MUSIC ROW, West 48th Street

I seem to be becoming one of NYC’s great Langoliers, one of those mysterious yet relentless entities written of by Stephen King that arrive after each moment in time has passed, disposing of time and everything in it like garbage disposal units. Or rather, I happen upon things that the Langoliers have somehow missed after passing through.

I had just come out of an employment agency, still in a suit and tie –I’m old school — and was walking down West 48th Street when I found a “painted ad” high on a building I was approaching.

What used to be called the Powers Building, #723 7th Avenue, is on the northwest corner. It’s an ordinary medium-size building, nothing out of the ordinary, the kind of thing The Fountainhead‘s Peter Keating would design. There have apparently been several experiments in electrical engineering that went on early in the early 20th Century, and later the building was home to Associated Recording Studios beginning in 1961. Some of the biggest names in the biz, and stars from other fields giving music a whirl,  have cut records there including [according to wikipedia]:

Al CaiolaAl HirtAl MartinoAlbert EinsteinAndy WilliamsArchie BleyerArt GarfunkelArthur GodfreyBarbra StreisandBarry ManilowBarry MannBette MidlerBeverly RossBill CharlapBlood Sweat & TearsBo DiddleyBob HilliardBobby “Boris” PickettBobby DarinBobby Goldsboro,Brian HylandBryan AdamsBurl IvesBurt BacharachBuster PoindexterCarole KingCat StevensCharles StrouseCharlie Tobias,Connie FrancisCy ColemanDanny DavisDanny KayeDave Blum TrioDee Dee WarwickDick Van DykeDionne WarwickDoc PomusDon CostaDonnie HathawayDuo TonesEleanor SteberEllie GreenwichElvis CostelloEthel MermanEydie GormeFats DominoFirefly (Brooklyn local folk-pop band)Frank SinatraGene AutryGerry MulliganGinger RogersGwen VerdonHal DavidHank Williams Jr.Henry ManciniHerb AlpertHerbie HancockHoagy CarmichaelHoward GreenfieldIke & Tina TurnerJack KellerJake LaMottaJanis IanJerry HermanJerry KellerJo Jo StarbuckJoe HarnellJohn SebastianJohn WayneJohnny MarksJonathan WintersJule StyneKay StarrKenny KarenKenny RogersKing CurtisLeiber & StollerLeslie GoreLewis & ClarkLiza MinnelliLouis JordanMarlene VerPlanckMary FordMary MartinMelba MooreMickey & SylviaMiles DavisMilton DeLuggMitch MillerMoose CharlapMort ShumanNapoleon XIVNeil DiamondNeil SedakaNorman BergenNoro MoralesOrnette ColemanOscar BrandOscar PetersonOtis BlackwellPat BoonePatti DukePatti PagePaul EvansPaul RobesonPaul SimonPeggy FlemingPeggy LeePerry ComoPete FountainPete Seeger/The WeaversPeter CrissPeter DuchinPeter DunfieldPeter NeroPeter, Paul and MaryPetula ClarkPierre BrunetPink FloydPolly BergenPrairie LeagueRicky DeeRoberta FlackRocky GrazianoRod McKuenRon DanteSandy StewartScreamin’ Jay HawkinsSheb WooleyShel SilversteinSherman EdwardsStan LebowskiSteely DanSteve AllenSteve LawrenceSteve NeilsonTeresa BrewerTerry BradshawThe Bell NotesThe BelmontsThe ChipmunksThe DelphonicsThe Four LadsThe Four SeasonsThe Kalin TwinsThe RonettesThe ShirellesThe Three SunsThelonious MonkTiny TimTito PuenteTom GlazerTommy EdwardsVic DamoneWalter CarlosWoody Guthrie.


Not being a musician myself, I was completely unaware that while meandering along West 48th, I had stumbled on one of NYC’s great Music Rows, with shops selling instruments and recording studios lined up, at one time, on both sides. Also occupying the block were the Cort Theater and a couple of parking garages.

Manny’s rang a bell. Hadn’t I read a story once that this was the place that Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore had gotten hundreds of guitars while touring in the States? Townshend, in particular, along with The Who, was thousands in debt because of Pete’s habit of destroying his guitars at the end of most shows. He had to hastily repair them if they could be, or just seek out guitar shops and run up bills buying new ones.

My favorite Manny’s moment of all time came on one of those day I’d cut school in the middle of the week to go stare at my candy-colored electric holy grails. I walked in and, to my shocked disbelief, Pete Townshend was standing at the back counter talking to head salesman, the truly legendary Henry Goldrich. I should point out that Henry was practically a surrogate father to me. He was not happy to see me at 2:30pm on a Wednesday.

