Record Town Resurgence celebrates musical heritage


August 4, 2021

Record Town owners Thomas B. Reynolds, left, and Bill Mecke, right, have moved the store from 3025 S. University Dr. to 120 St. Louis Ave. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Fort Worth shaped the music world in several ways – to name a few, the spontaneous fusion of jazz with the country-style violin in 1929 to create an idiom called Western Swing; the triumph of the pianist Van Cliburn in 1958 at the Tchaikowsky Competition in Moscow; and the emergence of jazz and rock titans such as Ornette Coleman, King Curtis Ousley, Ray Sharpe and Cornell Depree of IM Terrill High School on the South Side.

A comparable legacy rests on a determined store called Record Town – 64 Years as the source of countless collections and immeasurable inspiration for new generations of musical talent. Three of those unbroken years have passed since 2018 under a new owner which represents a practical continuation of what the Bruton family of Fort Worth had accomplished with Record Town, starting with the opening in 1957.

“We knew the time would come when Record Town could be gone,” new co-owner Thomas B. Reynolds, breeder and real estate developer, said during a recent visit. As a longtime collector and musician, Reynolds had observed Director Gerard Daily’s efforts to keep the doors open as the music industry as a whole moved away from compact disc recordings while seeing a resurgence of popular interest in long-lasting records on vinyl decks.

The gradual retirement of co-founder Kathleen Bruton (1923-2020) had cost the store a major focus as her son, T. Sumter Bruton III, frankly admitted: “I just go through the motions.”

Record Town’s original location was near Texas Christian University on 3025 S. University Drive. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

The familiar address, 3025 S. University Drive, was facing rising real estate rents, and Sumter III had begun to consider a closure and liquidation. Reynolds and another enthusiast, Burleson maker Bill Mecke, inquired about an outright purchase including the Record Town brand.

“We came to the same conclusion,” Reynolds said. “We said, ‘We have to keep going,’ out of respect for the Bruton family – as long as Gerard comes with the store. He knows the operation inside and out, and as a transition manager he has the knowledge of the old school record store and new online catalog expertise to increase the service and inventory maintenance for which Record Town is known. “

Daily had discovered Record Town by enrolling at Texas Christian University in 1971 as a newcomer from San Antonio: found in San Antonio, ”he said. Daily’s involvement since the 2010s has been an incremental process – from part-time staff to product ordering and general operations to the manager.

In 2018, ownership passed from the original owners of Record Town to Bill Mecke, a Burleson-based manufacturer, and Thomas B. Reynolds, a ranchman and real estate developer. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

“It’s a library,” Mecke added. “It’s what educated so many of us vinyl addicts and broadened the way we enjoy music – a unifying force.”

The new address is 120 St. Louis Ave., a 1,000 square foot space in a South Side office and storefront complex. The site also bears the symbolic street name of T Bone Burnett, the songwriter-producer who traces his Grammy-winning and Oscar-winning career back to the influence Record Town had on him as a youth. Plentifully stocked with new and collectable vinyl records, the St. Louis site also has a museum-like “Wall of Fame” display for floor-to-ceiling photographs and posters covering the history of the music scene in New York. Fort Worth.

Fort Worth author and historian Joe Nick Patoski of Austin considers Record Town “one of those unplanned institutions that tell the stories of our culture and our city, and the music that permeates them.”

“At best,” Patoski added, “independent record stores functioned as community centers. Record Town, operated by Kathleen and Sumter Bruton (Jr.), filled out that bill and then some. Bruton’s sons, Stephen and Sumter III, were some of Fort Worth’s brightest and most influential musicians at the turn of the 20th century, along with their friend T-Bone Burnett,… who credits the store with his musical education.

Record Town has a museum-like “Wall of Fame” for floor-to-ceiling photographs and posters covering the history of the Fort Worth music scene. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

“The process of transmitting musical knowledge continued until the death of Sumter (Jr.) (in 1988) until the original location was closed. Towards the end, the young Sumter (III) took a guitar from the wall and loaned it to a young customer named Leon Bridges, who liked to pick a few pieces from the store, ”said Patoski, referring to Bridges’ emergence in recent years as a successful artist in his own right. .

Reynolds said many people have raised this question about a move: “You keep the sign, don’t you? The chronic investigation was about the neon on the roof that Sumter Bruton, Jr., ordered in 1958 – a 50-50 investment with the RCA Victor label, depicting Nipper, Victor’s trademark Jack Russell terrier, facing a gramophone . The answer was, “Yes.” Signage was moved to be installed atop the St. Louis location shortly after the store moved.

Mecke and Reynolds agree that the resurgence is more of a labor of love commitment than a business plan tied to a formula: “The goal,” Reynolds said, “is to be – to continue to be – this place where people come to seek the music that supports them. “

Nevertheless, the strategy figures significantly in the development of a web catalog to increase in-store transactions. (The Bruton family had resisted computerization.) Vinyl records dominate the inventory of about 20,000 titles across all genres. As a growing number of hobbyists rely on digital downloads as a source of recorded music, popular interest in manually operated turntable vinyl decks has also grown, a medium once considered obsolete in light of the rise of the CD format in the 1980s.

An equally ambitious development is independent vinyl label, Record Town Records, which has launched a planned line of local historic reissues with a remaster of Robert Ealey & the Five Careless Lovers: Live at the New Blue Bird Nite Club – one produced album. in 1973. by T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton (younger brother of Sumter III) at the iconic Blues Hall in the Como neighborhood of Fort Worth.

Joe Nick Patoski added: “Perhaps the most amazing quality of Record Town is that it has managed to convey this spirit of bringing people to great music in a new place under a new owner. to make pilgrimages to the record store that tells Fort The stories of Worth and the stories of American culture through music for good reason: that’s where it happens. “

“The most important thing for us is to carry on the legacy of Record Town,” said Mecke.

(Michael H. Price, a Record Town regular since 1980 and author of Fort Worth Jazz from the Top in 2018, has occasionally collaborated on music creation projects with (full disclosure) Sumter Bruton III and Tom Reynolds.)

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