48th Street between 6th and 7th Ave in Manhattan in the 1960′s was a wonderland of music stores on both sides of the block. Called Music Row, it dates to the early 1930s, when the musicians’ union moved to Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, and all of the stores followed suit. Today there are still music stores on the block but it is different. First of all, in the 1960′s the stores were in brownstones and there were very few office towers. Secondly, the stores were close to 6th Ave where they are now close to 7th Ave.
All of the stores were mom and pop variety and it was always a treat to go inside and look at all the cool gear. There was Terminal Music, and few others I can’t remember! My favorite was Manny’s Music.
Run by Manny Goldrich and family, Manny’s was the place to be ! You never knew who would be in there. Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Keith Emerson. I saw them all. Manny’s had what became known as the Wall of Fame
The available wall space was adorned with autographed promotion photos of all the musicians and groups that purchased equipment there. I actually ended up on that wall! What an honor!!!
I started hanging out there when I was about 12 because of drummer Don Lamond. When I would cut school and go with him to the taping of the Les Crane show, we would sometimes go out for a bite to eat at Jim and Andy’s, a musicians hang also on West 48th St. He showed me around, introduced me to the owners and I was a “regular” there. I gravitated to one of the sons, Stewart. He was a born salesman and truly a great guy. I ran into him in Nyack NY about 4 years ago and it was great to see him.
One of the guitar salesman Billy, who happened to be a great guitarist told me that he was going to do a commercial and need a bass player and he would call me for the date. Imagine me at Electric Lady Studios, 20 years old cutting an Uncle Ben’s Rice jingle! I left that studio feeling as if I had truly made it! Oh, how naive! About two weeks later, I was listening to the Jazz station WRVR and on came my bassline. OMG!
Back in 1969, I had saved up enough money to buy a brand new sunburst Fender Precision bass and I was going to Manny’s to buy it. When I got there, money burning a hole in my pocket, I got a hold of Stewart and told him “I wanted a Sunburst P bass.” He went to the stockroom and after what seemed an eternity came down with a bass case. He told me that they were sold out of the Sunburst P Bass but, he had a “Fretless” Sunburst P bass. Now as I said, “I wanted a Sunburst P bass” and I was not leaving without one.
So I became a fretless bass player. A couple of months of intonation problems and I was ready to play! I really loved that bass!
Many many basses later, I still remember that one and how Stewart got a sale! Roughly 14 years later, Manny’s was having a celebration at the Rainbow Room and I was invited. I was playing in a band with ex Foreigner and King Crimson member Ian MacDonald and we had a great time! One funny incident that night, Stewart and I took a picture together, reminisced and I opined, “Stewart, we know each other so long, I remember when you had hair!”
Manny’s was bought by Sam Ash Music. An end of an era! Paul Ash is quoted as saying Music Row will at some point no longer exist. I hope he is wrong.
As I said, 48th St was like Disneyland to all aspiring musicians.
Fast forward to today. I still play fretless bass, albeit a 6 string fretless. The bass builder is a gentleman by the name Ken Bebenseehttp://www.kbguitars.com/wordpress/?page_id=498
He is in the process of building me a new one as we speak!
Can’t wait to play it.!