Thursday, 1 October 2009

RIP - Poplar Tunes, Memphis

I was saddened today to read in Now Dig This that the legendary Poplar Tunes Record Shop in Memphis closed down.

John Novarese and Joe Cuoghi opened Poplar Tunes in 1946 at 308 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. It became a part of rock 'n' roll folklore as the place where the young Elvis Presley bought his records, both before and after he got famous. Over the years new stores were opened in the Memphis area, with the newer stores being called "Pop Tunes", whilst the Poplar Avenue original kept the name of Poplar Tunes.

Their website says that, "It was here in the early 50's that a young Elvis Presley would come by after school from his home in nearby Lauderdale Courts to listen to the latest R&B and Gospel records. Just a few years later, Poplar Tunes was the first store to EVER sell an Elvis Presley 45 RPM (recorded just a few blocks away at Sun Studios). As an adult, Elvis continued to shop for his music at Poplar Tunes. Since Elvis' untimely death in 1977, thousands of Elvis fans have made Poplar Tunes a "must see" destination point as they visit Elvis sites throughout Memphis.

The Poplar Tunes building was the business office at one time for Hi Records. This was the record label home for such important Memphis artists as Bill Black, Willie Mitchell, Ann Peebles, and Al Green." Joe Cuoghi was a founder of Hi Records.

The Memphis Flyer reported the closing saying, "Ever since the "Superman Dam Fool" graffiti was removed, Pop Tunes has provided the only bright spot on a dim stretch of Poplar that includes the city jail and bail bonds offices and pawnshops galore."
It concluded its article with the chilling reality, "This city's history is fragmenting and disappearing overnight."

It's always sad to read about the passing of the old school record shops, but this one really does spell the end of an era. The frst time I visited Memphis in 1988 the tour bus I was on just passed by the shop and I was desperate to get out and step foot into this slice of history. I was lucky enough to shop there in 2000 with Phil Davies and Ian Calford. America, well at least Tennessee, has an amazing knack of deleting its history. I feel priveledged to have witnessed some of it before it's too late. If it wasn't for the money it generates, I'm sure Graceland would have been flattened for a parking lot. Thanks God Sun Studios was made an historic landmark.

The 1958 picture above shows Elvis at the store with Dewey Phillips and Joe Cuoghi.


flip54 said...

Depressing news,off to spin the Smash Sessions Charlie Rich cd I bought there on our visit in 2000, still got the Pop Tunes Where The King Was A Customer and The Customer Is Stll king window sticker up here in my study

Nothing the Memphis authorities does to our musical heritage surprises me any more


Rockabillyville said...

I hear the Exit 8 motel in West Memphis is still open. The Shakespearean tribute lives on!!