Meaningful Memories Meaningful Memories

Meaningful Memories©

The first broadcast of the radio show that I heard was in the spring-summer of 1961. I was flipping through the dial of my transistor radio, while laying in bed and heard what sounded to me like the most unprofessional radio DJ I ever heard. But the music was great. (I had actually started to accumulate vocal group recordings about a year earlier, but never considered it collecting as in stamp or coin collecting).  I recall on the first occasion hearing only a few minutes at the end of the show.

It was not until September 1961 that I again heard the show. Again, it was by accident. On this second occasion, I heard that entire one hour.  It was like magic.  Sure, I liked vocal group recordings and they made up the vast majority of the 45’s I owned , however I remember my reaction was “where did he get this stuff”. The Pyramids’ "Ankle Bracelet", The Castelles, The Dream & The Dreamers…I was hooked, though I admit that at first I was always hoping to hear some records that I already knew such as The Five Satins, Mello Kings and other groups that I had heard Alan Freed play in earlier years.

On the radio show, besides Slim, he had a girl named “Genni” (pronounced Jenny) who also was a “DJ”. She was extremely pretty and "Slim" would encourage guys to “write in for a picture of Genni”. I had two or three of them.  I don’t recall ever seeing her in the store.

While "Slim" always referred to the store as “Times Square Records” as he would usually say after playing a record “$1.00 at Times Square Records” or just “Times”. "Slim" would also encourage you to write in for a free fan club card. The benefit of this card was a ten percent discount on purchases at Times Records. I recall that the card was silver in color and had the words “Sink Or Swim With Swingin’ Slim” at the top.  It also mentioned the radio station WBNX (which was a small Bronx station that was sometimes difficult to get in clearly in Brooklyn) at 1380 AM. The show was on Saturday nights, I believe between 10:30 pm and midnight.

The fan club card was one way that "Slim" promoted and encouraged purchases at the store.The other was his “two for one special” that was rarely offered on a weekly basis.

In late 1961, he offered two for ones, maybe once a month and soon they became even less frequent. I recall that the first two for one special I bought was “Get Yourself Another Fool” by the Tempotones on Acme. The second one was “It Took Time” by the Upfronts on Lummtone. There would others too that I do not recall.

Another way "Slim" promoted sales were with his top 100 sales list. In spite of it’s title, the list did not really represent the top hundred sellers of the month.  Instead it was a list of records he had in stock, usually new arrivals in quantity.  Some customers walking into the store would pick up a list, and of course, go right to number 1,2 or 3, not to 98, 99 0r 100. If it’s the number one seller it had to be good right?

The store itself was small at the original location. The ceiling, or at least part of it, was so low that you had to bend your head to avoid banging into it. There was one window, not very large and a door to the right of it and of course the window on the door was pasted with a variety of things that made looking into the store somewhat difficult. There would be the top 100 list, letters from all over the country from people looking for or looking to sell a record, news articles and even fan club letters asking for a picture of Genni.

From time to time a record would be hung in the window (taped to it). I recall that for a long time the center from the destroyed 78 of "Stormy Weather" by the Five Sharps on Jubilee was taped to the window with a note below it saying “Do you have this record” along with a dollar amount offered for it.

Another fixture in the store in 1961-62 was the “infamous Teddy the Raccoon”. I say “infamous” because it was Teddy who broke Billy Pensabene’s copy of the Five Sharps’ "Stormy Weather", which set off a hunt for the record which still continues. After the record was broken, Slim on his radio show offered $5.00 in credit for a copy. This increased every week as no one brought in a copy.

Teddy usually sat on top or next to the bins of miscellaneous $1.00 records that you encountered when you entered the store. These were records that "Slim" had only a copy or two of and they were never listed on his top 100 list. Teddy was the size of a very large cat and was very playful. He was fairly tame, especially considering the number of people (mostly strangers) who came into the store. They would pet him or do other things to prevent him from sleeping.

There were a couple of people who worked in the store. The one who seemed to be there most, at least when I went which was usually Friday night, was Harold Ginsburg. He seemed to know a lot about the records he was selling and he also was the main person who handled their mail orders.

"Slim" was always in the original store, however not always at the second one. He sometimes took care of customers when the others were busy. I remember being a little intimidated at first by both "Slim" and other customers in the store. "Slim", because he was an old guy around my father’s age selling and playing on his radio show my music.  Remember at that time, there was big difference between what I would call my music and my parents music.

The other customers were even more intimidating. While I was just looking for a copy of a particular record that was new, or not too beat up, these customers would be asking for records and asking about label color, print styles, etc.  Other things that I later learned were so important to collectors. Another thing was that just about all the other customers I encountered in the store seemed to be older than I was. I was a 16 year old high school kid, who sometimes barely had enough money to buy 2 or 3 records (which were always $1.00 records) and still take the subway home to Brooklyn. However, a number of other customers  were in suits, apparently stopping after work and were spending $10.00 to $20.00 and more. They were buying the $2.00 and $3.00 records, not just the $1.00 ones that my “budget” limited me to.

The address at the original location was 1475 Broadway. It was one flight of stairs down, as you were going into the subway station at Broadway & 42nd Street. To get to the subway you actually had to make a short right turn, go down one more flight of stairs taking you to the level where the token booth was located. At times the store would shake from the subway.

The location was great for business as everyone coming up those subway stairs met the store head on before they reached the street. I have a very vague memory of a “Magic Shop” being in that location before Times Records was there, but I am not 100% sure.

When you first entered the store you saw $1.00 records hanging on the wall at the right and to the left there were the “money” records. Also, there were several bins of ten cent records to the right of the door. Most were without sleeves, but in very good condition. I remember buying a DJ copy of "Bing Bong" by the Silhouettes, Gone by Jesse Belvin on Specialty and "Don’t Be A Fool" by the Explorers on Coral for ten (10) cents each. When the store moved to the 6th Avenue subway arcade the bin became a twenty five (25) cent bin. There were still some good records in it.

When the store moved to the 6th Avenue subway arcade things changed. The once tiny store was now a big spacious one compared to the original store. The Saturday night radio show was gone.  It was replaced by another show that Slim did (I think on WHBI FM) it was not the same or it could be that I was not the same.

Now that I had a job after school or in the summer I had even less money for records than before.  Girlfriends were “expensive” and I was starting to focus on things like avoiding the draft and the war in Vietnam.

As I mentioned, while I always recall seeing "Slim" in  the old store, he was not always there when I visited the new one. I remember on at least two occasions when he was there, he would say to me something like “isn’t she pretty”? Referring to one of the girls who worked in the store. But it wasn’t the beautiful Genni whose picture a lot of us were carrying. Instead it was a girl who to me at the time was very much overweight and sorry to say her dress looked more like a tent than a dress. I am sure that my perception may have been more than a little poor at the time, but then “thin was in” and the opposite wasn’t at least with my friends and myself.

I somehow recall, that between the time "Slim"closed his store and Lou opened his, there was someone else in there. It was not for too long a time, if my memory is correct. Later Lou  (Silvani) would move Times Square Records to the Bronx, the same location was no longer a record store, although in the same 6th Avenue Subway arcade. It was at this location Roy Adams and his partner opened up Downstairs Records in approximately 1970.

Tony D’Ambrosio

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