It was the first time I’d ever seen Pete anywhere other than onstage. It’s a dull-as-dirt cliche, but, I felt like I was in a dream as I floated up to Pete and Henry, just in time to hear, with my own ears, Pete ordering (and this is verbatim… my brain recorded it!)…

“Give me ten Telecasters, ten Stratocasters, five Jazzmasters, five of those Corals, three Gibson Stereo 355s…”

Henry, scribbling furiously, looked up and said, “You really ought to try the Gibson SG Special, Pete. It’s the best buy out there.” Pete chuckled ruefully…”Okay, Henry. Spend more of my money, three of them, too, then…” [Henry was right. The Gibson SG Special was the guitar Pete would use for the entire “Tommy” era…] Binky Phillips, Huff Post


Though Manny’s had been on West 48th Street since 1935, the owners sold the business to Sam Ash, which concentrated their music empire on both sides of West 48th Street, occupying space in several buildings, as seen in this Google Street View shot from May 2009. Sam Ash, in turn, moved to 333 West 34th Street early in 2013, leaving several empty storefronts, most of which remain empty in mid-2014. Ash’ departure once again revealed the Manny’s store signage that I discovered on West 48th…


… including the large vertical sign with the now-stopped clock.


Music isn’t dead on West 48th Street, though. Rudy’s Music Stop, which counts U2’s The Edge as a customer, is still there and has been since 1978. Next door is Alex Carozza’s Accordion Shop. Since my father was an accordionist, playing only the button concertina type, he must have been familiar with this place. My father would get custom-made instruments complete with his name emblazoned on a side panel.

I was unaware of this when I passed by, but Alex Carozza’s shop also contains an Accordion Museum. It’s free to the public, but an appointment must be made to see it.

You never know what small fiefdom, or remains of one, will be spotted by meandering around the streets of NYC.


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14 Responses to MUSIC ROW, West 48th Street

  1. Ross says:

    From my father telling the story of spotting Jimi Hendrix in Manny’s on an afternoon of skipping high school to purchasing my soprano sax from John Baltimore’s woodwind shop, 48th street holds a special place in my heart.

  2. Bassmanbob says:

    Bought my ’78 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Black from Manny’s as part of the Frampton Craze! Stolen from the trunk of my car in ’91. Sigh, still miss it.

  3. Tal Barzilai says:

    Let’s just hope that a developer doesn’t destroy this good architecture to build some typical glass tower in their place.

  4. Dan says:

    In 1966, I bought a Rickenbacker 12-string at Gracins Music (which, if memory serves me, was more or less directly across the street from today’s Rudy’s).

    Gracins and nearly all of the other instrument shops are long gone. But I still own the Rickenbacker — and still have the sales receipt from ’66.

  5. Dipe Fux says:

    In the 80ies and 90ies I bought much gear in this Manny´s I bought my first Roland sampler in the 80ies…at Sam ASH also different keys.
    When I visited this street in 2013 (after 17 years) in Manhattan l was shocked.

  6. Mauri says:

    I bought my first Tom Anderson guitar at Manny’s. I remember the guy who sold me…Ray Carozza! Every time I come back to NYC I visit 48th street, and every time a store disappears. Last June I couldn’t believe…Manny’s was gone.
    I still remember once back in 2002, I was there with a friend who then bought a terrific PRS. We spent the whole day playing guitars in those stores. Do you guys remember “48th street custom guitars”?? It was a small store next to Manny’s if I remember right.

  7. Michael says:

    I was there in 1977. I really wanted a Les Paul. Mannys just overwhelmed me – I was only 19 and just couldn’t bring myself to go in. I ended up in Sam Ash and came out with an old SG which I didnt really appreciate. The one that got away though was across the street in a pawn shop. A 57 black beauty for $400!!! In Sam Ash they were handing out Les Paul’s like confetti that day $ 450 each.

  8. Mike in fla via Bklyn says:

    1974. My brother-in-law shopping for a Martin D35, I figured I’d go along for the ride. Glad I did.
    Checked out all the stores for the best deal. Went into Manny’s because you had to. After all,
    it was like going to Coney Island and not getting a hot dog or riding the Cyclone! We witnessed George Harrison strumming on an acoustic at Manny’s. See what I mean? We wound up going a few doors down to Terminal Music, getting the Martin for $25 less at $450. Now a days add about 2 grand or more.

  9. Cliff Niesen says:

    All the old land mark building that had masonic symbolism. All the ancient sites special places like I believe it was many’s it was on the second floor up a narrow stairway. They work on Guitars built them . Two old guys. Its a shame on all the wealthy to tear up a place that almost did not happen if not for the beaver trade! I move away to florida. I could not stand land marks that made new York City what it was yanked out like a rotten tooth! Edgar Allan Poe’s house across the street what we now know as a library . It was going to be torn down to make dorms for NYU.Built as a movie palace in 1927, the Academy of Music on East 14th Street, at Third Avenue, was a place where Lower East Siders would watch first-run features in grand style. Promoter Sid Bernstein, who brought the Beatles to America, understood the 3,000-seat hall’s potential: in the mid-1960s, he regularly booked British Invasion bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Herman’s Hermits there. Manfred Mann, on the charts with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” would share a bill with the Exciters, the American group that first recorded the tune to little notice.

    Renamed the Palladium in 1976, the hall became a full-time rock venue where the career of classic rocker Gary U.S. Bonds was jump-started after Bruce Springsteen invited him to sit in during a show. By 1985, it was converted into a nightclub; it closed in 1997 and was demolished. Today the Palladium name remains on a New York University residence hall.

