Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pop Tunes, Summer Avenue

A recent post about WERW had me thinking a bit about Memphis but moreover, about Pop Tunes, the store where I’d stock up on blues LP’s.

The Pop Tunes chain kept the name of its original store, where The King used to shop, as it was located downtown on Poplar Avenue.

My favorite branch was on Summer Avenue, a main artery that runs east-west on the northern side of the city. It had this magnificent round sign that featured neon musical notes that would dance around the perimeter (which you can barely make out in this picture). At night, you could see it a half-mile away. It was beautiful.

Pop Tunes was a great place to shop in the early nineties as traditional record stores were beginning to disappear. Today, on-line downloads of music and amazon.com have killed the traditional record store. But even before this technological extinction, a record shop existing as an independent entity within a standalone building was on the decline. Music stores had become abbreviated occasional nooks in soulless anesthetized malls before disappearing completely.

When you entered Pop Tunes, worn linoleum was under your feel, faded wood paneling surrounded you and a musty smell hit your nostrils. It was like walking into a friend’s basement lounge: plain, familiar and welcoming.

Pop Tunes was the last store I’d seen in the early nineties still devoted to the LP. In my trademark repulsion of technology, I was stocking up on blues LP’s rather than embracing the compact disk.


By 1994 I’d leave Memphis for good. I haven’t been back in a decade or so. As you can see from the picture, the store is now Title Max, a place that offers title insurance and payday advances. Like Pappy & Jimmy’s, another unique landmark is gone.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot adequately express my sorrow at seeing a cultural landmark replaced by a cheap, shoddy strip-piece of mundane business. Summer Avenue once quivered in the night with dim neon. The circular, blanched sign post is almost a cruel joke. Sad, sad, my friend.

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