" on a
piece of paper and stuck it in the window. The following Friday after school I
came back and asked Slim if he had sold any records for more than the nickel he
used to charge. He said he figured he had taken in about $23, and maybe
$21 of that was more profit than he had made at his old selling price.
Since my idea seemed to be successful, he agreed to let me work in the store and
I got paid 75cents an hour, with the equivalent in records being 15 45's per
hour. He only let me work 5 hours, until we could generate more business.
Needless to say, the whole back wall was written up and I tried to do as much
business as I could, so I could make this a regular part-time job on the
weekends. The following week, the Record Department took in around $40, and from
that point on, I HAD A JOB!
been working part time at Slim's store for maybe three months. In that time, the
business never really did more than $100 per weekend with the oldies, but Slim
was very happy with that, and so was I. But I also felt there was tremendous
potential in what we were doing, if we could make people aware of it. After all,
we were in a sort of remote location, with not much traffic walking by the
Saturday nights I used to listen to an oldies show on WHOM called "Night
Train With Alan Fredericks". I felt that if we took out a couple of spots
on the Night Train show, we could bring in a lot more business. One Saturday
right before closing, at about 11:30, 1 went over to the radio station where
Alan Fredericks was broadcasting and waited for him to get off the air. I
remember bringing about 5 or 6 records with me I felt would fit right in, and
that I hadn't ever heard on the Night Train show. Being that the show was only
an hour every week, I got to know the music and remember the records he played,
because they all happened to be records I liked.
introduced myself to Alan as he came out of the radio station. I said I was a
listener of his and I worked at a record store that sold exclusively the kind of
music he played. I told him the store had a lot of records that fit in with the
show, and I was wondering if he could play some of them and perhaps in turn
promote the store. Alan said that he didn't feel he could do something like
that, because the mentions would be commercials, and since radio stations make
their money on commercials, they wouldn't go along with his promoting something
without getting paid. I believe he said spots at that time in the evening were
$10-15 each and I should check with my boss and see if he was interested in
taking out maybe 2 or 3 spots on the show promoting the store, and he'd be glad
to do the commercials. I told Alan I'd have to talk to Slim the next day
(Sunday) and get back to him, stopping by the station the following Saturday.
When I told him about Alan's suggestion, Slim looked at me like I was crazy and
said there was no way he would spend $15 on a spot to promote the store. He said
there were so many record stores, it didn't make sense to do anything like that.
following Saturday, I went back and explained the situation to Alan, giving him
some more records to play. I then suggested to Alan that perhaps while he was
playing some of these records, he could once or twice mention that they were
"lent to him by Jerry who works at Times Square Records at 42nd and
Broadway." In doing that, maybe we'd get a response and I could eventually
convince Slim to advertise on a regular basis, if it proved to be successful.
remember some of the records I had given him that week: "Tormented" by
The Heartbeats, "Dream Of A Lifetime" by The Flamingos, and one of my
favorites, "Without A Friend", by The Strangers. Also included was a
record by The Five Crowns, either "A Star" or "You're My
Inspiration" (I'm not sure which side he played). Alan was familiar with
The Flamingos and The Heartbeats, but he didn't know these sides of theirs. He'd
never heard of either The Strangers or The Five Crowns. At the time, Alan was
playing what you would call more "mainstream" records, by groups that
were more familiar, like The Heartbeats, The Valentines, and The Cleftones,
groups that were known by a lot of collectors. What I tried to do was give Alan
alternative music, things that weren't heard all the time, which would give the
show more interest. Alan said he was getting a lot of phone calls asking for
different records, and he would give me mentions during the show in exchange for
lending him the records. That week, Alan mentioned the store twice during
Saturday night's show.