    But 40 years ago, on New Year’s Eve 1973, the building rocked with a lineup that featured Blue Öyster Cult and Iggy and the Stooges. Glam rockers Teenage Lust were scheduled to open the show but instead had to follow a last-minute addition: Kiss. The band that would become famous for its face paint and pyrotechnics made its big-venue debut as fire-breathing bass guitarist Gene Simmons set his hair aflame.

    Here are some remembrances of that show and others. Think Academy theatre were the Beatles played the Stones KinksIggy Pop! torn down! Renamed the Palladium! I was raised in new york in 1973 I was like 7 years old. It was a real place with true artist now just yuppies thinking if they move in our homes that we wanted out of because it was a slum yuppies now rent a studio cut in half for $5000 dollars. Maybe a Roach bite that bit Kieth Richards will make you like spiderman. Koroach man! It was better a slum because its now a prison!

  10. John says:

    In the 80s on any Saturday, you could go there and see some famous guitar player grinding out a deal in one of those shops.
    There had to be a dozen of them at any given time, so if you kinda ran back and forth, you could see somebody.
    I saw Bo Diddley walking out of Manny’s.
    He was one of many.

  11. Jan says:

    165-166 48th that house Manny’s was originally called The Tavern owned by the “host of Broadway” my grandmother’s brother Billy Lahiff. He ran the Tavern all through Prohibition (raided at least twice) and up until his death in 1934. Billy bought the buildings for $300,000 in 1922 after successfully running and selling several NYC restaurants. During its time as the Tavern, the upstairs apartments were rented to such celebrities as Ed Sullivan (a young cub reporter at the time), Walter Winchell (columnist connected with Owney Maddon NY’s Number One Gang Leader of Prohibition Era. “His intimacy with criminals caused him to fear he would be ‘rubbed out’ for ‘knowing too much.'”), Ed & Sylvia Sullivan (Columnist and future TV personality, The Ed Sullivan Show), Damon Runyan (writer, well-known newspaper reporter, covering sports and general news), Bugs Baer (NYC Sports Journalist), Sherman Billingsley (Prohibition Rum Runner, Owner of The Stork Club,) and famous prize fighter Jack Dempsey. The Tavern became a popular spot for successful Broadway actors and well known sports figures such as Dempsey and Al Jolson.
    In the Tavern, Billy introduced a young Broadway dancer to Willard Mack and she went on to become a successful Hollywood star known as Barbara Stanwyck. His niece Ann Veronica Lahiff also went on to be a successful star in early films and was the first to sing and dance in a talkie. Her name was changed to Nancy Carroll. So long before the days of Manny’s those walls were recording stories that have long since been forgotten. I hope they never tear it down, but like you I fear that they will.

  12. Lou Mancuso Jr. says:

    Breaks my heart to know that Manny’s is gone. Not that I was their best customer but I used to go with my dad from over 50 years ago, and my father was a customer since it first opened. He was a guitar maker in Woodstock and passed away 4 years ago at the ripe old age of 96. He made me his final guitar a month before he died. Some of his guitars are, or have been in Rudy’s under Mancuso Guitars. I was 12 in 1964 and like so many, fascinated by the Beatles and Ringo in particular. He took me to Blooms downtown to get my first Japanese Zim-Gar set. 2 years later he took me to Manny’s to buy my first Ludwig set. I was like a musical kid in a candy store. So many choices of colors but I wanted the black oyster pearl set like Ringo. Sadly, so did everybody else. I had to settle on Champaign sparkle. I’ve bought other sets from Manny’s over the years (Pearl, Tama, even had them order me a Sonar set) but nothing will match the memories of me and my dad talking music in Manny’s. I’ve still got my black Manny’s tee shirt but only wear it in special occasions. Until it and my memories are gone, Manny’s will never be gone from 48th street.
    By the way, after my father passed, I treated myself to that Ludwig black oyster pearl Ringo set that I wanted 50 years ago. I had to go to Memphis Drum Shop (another landmark in music) to get it. Long live the independent music shop

  13. James says:

    I bought my 1975 Strat in Manny’s in 1976, along with a EHX Ram’s Head Big Muff and a Small Stone Phase Shifter; I still have them all. I give the Salesman a couple of doobies as a tip & he said it was the best tip he ever received. Also got my Gibson J/50 there 2 years later. It was the day they let me play their old black Danelectro house Guitar, well before it was a “hands-off” axe. Superb memories shopping and window-shopping on that world famous street. It’s well missed for sure.

  14. Paul Gletow says:

    I purchased my Sunburst Fender Stratocaster from Jimmy’s Music Store in December 1961. He had the cases stacked flat 10 high and was asking $210. with case and tremolo arm. I only had $200 and he let me have it for that. I was 13 years old and at the beginning of my professional music career. That guitar followed me around until 1982 when I sold it to Sam Ashe in Paramus NJ for $1,000. for a down payment on my summer home. Great Guitar , Great Memories. Missing what 48th was; also saddened to hear the Mandolin Bros. Store is up for sale in Staten Island. Hope some of you can appreciate our time and the memories from the music of our time.

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