Business as Usual at Music Town CDs & Records, Since 1979

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Photos by Creg Lovett
When James May unlocks the doors to Music Town each day at noon, his little shop on Stuebner Airline across from Klein High School is mainly filled with CDs, new and used vinyl and an enormous amount of cassettes. When he first opened the shop in 1979, the sign actually said "Music Town Records and Tapes," but he also sold 8-tracks -- which, at that time, were more trouble than they were worth.
People back then were still buying everything by Elvis, especially that Moody Blue album he'd made right before he died. Soon after that they'd begin lining up to buy everything John Lennon ever made, both the Beatles and the solo stuff. The Beatles stuff still sells, of course; on vinyl it's one of his biggest sellers.

That and Zeppelin, the Doors, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and anything metal. Kids seem to still love metal. Kids in concert shirts from bands I didn't recognize came in every couple of minutes mainly picking up or making special orders. Some browsed but most knew what they came for.

"I don't have a job right now, so my aunt is buying this for me so I'll baby-sit," said the young man picking up a special edition of Slipknot's first album.

Another, quieter kid in another black concert shirt picked up two discs by Memphis Mayfire. And a third young man bought the new Coheed and Cambria along with the newest by Papa Roach -- which, James reminds me, is a rap-rock kind of thing, but not like LInkin Park exactly.
The front window and the face of the counter he stands at are now decorated by the Warner Bros. rep. She posts art for new releases outside, but inside is mainly for upcoming show posters. A lot of those have Fitzgerald's written on them in Sharpie along with a date.

There used to be more reps of course, from Sony, Capitol, Columbia, RCA and Universal. All would come by frequently for a long time, but now they just email or send packages in the mail.  Business is down, after all, from its peak 10 or 12 years ago but not by that much. Business was really down three or four years ago at the start of the recession.

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Boxes and boxes of LPs clutter the crowded aisles of Music Town.
You couldn't tell it now, though. The kid who came in to pick up a rare double-live Grateful Dead CD along with a Grateful Dead poster that James keeps in stock at the back of the store almost bought another rare reissue. It was a $49 import of Blink-182 tracks.

"Believe it or not, this album meant a lot to me at one point in my life." the erstwhile young Deadhead told James. "I've changed a lot since then."
And that's part of James' job. It's a lot like being an amateur psychologist, and it's a job he accepts with grace and humor. After all, he was just a kid himself when he opened the shop almost 34 years ago. He's changed a lot himself since he came to Houston from Long Island, N.Y. (he's a Mets fan), during the Texas oil boom when his dad worked for the old Kellogg oil company. James attended Klein High School back then, which is still visible from his shop window.
That's when she came in.

"I'm looking for something," she said. "I don't know who sings it or what it's called but it goes hmm hmm dadadada hmm."

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