Also in South Austin is a record store called Friends of Sound, which can be hard to find despite its South Congress Avenue address, as it opens onto the alley behind. Unlike Waterloo or End of an Ear, Friends of Sound sells nothing new, and no formats other than vinyl. The emphasis is on soul and funk, especially 45’s, and some of the best and rarest ones often come through the store, particularly ones with a Texas connection. Prices are not low, but the selection of records that aren’t seen anywhere else is significant.
With Austin being such a hip town, it has become ground zero for the vinyl renaissance, with plenty of vinyl record shops in several different neighborhoods. South Austin’s End of an Ear is definitely one of the better shops, with a specialized inventory that emphasizes indie rock, jazz, soul, funk and reggae. Vinyl is the main thing here, although there are plenty of compact discs as well, with a decided bias toward independent labels. A small selection of music books and DVD’s rounds out the offerings. Live music gigs in the shop are not uncommon either, at least during South By Southwest.
End Of An Ear
2209 South First Street
Austin, TX 78704
As I have said on previous occasions, during South By Southwest (SXSW) eveyone ends up at 24 Diner sooner or later. It’s strategically located for one thing, directly next to arguably Austin’s best record shop, Waterloo Records. For another, it never closes, the prices are reasonable and the food very good indeed. The 24 Diner is sort of a diner, and has American comfort food, as one would expect a diner to, but it presents its menu with a chef-inspired New America twist, and also has a wine list and craft beers. A visit to 24 Diner for breakfast is perhaps the best way to start a day at South By Southwest. Afterwards, stroll next door to Waterloo Records for an hour or more of record-hunting pleasure. New CD’s, used CD’s, vinyl, DVD’s, books, Waterloo has them all, with great selection even in the hard-to-find genres like avant-garde jazz. Nobody should leave Austin without at least one visit.
Young Clifford Antone had left his hometown of Port Arthur, Texas in 1968 to attend the University of Texas at Austin, but his college career was cut short by a marijuana arrest. What could have been the beginning of a downward spiral was anything but for Antone, who in 1975 founded a night club that would prove to be one of the greatest blues night clubs in the world. Antone’s moved several times over its long career in Austin, but its impact was significant in the city, helping to establish the reputation Austin enjoys today as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” By 1987, the night club had inspired a record label called Antone’s, and a retail record shop of the same name on Guadalupe Street near the University of Texas campus. The empire that seemed impregnable began to fall apart after Clifford Antone’s death, however. The record label failed after acquiring the assets of another bankrupt Austin label called Watermelon Records. A bankruptcy auction left the Antone’s masters in the hands of New West Records, where at least some of them are still available. The club became more of an indie rock entity, and finally moved out of downtown into East Austin before closing. Today all that remains of the Antone’s name and legacy is the retail record store near the campus. Heavily skewed to vinyl and the blues, it is a must-visit spot for blues lovers, and prices are reasonable. Even the used compact discs are full of unexpected items, especially in the Texas section.
Going the I-10 route through Houston as I did meant that I didn’t get into Austin until 4 in the morning on Monday, so it was nearly noon when I woke up on the first day of my South By Southwest week. After a breakfast at Jim’s, I headed over to one of my favorite Austin neighborhoods to do some record and book shopping. The North Loop neighborhood is a small stretch of funky boutiques and shops with really cool things like vinyl records, vintage clothing and books. Monkeywrench Books is a cool, left-wing bookstore with a lot of books that aren’t available elsewhere, like the really cool book I found, Michael P. Jeffries’ Thug Life: Race, Gender and the Meaning of Hip-Hop. Down the street is Breakaway Records, arguably Austin’s best vinyl store, with an emphasis on 45-RPM vinyl singles, and fairly low prices. Breakaway also sells stereo equipment and accessories. In the same shopping center is Epoch Coffee, a great place to relax and chill after an hour of strenuous vinyl shopping. I’m not even sure what is in an Iced Mojo, but it is truly amazing.
The North Loop neighborhood is located along North Loop Boulevard between Lamar and Airport Boulevard in North Austin.
Recent years have not been kind to the retail music situation in Baton Rouge, so I was thrilled to learn of a new vinyl record shop called Lagniappe Records. It was fairly late on a Sunday evening when I got to Baton Rouge, and the store would have normally been closed, but someone answered the phone when I called, and agreed to let me in to browse and purchase records despite the lateness of the hour. Lagniappe is located in a charming house in an old neighborhood of Baton Rouge near downtown called Beauregard Town. The bulk of the music is on LP, mostly used and rare, but some new. There is a smaller selection of 45-RPM singles, and an even smaller selection of 78-RPM singles. Such CD’s as there are are mostly indie rock and local or regional bands. Lagniappe is definitely worth a visit when in Baton Rouge.
Since the sad demise of Mississippi’s venerable Be-Bop Records chain several years ago, the sole survivor as far as vinyl and indie rock has been Morning Bell Records, a vinyl-oriented store with a strong local selection that has operated in Fondren’s Duling Hall for the last couple of years. That space, while cool, was exceptionally small, and Morning Bell, like many of today’s better record stores, is a venue for live performance as well as retail music, so toward the end of 2013, it moved to new quarters on I-55 north just north of Northside Drive, not far from the old iconic Bebop Record Shop location. The new, roomier space has allowed for the addition of a cafe, which will feature coffee drinks, baked goods and panini sandwiches, and the larger room should be an asset when live concerts occur there. Other than the move, the bigger room and the addition of espresso drinks, nothing much has changed. Morning Bell is still as hip as ever, and demonstrated the point admirably by playing bluesman Leo Welch’s new album Sabougla Voices as I was walking in.
Morning Bell Records
4760 I-55 N Frontage Rd
Jackson, MS 39211
Times have been tough for record stores, but here and there, across America are some stores that are survivors. Randy Coleman, the owner of BJ Music in Greenville, South Carolina says that his store is one of the oldest stores in the state. On a Friday afternoon, people were coming in on their way home from work to pick up blues and gospel CD’s, but the big find for me was in the store’s massive collection of vinyl 45’s and LP’s. Since I was travelling to a conference in Charlotte and was due to speak at 6 PM, I browsed only sporadically, but I could have easily spent all day. Stores like this should be treasured.
1430 Augusta Street
Greenville, SC 29605
Tucked into the rear of a shopping center across from the Wish ATL Boutique in Little Five Points is BeATLab, which is a lifestyle store primarily for DJ’s and producers, although they also sell spray paint for the graffiti artists in and around the Atlanta area. The main things at BeATLab are DJ equipment and vinyl, and there is an extensive selection of the latter. Some of the records came from Atlanta’s legendary Earwax Records when they closed their final location in Midtown. Even if you’re not a DJ, the vinyl is worth coming for if you’re a record collector. BeATLab is open daily from noon until 6 PM.
Because I didn’t think I’d get to otherwise, I spent the better part of Thursday during the day going around to some of my favorite stores and shops in Atlanta, like Decatur CD, Criminal Records, Wax-N-Facts and Wish ATL, and discovered some new spots, like Stadium (a hip-hop clothing boutique), Beatlab (a record store for DJ’s) and Atlast Clothing (a new hip-hop line and shop). All in all, it was an enjoyable day before I headed down to the Melia for A3C events and activities.