Sunday hours at Slim's store were 12:00 to 9:00. The Sunday after our first
mention on the Night Train show, I got off the subway at about 11:30. As I
headed towards the store, I couldn't help noticing a crowd of people. I walked
through the concourse and got out on the other side of 7th Avenue, because there
weren't any people on that side. I crossed the street and tried to make my way
through this huge crowd to the subway entrance where the record store was. I
asked some of the people, mainly kids, what was going on. They said they were
waiting for the record store to open. I pushed my way through the crowd of kids
and after about 5 or 10 minutes, I got close to the steps where the store was
and waited for Slim to show up.
12:00, Slim still hadn't arrived. My usual routine on a Sunday after opening was
to go across the street to Grant's and buy Slim two hot dogs and a soda, so I
thought I should check to see it he was at Grant's. Sure enough, Slim was
sitting at the counter. After I told Slim the reason for the crowd outside, we
ventured back across the street and opened the store, and were busy till
closing. It was so exciting to see that many people interested in the kind of
music I liked; I felt we were on the right track with the advertising.
lot of the customers who came in those early days objected to the prices. They
didn't like the idea that we were selling some of the records for more than $1.
1 told them that if they had a copy of say, "Secret Love" by The
Moonglows, which we were selling for $3, 1 would be glad to give them $1.50 in
credit towards anything they wanted. Basically, at that point, I began to offer
anybody half in credit for anything that they brought in that we had on the wall
at a higher price. The records we offered at a higher price were those I felt
were harder to get, and didn't see that often. I had been to 10-15
different shops as a collector, and I could tell hard‑to‑find
records from the more common ones by their availability.
that they could maybe make money on this inspired people to get rid of the
records they didn't care for and exchange them for other records. I would go
through people's collections and pull out records they wanted to trade in and
give them half of what we had them on the wall for. If they were records that we
normally sold for $1, I'd give 500 credit toward any other purchase. If there
were records I didn't know by major groups, I'd also give 500. If they were
records that didn't look like records we would sell, I would figure them at
somewhere around 50 each.
made out very well with that trade in system, because in many cases we
would pay 50 for a record and end up selling it for $1, making 20 times the
initial investment. The records that we were paying half a dollar for, I'd
listen to at night. If I thought they were good, I'd sell them for $2, $3, or
$5. By the end of the summer of '59, when I had to go back to school, the most
we'd sold a record for was $10, and I remember Slim was thrilled to make that
much of a prof it. Since our inventory was growing so quickly, Slim and I came
in early on one Sunday and built counters along the left and right walls. We
expanded the counters, making the store 100% records. The costume jewelry was
moved to the boxes in the back room. Because of the trade‑in system, our
inventory grew quite a bit. We sold the records at the back counter and along on
the radiator opposite the counter for 3 for a dollar (we couldn't watch those
that much, so if we lost them it wouldn't be that big a deal). We put the 78s
all the way in the back of the store. We did very little in 78s, but because
they were group records and the kind of music we were selling, and occasionally
we did get some people asking for 78s, we took them in on trade. The most we
paid on a 78 was, I think, 250, and if it were a group record, we would pay 50.
If they were anything else, we weren't interested in them, but people ended up
leaving them there anyway.
September of '59, 1 had to go back to school. Up till then, it had just been the
three of us at the store: Slim, his wife Arlene, and myself. I then suggested to
Slim and he agreed that someone else would have to be there during the day, so I
hired one of the customers I liked and used to go to lunch with, Harold Ginsberg.
Until that time, I had been the only one giving credit for records, since Slim
wasn't really that knowledgeable about oldies then. So I taught Harold what to
do; I showed him how much credit to give on the trade‑ins, and how to be
fair with the customers.
started up again in September, and I was attending The School of Visual Arts at
23rd Street in Manhattan. School let out at about 2:00, and I would get to the
store around 2:30. Every Friday, as soon as I got to the store, Slim and I would
go straight to Portem Distributors on 1 Oth Ave., where Slim got all his old 45s
back then. We paid, I believe, about 20 per record. We always took a big Checker
Cab back from Portem, giving the driver an extra $5 so we could bring back 40 or
50 cartons of records.
on Fridays, I would pick out about 15 records for Alan Fredericks to feature on
the weekly Night Train show. I used to write notes about each of the records,
maybe who the lead singer was, or if this was the artist's second or third
record, or what label the record was on, and any other pertinent information. I
would leave the store at around 9:00 on Fridays and go over to 53rd and 1st
Avenue, where Alan lived at Sutton Terrace. I left the records with the doorman.
