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Midnight At Colony Records

New York is known as the city that never sleeps and to cater to such a city, there’s a lot of place open late if not all night. I thought it might be fun once in a while to go somewhere at midnight and see what’s happening. To kick off this series, I’m going to go to a record store I visited when I was doing MAD, called Colony Records. When I originally went there, I just kind of stumbled on it and didn’t know the history behind the store. The original Colony Records was founded by Harold S. “Nappy” Grossbardt and Sidney Turk and was located at Broadway and 52nd Street. The store kept late night hours, making it popular with musicians and the late night shift in Manhattan. It moved into the famous, Tin Pan Alley Brill Building in 1970 and that’s where it still operates. Some of the famous clientele that have walked through the doors here include: Benny Goodman, Chet Baker, Madonna, Elton John, John Lennon and Michael Jackson. It’s a little after eleven, so let’s hit the rode and see what midnight is like in Colony Records.

It's kind of a miserable rainy night out tonight.

And through the magic of the internet, we're magically transported to the corner of 49th and Broadway, home of Colony Records.

Colony Records has been housed in the legendary Brill Building since 1970.

Let's go in and check it out.

Here's the front half of the store...

And here's the back half of Colony. Let's go exploring this place.

Let's take a look at what's in the front glass display case.

There's plates with original John Lennon art on them.

Directly above is a Kiss plate and memorabilia.

And below is the guy often known as the 57th Beatle, Beaver Cleaver. I think he went on to drum for Spinal Tap.

Richard works in sales here at the store and is very knowledgeable in the history of Colony Records.

He wanted to show me an album that has a historical significance to the store.

The album is called, "The Bebop Singers," and the in the center photo behind singer Joe Carroll is the corner of 49th and Broadway before Colony Records moved in. The ground floor space where Colony is now was a restaurant called, "Turf" and above it was a nightclub called, "Bop City."

Next Richard took me over to the book section of the store to show me another photo from a photography book.

This is a photography book showcasing the work of legendary New York photographer, William "Popsie" Randolph.

And here's another classic photo of the corner where Colony Records eventually ended up in. Richard told me that the floor above Bop City were music publishing offices thriving off Tin Pan Alley tunes.

Richard had to get back to work, so I roamed the store on my own. Check out the vintage TV Guides.

Here's some rare Beatles memorabilia on display at the back of the store.

Blowin' in the display case, a signature Bob Dylan harmonica.

Fun in Alcapulco with Elvis. Thank ya...thank ya, very much!

Colony Records is the largest seller of sheet music in the world.

"Hooray for Hazel" by Tommy Roe. Ha, I had this 45 as a kid.

I love this Gilda Radner poster!

And the front counter has reminders of the two latest celebrity deaths, Whitney Houston and Davy Jones.

Bethany was working the front counter. She's worked at Colony for about a year and a half and is an actress who's done some off Broadway work. I'm holding onto this photo, maybe I'll be able to sell it to TMZ one day!

Colony Music
1619 Broadway (@49th St.)

Further Reading: NY Rocker, Manhattan Lullaby and Talkin’ Bout My Generation.

Dry your eyes and play it slowly,
Like you're marching off to war,
Sing it like you know he'd want it,
Like we sang it once before.

Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!

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Reader Comments (25)

Great post Marty. Thanks for doing a piece on Colony. I live and work in the neighborhood, and yet I rarely enter. This is a great reminder to patronize places like this before they, and so they don't, go away.



March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFat Al

I finally ventured into Colony a couple months ago to buy my nephew some blues guitar sheet music for his 13th birthday. The staff was really helpful making sure I got him something along the lines of his abilities so he wouldn't get frustrated and give up. I was also going to buy a Stevie Ray Vaughn CD for him, but when they rang it up it was $28 (there was no pricetag on the cd)!! I declined to purchase that. Great pics and post Marty.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpike

It's good to know that you can still go to Colony Records and see some Beaver.

Ugh, Sorry for that.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Colony shouldn't have to pay taxes the store is so shrine like.
I was surprised to see Kiss memorabilia. I'm not a Kiss fan, but I'm pretty sure Kiss hates it when someone tries to market goods on their good name. I think Kiss hates memorabilia, they are afraid it takes away from their artistic integrity. I think they even have a "Kiss Army" constantly vigilant to report such activity. You should report this to Gene Simmons at his artist commune.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercsp

@Fat Al: Thanks and you're right, we should patronize stores like this to try and keep it from becoming a Starbucks or a TGI Fridays! Cheers!

@Spike: Colony can be a little pricey on some items, but I chalk it up to the price of admission! Glad you liked the post!

@Jason: Ha ha ha! Looks like my bad puns are rubbing off on you!

@csp: You're right it is shrine-like and it feels like walking backwards into a part of the old Times Square. And yes, I'm working on getting hold of Gene Simmons' artistic director a.k.a. his accountant.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTripping With Marty

I'll take that Kiss stuff !

Do you know if they were for sale ? ... and the amount ??

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGENE

Colony Records is a place near and dear to my heart. Thanks to Colony and a “comedy of errors, my love affair with Jazz began, and is still going on to this day.

In 1960 I was attending Stuyvesant High School (the old one on 15th street), one afternoon afterschool in the Art Room I was painting and my Art teacher put on a Muddy Waters record. Muddy blew my freakin’ brain! That Saturday I went to Colony and bought a used copy of a cheapo collection of Muddy Waters. Over the next few years I had a pretty decent Blues collection consisting of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf etc.

