For 64 years, Colony Records was THE fixture for musicians in New York City. From Broadway singers to rock stars, established jazz musicians to up and comers, the store (first located at Broadway and 52nd Street, then later in the famed Brill Building) was a must-stop destination. Keeping a “night owl” schedule, the store was open almost 24/7. The staff was famous for their deep knowledge. For those reasons, you never knew who might be standing next to you, going through sheet music or albums. Richard Turk spent decades helming Colony Records until it closed in 2012. He’s met everyone, seen pretty much everything. CultureSonar is thrilled to share some of the moments from his rich history.
“Around 1965, Jimi Hendrix was living in New York City, making a name for himself as a backup guitarist for artists including Ike and Tina Turner, Little Richard, Sam Cooke. He was playing a lot of gigs downtown in Greenwich Village – but one club, the Cheetah, was right across from Colony’s first location at 52nd and Broadway.
Naturally, those New York gigs ran late. Colony was open into the wee hours, so it became kind of a hangout for all types of musicians and music lovers. Not surprisingly, Jimi came in pretty often.
There was one occasion in 1966 when he walked into the store carrying a record player. He asked around if anyone was interested in buying it. The reason? He was getting ready to head over to the U.K., hoping to finally make his mark. Up to that point, he was only known casually around the New York scene.
OK, so I negotiated with Jimi –back and forth. Thirty bucks later, I was the owner of his KLH Record Player (at that point, $30 was pretty much my entire salary for the week).
So whatever happened to it? Well, during the summer of 1967, I dragged it around with me in my travels. The Sgt. Pepper album had come out in May, and I used Hendrix’ turntable to play that record until both wore out.
Look, the record player wasn’t in great shape when I bought it from him: cigarette burns on it, things like that. Eventually, it didn’t work at all, so I just left it…somewhere. Of course, after Hendrix’ explosive appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, I kicked myself. I had no idea from all those late-night visits at Colony that he’d turn into such a huge star. I’m still slapping myself over that!”
PS – You won’t believe what Keith Richards bought when he came into the store…stay tuned.
-The CS Team
Photo of Colony Records owner Richard Turk by John Abbot (courtesy of Mr. Turk)