We did this for about a year; Alan would get the records, play them that
Saturday night, and when I brought new records on Friday night, I'd pick up the
I'd call Alan and ask what he thought of the records, what were the most
requested records, and if there was anything special he wanted. Alan was a very
easy person to deal with. I'd call different record companies and ask them
to reissue certain titles and when we got them in, Alan would say that
"Times Square Records now has available for the first time on the Atlas
label 'I Belong To You' by The Fi-Tones, and 'Yvonne' by The
Parakeets." If there was anything we had just gotten in that week, Alan
would announce that as part of our spot. If records received a lot of requests,
or people were looking for hard-to-find records, he'd sometimes play
them and offer $5, $10, or $15 or $20 or whatever it might be for the record in
credit towards other records.
recall that once on a trip to Philadelphia I picked up a record by The Hideaways
called "Can't Help Lovin' That Girl Of Mine". I had never heard it
before and thought it was a great record. I remember programming the record on
the show and offering $5 in credit. Maybe two weeks later I offered $10. 1 think
the record went up to $100 in credit towards another purchase, but we weren't
able to get another copy.
lot of records got their values from that show, because of their availablity or
their scarcity. A lot of records were started on the show through offering
credit. If the demand became great, we would try to contact the companies and
have them reissue them. The first record that we re-issued was "Sweetest
One" by The Crests on the Joyce label, for which we received hundreds of
calls. I contacted the record company and we ordered 3,000 copies of the record.
In the first two weeks, we sold close to 1,000 of them.
Train had a very loyal audience. As time went on, the show's popularity grew and
our sales in the store increased steadily and things were going along very well.
Occasionally, though, we had a few problems. A lot of times collectors would
come in or congregate outside the store and deal and trade records among
themselves. Then they began to approach customers who were on their way into the
store, asking to see what records they were bringing in to sell or trade for
credit. I was forced at times to ban some collectors from coming into the store
because of their soliciting other collectors outside. This didn't make me too
popular at the time, but I felt a responsiblity to Slim and I took it upon
myself to do these things, since I felt part of the business and a lot of its
success were due to my efforts.
the most interesting part of my job at Times Square Records was tracking down
different manufacturers and getting them to reissue different product on their
labels. I enjoyed dealing with the various people at these companies. I remember
going to Hull Records and meeting Bea Kaslin and persuading her to reissue some
of the Hull titles for which we received requests. I bought her overstock on all
the old records by The Heartbeats, The Avons, The Belftones, The Legends and The
Desires. There was a new record out at the time by The Desires, and it was
always interesting to get new titles.
met and dealt with George Goldner of Rama and Gee Records, Hy Weiss of Old Town
Records, Ben Smith of Atlas Records, Bobby Robinson of Red Robin Records, Paul
Winley of Winley Records, Sid Nathan of King Records, and Herman Lubinsky of
Savoy Records. There were also people from a lot of the smaller labels, like Gil
Snapper at Worthy Records (The Interiors), and Bob Schwade at Music Makers
Records (The Imaginations), Hiram Johnson at Johnson Records (The Dubs, The
Shells) and Jack Brown at Fortune Records.
