True Confessions from a Former Music Retail Employee

mk5

Roadie
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143
Over 20 years ago, I worked at a music store in Texas called Brook Mays Music. We at our store affectionately called it "Crook Mays." The company got pretty large around the turn of the century and was mostly known for school band instrument rentals (the REAL way to make money in the music business, btw...). They wound up filing for bankruptcy about 3-4 years after I left; probably because of being overextended and that the corporate office was full of flake musicians that had been over-promoted.

Most days were meh, sell a Peavey Stage Pack here or cheap acoustic there, but there were times, rare times, when things happened that make the stuff for good stories. I'll share a few periodically. Feel free to chime in w/ MI retail stories of your own if you got 'em!

So, first crazy story. The store was broken up into small sections; guitars, amps, keyboards, band, etc. We had a "recording" area that consisted of a bunch of rack gear, one multitrack on display, and some Mackie Monitors.

I used to work with a guy we'll call..."Snake." Snake was a young high school kid at the time who came in on Saturdays and maybe 1-2 days after school. One day, he and one of the "combo" recording guys, "August," were in the customer bathroom with some wires after work. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was new and thought they were fixing something.

The next Saturday, people were all over the place; endlessly playing the first five notes of that Celine Dion Titanic track on the pianos, strumming acoustics, playing Marilyn Manson on the Boss pedal display (Metal Zone was the big hit). I look over and see Snake and the combo guy August laughing by the recording station, which was not far from the customer restroom.

Turns out, Snake had rigged up a microphone into the ceiling of the bathroom and hooked it up to the multitrack recorder and the monitors. They were recording whenever a customer went in to use the bathroom. Since it was a digital recorder, they would immediately play back the customers farts and the cacophony of other noises in the monitors as the customer walked out of the restroom and walked by.... To top it off, they had hooked up an effects processor to add in some extra flange and repeating delay to everything. Eventually they would mix tracks up and try to make beats out of it! Needless to say, I stayed away from that restroom...

The big punchline to the story is that "August," who wound up becoming a great friend, literally won a Grammy for recording a few years back. Crazy times...
 
#2. Thought I'd go with a cool one today and save some funny juice for later.

Being in the music retail game, you do get in small circles and you know someone that knows someone, eventually. Our manager had a buddy that was a local hobbyist amp builder. My understanding is he was an engineer or architect by day. This guy would occasionally come into the store and would bring in one of his homemade combos, based on a vintage Fender Pro; simple, 3-4 knob designs. Not my cup of tea for my style of rock, but they did sound nice.

The guy knew me as the store "Van Halen guy." One afternoon, he rolls into the store on a dead day, carrying a 1968 Marshall Super Bass in one hand and a working Echoplex in the other. It was the first time I had ever seen a vintage Marshall and my jaw dropped. Apparently he recently had the amp shipped over from England. The manager motioned for me to go in the "amp room" and help him hook it all up - no problem.

We get it all hooked up and the guy basically said, "play some VH licks." No problem! We cranked everything to 10 and I went into Ain't Talkin' Bout Love. It was just amazing sound coming out of the cab. He and the manager stood there staring at the amp as I played and I just remembered thinking, "this is THAT sound...it's 95% there!" Literally every guitar teacher who was teaching lessons came out of their rooms and were pissed at how loud it was, but then they got real curious when they saw the rig.

The store started getting busy, so our time got cut short. The builder said he'd return someday with the rig and a variac. I said I would be more than happy to agree to play it again. I told him he needed to make me one of his amps that was based on THAT Marshall.

That was the last time I remember seeing him, because unfortunately, I "transferred" stores before that "next" time, but that's for the next story.

Come to find out, the guy made a local splash and his amps got picked up in some GC's, etc. Many years later, I find out he is now the chief amp guy at PRS. Doug Sewell. Super nice dude and very talented builder!
 
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I worked at my best friend’s father’s music store in high school, Mainely Drumz. It was a BLAST because the store was basically my friend’s dad saying “Hey, we should open a music store. What do you guys think?” and we had free reign over the store’s inventory. He started off with basic stuff and for the first year or two could only get Danelectro’s and BC Rich’s in stock, this was around ’98. My buddy and I pushed from day 1 to become a Hoshino dealer because we loved Tama drums and Ibanez guitars (hardcore Dream Theater fans) and we got it eventually.

Dude, making that first order of Ibanez guitars, I was like a kid in a candy store. His dad knew nothing about guitars, so whatever came into the store was picked out by me, a 17 year old kid. :headbang I had to keep it reasonable with what our customer base was actually buying, but you HAVE to get some high end stuff as part of the contract, same went for ESP/LTD. It was also a blast getting to find out what all the upcoming releases were ahead of everyone else. I remember finding out about the JEM2KDNA and not being able to tell anybody, I wanted to burst.

Not many funny stories about customers, but we used to fight with Subway all the time because they were in the same building and during their lunch rush they’d come over and demand we didn’t allow customers to hit the drums. This turned into a big thing because my primary job was working at that Subway and all the rest of my time was spent in the drum store. My manager would be telling me “You need to get them to stop playing during our rushes.” and then I’d be over there during a rush, usually jamming with my buddy being the one making the noise. :rofl

At the height of the store’s success, we moved it to a larger building and covered everything from beginner to pro. My buddy and I made the Voodoo Lounge, which was a room in the store we decked out like a nightclub, full PA, awesome lights and all the best gear in the store. The second his dad would go home, we’d lock up, go get ripped out of our minds in the parking lot and then jam for hours with all the awesome lights/ridiculous volume.