When the British Invasion started, I had read that one of my favorite bands at that time: The Yardbirds took their name from Charlie Parker’s nick-name; I also read an article where was John Lennon talking about the influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles. At the time I knew of Buddy Holly (but embarrassed to say, I knew nothing about his music), so I put Charlie Parker and Buddy Holly on my “to buy” list.

The following weekend I took the subway to Colony Records, and asked if they had any Charlie Parker? The clerk showed me a copy of an album called “The Best of Charlie Parker” it was only 99 cents, and from France (at the time I thought that was exotic). Then I mistakenly asked for Buddy Holiday (not Holly) and the clerk said “You mean Billie Holiday?” I said “Yeah, Billie Holiday” not wanting to look un-hip, and he gave me an album that I don’t remember the title of, but now know it was some of Billie’s Decca recordings, this was 99 cents too.

That afternoon I put Charlie Parker (this was some Savoy & Dial sides) on the turntable, I heard track 1 side A “Donna Lee” and thought to myself “this isn’t the fucking blues!” played both sides of the album and didn’t know what to make of it. Next I put Billie Holiday on and thought to myself “This doesn’t sound like the Beatles, oh well two bucks down the drain”

The next day I woke up with the sound of Be-Bop and Billie’s voice in my head, which lasted all day, just couldn’t shake it, as it had become embedded in my sub-concious. When I got home from High School that day, the first thing I did was put Charlie Parker on, followed by Billie Holiday, and it clicked!, I knew right then and there, this was a defining moment in my life!

The Guys who worked at Colony in those days were music fanatics, most of whom were Jazz fans, and they would recommend all kinds of great artists to young kid like me. They turned me on to Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and many more.

So thank you Colony and thank you Marty, for another slice of Manhattan at its finest!

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

when i was a kid i think i got a kiss doll as a birthday present and i tossed the fucker..
not a fan.. hope they make buko bucks off that stuff!
they were much better in their second incarnation as twisted sister.

I love this place and so want to go..not sure why i have never been.
but i need to rectify that.. road trip anyone?

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGidget

@GENE: It is for sale, but I didn't see the prices. I think the website mainly sells sheet music, but you should check there.

@Martin: Great Colony and record buying moments! Always love your stories and thanks for sharing them here! I once drove from Peoria, Illinois to Memphis with Jim McCarty, the drummer for The Yardbirds. I'll have to write about that sometime. And that's too funny asking for a record by "Buddy Holiday!"

@Gidget: Love or hate Kiss, you have to agree that wearing makeup was genius as they never age, of course when they take it off it's a different story! And yes, I'm up for a road trip, come on over and we'll take the subway!

March 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Great post Marty, as usual. And now I am REALLY missing being able to visit a REAL record store.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermeleah rebeccah

Fine story, Martin.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBabyDave

@meleah: Luckily it's still open, come on in to the city and take a browse! It beats iTunes all to shit!

@BabyDave: Thanks, I appreciate that!

March 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I love this place. Thank you for bringing me back. Midnight rocks.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Wow, cool store! I dig the door handles, all that memorabilia, and the fact that Richard can give you the history of the joint. And good on them for actually stocking sheet music. I thought that was only available on-line these days.

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

@Melanie: Midight does rock here, a pleasure to bring you back!

@Biff: A coo store, indeed! Another spot you need to check out on your next trip here!

March 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Wow that Colony Records place is awesome. I have to go there now Marty thanks!

Also, the Brill Building is where Michael Moore edits and scores his movies, so since Marty has a Michael Moore connection, I thought I'd mention that.

March 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShawn Chittle

So, NYT apparently picked up this news http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/nyregion/bills-gay-nineties-is-set-to-close-at-its-longtime-location.html

Coincidence, or is NYT just not crediting you or Jeremiah? Hmmmmm...
If NYT got this from Eater, Eater credited both of you and JM. http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/03/rumored_closing_date_for_bills_gay_nineties_is_march_24.php

March 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteresquared

@Shawn Chittle: Check it out Shawn, it's a great place filled with great music and things to gaze at. I didn't know that Michael Moore edits his movies there, very cool!

@esquared: Thanks for the links! Cool that Eater credited JM and myself!

March 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Great stop on the trip. Record stores draw me like a moth to a hot flame.
I never grow tired of exploring them.
I hope they remain around forever, but as the sunset fades on some of us "Baby Boomers', it's a dying tradition.
Keep tripping.

March 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"

@"Boris:" I agree totally about record stores, Daddio! Hey, Gidget and I were just talking about you on "The Secret Weapon!" Were your ears burning?

March 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Fantastic store! One could spend hours absorbing the musical history.
Skip the obvious tourist spots in NYC and hit The Colony!
While we happened upon the store by accident on a recent visit, It will be a well intentioned stop the next time in town!

June 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

@Debbie: I agree, it's a great place!

June 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I'm Marty Cooper, I worked and managed the store for a good part of 27 years, between 1981 and 2008 and I was a good friend to a lot of the Broadway and cabaret artists. Let me tell you I loved that store and it's customers, the owners, now that's another story, I started falling out of grace with the owners in 2007 after injuring myself in the store, after that I became disposble.Whether it was ITUNES or the economy the store went downhill shortly after I left. I will miss this store and it's customers but certainly not it's owners.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarty Cooper

@Marty Cooper: Sorry to hear you had a falling out with the owners after such a long time managing Colony Music. The store will definitely be missed.

September 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I were in almust every record store and flea markets looking for records worldwide but Michael the owner at Colony were very helpfull to let me dig in the downstairs basement to find some rare Olivia Newton Lps and 45 I havent had im my vwery rare ONJ colection. will miss them a lot

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersam

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