retrospect, maybe contacting Jack Brown wasn't such a good idea. I had made a
deal with him to get "The Wind" by The Diablos reissued, along with 8-10
other Diablos records, plus maybe 10‑15 other records on the Fortune label
that we had gotten reissued, This led to an unfortunate situation. In my
discussions with Jack, he mentioned that he had a warehouse in Detroit with
about 50,000 records. Slim's wife Arlene, whose mother lived in Detroit, offered
to take a trip to Fortune Records. She could go through the records and let me
know what was there, and pay her mother a visit as well. I bought Arlene a round-trip
ticket at the Greyhound bus terminal.
after arriving in Detroit, Arlene called me to say she wasn't coming back and
she wanted me to tell Slim! I told her I didn't think it was my place to tell my
boss that his wife was leaving him. So, Arlene told Slim herself, and she didn't
come back. Arlene and Slim had a little boy, Bobby, who Slim raised on his own.
Slim was depressed for several months about what had happened and sort of
withdrew from the business. He would come in late and didn't seem to care very
much about what went on at the store.
Slim came around, about 2 or 3 months later, he went completely the other way.
He tried to control what the people heard, forcing his musical preferences on
the customers. He concentrated on playing more uptempo songs, like "Silly
Dilly" by The Pentagons
of these records did well, like the flip side of "Ankle Bracelet",
"Hot Dog Dooly Wah" by The Pyramids, which was one of Slim's favorite
records and became fairly popular. All the Charters records and things like that
were very popular. But there were certain ones that were a little off-the-wall,
that a lot of people didn't like. One of the people that didn't like this new
direction was Alan Fredericks. In the summer of '60, Alan objected to playing a
lot of these records, and it caused a lot of friction between Times Square
Records and the Night Train show. Slim, in trying to be more active, took over
the programming of the show and began alienating Alan. I believe they stopped
speaking to each other altogether.
left the store in November of 1961, when I moved to Philadelphia to open a
record store that was the same kind as Times Square Records. I felt that I
couldn't open a store in New York and go into competion against Slim, because in
spite of everything, I still felt very close to him.
are a few reasons for my leaving Times Square Records. When I was starting my
second year of college, in September of 1961, 1 had asked Slim if there was a
chance of my getting a raise. I had been making the same 75cents an hour
since I started more than two years earlier, but instead of getting paid in
records for the last year, I had been receiving money. The cost of art supplies
was quite high, and I really needed the cash. Slim told me that it if I quit art
school, he would give me $1 an hour. He wouldn't compromise; if I didn't quit
school, I wouldn't get the raise. After all I had done for the store and my
loyalty to Slim, his giving me such an ultimatum really hurt.
deciding factor in my leaving Times Square Records came about on the day Slim
came in to the store, handed me a $2995 bill for a 1960 or - 61 Plymouth Fury,
and asked me to make out a check. (It was part of my job to pay all the bills
and balance the checkbook each month.) Opening the checkbook, I said, "I
thought you didn't have a driver's license." He said he was going to learn
to drive, Jenny was going to teach him. Jenny was a girl Slim had hired to work
in the store on a part-time basis. Slim became infatuated with Jenny, but I
don't think she felt the same way about him. Slim got to the point where he
would do anything to win her over, and so now he was buying her a car! I felt
very slighted; Slim had refused to give me a raise without any reason, but he
was spending $3000 to buy a car for Jenny. Looking back now, the picture seems
very clear, but back then I had trouble dealing with it; this was probably the
main reason for my leaving Times Square Records.
I left, there were five people working at the store: Slim, Jenny, Harold
Ginsberg, Johnny Esposito (another friend I made at the store and ended up
hiring), and another gentleman Slim had worked with years before in a different
business who came back to work with him again. I had been attending The School
of Visual Arts 5 days a week till 2:00 in the afternoon and The Fashion
Institute three nights a week, but when I quit my job at the store, I quit
school as well and moved to Philadelphia.
Record Museum, my first store, opened in
Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving in 1961.
Collectables records issued a multi-volume CD series on Times Square Records. These and other CD's can be purchased at Relic Record Shoppe. Call George Lavtelli at 201-342-484.