MUSIC ROW, West 48th Street

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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 Brunet[disambiguation needed], Pink 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.

6/3/14





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5 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 street..at 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.

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