There’s a whole running story about a guy that popped up in our lives during this time who turned out to be a con artist/kid toucher we took on as a consultant…..who got hired as the band director at our competing high school, fell ‘in love’ with a 16 year old girl and actually convinced her parents that everything was cool. And that’s just the beginning of a 3-year mindf*ck.
 
A few years in, we got a new store manager. One of the old managers at another store got promoted to regional manager. Regional Manager, let’s call him Scott, visited all the stores to “check in.”

Scott was a slob; creepy dude. I was on a health kick and was trying to put on some weight and was working out a lot, so I had some Chex mix that I stashed under my guitar workbench.

On one of my days off, Scott visits the store. I found out the very next morning all my Chex mix was gone. I asked my friend/coworker what happened and, you guessed it—the slob did it. My friend was like, “Oh yeah, he poured the whole bag in his mouth and was tapping the end of the bag to get the last bits.”

We talked about what a dick this dude was and I decided to seek revenge. I found out he was coming again the next month, again, on my day off.

So I devised a plan. Fast forward a month. I went to the store and bought two things, (1) Chex mix and (2) Snausages (dog food that kinda looked like Chex mix).

Mixed the two up in the Chex bag and warned everyone except the store manager (who would have thrown them away).

The next morning, I got in early. I went straight to the bench to see if the Chex was eaten. Next thing I know the manager comes out and says, “I need to see you in my office.” So I go in and sit down. There is a termination notice to be filled out with a pen for me to sign.

He pulls out the Chex bag and says, “what the f*** is this??” I said, “Chex mix.” He said, “and what else?!”

“…Snausages…”. The horn repair guy in the next workroom busted out laughing.

The manager went on this rant talking about how it was like pissing in a coffee can and was basically poison. I told him it was for Scott, revenge for eating my last bag.

I asked if he ate any of it, but he denied it. Whatever, of course he did! (Co-workers told me later…)

He told me “today was my last day.” At that moment, the horn repair guy comes in and basically pleads with him to keep me on.

I apologize and eventually the manager calms down and I keep my job, but I was informed I was getting transferred to another store.

Turns out it was the 2nd largest store and highest grossing store in the company. It was a sweet promotion where I got to order all kinds of Fender Custom shops, JEM DNAs, full Mesa line stuff…amazing stuff in a rich area.

And that, my friends, is called failing upwards!
 
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A few years in, we got a new store manager. One of the old managers at another store got promoted to regional manager. Regional Manager, let’s call him Scott, visited all the stores to “check in.”

Scott was a slob; creepy dude. I was on a health kick and was trying to put on some weight and was working out a lot, so I had some Chex mix that I stashed under my guitar workbench.

On one of my days off, Scott visits the store. I found out the very next morning all my Chex mix was gone. I asked my friend/coworker what happened and, you guessed it—the slob did it. My friend was like, “Oh yeah, he poured the whole bag in his mouth and was tapping the end of the bag to get the last bits.”

We talked about what a dick this dude was and I decided to seek revenge. I found out he was coming again the next month, again, on my day off.

So I devised a plan. Fast forward a month. I went to the store and bought two things, (1) Chex mix and (2) Snausages (dog food that kinda looked like Chex mix).

Mixed the two up in the Chex bag and warned everyone except the store manager (who would have thrown them away).

The next morning, I got in early. I went straight to the bench to see if the Chex was eaten. Next thing I know the manager comes out and says, “I need to see you in my office.” So I go in and sit down. There is a termination notice to be filled out with a pen for me to sign.

He pulls out the Chex bag and says, “what the f*** is this??” I said, “Chex mix.” He said, “and what else?!”

“…Snausages…”. The horn repair guy in the next workroom busted out laughing.

The manager went on this rant talking about how it was like pissing in a coffee can and was basically poison. I told him it was for Scott, revenge for eating my last bag.

I asked if he ate any of it, but he denied it. Whatever, of course he did! (Co-workers told me later…)

He told me “today was my last day.” At that moment, the horn repair guy comes in and basically pleads with him to keep me on.

I apologize and eventually the manager calms down and I keep my job, but I was informed I was getting transferred to another store.

Turns out it was the 2nd largest store and highest grossing store in the company. It was a sweet promotion where I got to order all kinds of Fender Custom shops, JEM DNAs, full Mesa line stuff…amazing stuff in a rich area.

And that, my friends, is called failing upwards!
Ho
Lee
Chit

This thread delivers but I had no idea.

Mad props!
 
I rarely buy brick and mortar retail anymore. If I dont get it straight from the manufacturer, I get used or online. The absolute last straw was going into a guitar center for a guitar hanger. Me, looking at the material the U-hanger was made of gave me a little concern. I asked the guitar guy if it was safe for my Les Pauls nitro finish.





“I think it will fit” was the answer. I realized then if I wanted to be surrounded by rhesus monkeys, I can go to a zoo.
 
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