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Life In the ‘Colony’: When Elton John Waited On Customers

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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.

“Elton John’s career was starting to happen. He was in New York to record his now-famous “11-17-70 Live” radio show. Elton did a few of his hits, along with a great rendition of the Stone’s “Honky Tonk Women” and the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

I believe this was the first time I’d met Elton. He usually came in alone, and just loved to peruse the aisles. No one made a big fuss, but I think he liked the fact that we knew who he was and the vibe of ‘Colony’ was to his liking.

Related: “‘Rocketman’ – Elton John’s Life (Fantasy Version)”

As his popularity grew, so did his entourage. I’d receive a call from Elton’s manager, saying Elton wanted to come in but would like to be left alone to browse. By this time, he always had 2 to 3 people along with him.

He really loved to hang out in the store. On one occasion, he brought a bottle of brandy and we all imbibed at the back counter while listening to old 45s. Elton even waited on a few people!

Hanging out with Elton, drinking brandy!

By the mid-70s, he was a superstar and was being accompanied by “Mister Universe” as his bodyguard. He carried a case which contained books of handwritten notes of 45s, albums, and tapes, which he’d buy in sets of 3. I presume for his houses and car, or possibly for gifts.

The lists were very specific. If by chance we didn’t have a particular title in stock, we’d order it for him and he’d send his driver to come pick it up.

Related: “You’re Certainly No Groupie”

I vividly remember the “Yellow Brick Road” tour. He did about seven sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. Elton made sure I had great seats for every show, right there on the side of the stage. His driver would pick me up at the Colony and take me to the Garden.

Around that time, he’d done a duet with John Lennon (“Whatever Gets You Through the Night”). Elton had bet Lennon that if the song became #1, John would come on stage and do a duet. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

Years later in 2010, Elton made an album with Leon Russell (The Union). They were playing an industry-only event at the Beacon Theatre. By this point, we’d lost touch.

Instead of being picked up in his personal limo, I took a yellow cab to the show. But what memories of those amazing days in his career!”

-The CS Team

1 comment on “Life In the ‘Colony’: When Elton John Waited On Customers

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    Debbie Levine

    That was an amazing story! I spent so many great times and colony records. I got material there, came up with ideas for shows there, but the best thing about being there was the knowledge that the people had about music. Richard Turk actually waited on me and help me get material for performing arts Center. You would always see famous people in colony just walking around and browsing. When we lost colony we lost a part of New York, Broadway, and theater community that we will never get back

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