by Danny R. Phillips
Sweet baby Jesus, St. Joseph, MO has a real record store; a space dedicated solely to music in its most beautiful of physical forms: the vinyl record album. Thy name be The Music Exchange.
Located in St. Joseph Auction & Antiques Market (in the old Chase Candy Co. building), what started as a small booth stocked with a couple hundred selections from owner Dave Despain’s own collection, has grown to over 16,000 records. All genres are represented here (good jazz, blues and country sections) but rock n roll is clearly at the top of the heap.
“I’ve always loved rock n roll.” DeSpain told Tuning Fork,” “I wanted a place where people could feel like they’re going back in time to like Fox’s Emporium. Somewhere you can flip through the racks, listen to the record before you take it home, somewhere to feel the excitement I felt every time I found the perfect record.”
It is that excitement, an almost fanatical love of vinyl, an obsession begun with a Columbia House Record Club membership, that keeps DeSpain searching the four state area to buy, at times, whole collections to stock the shop in town.
It’s not the almighty dollar that keeps DeSpain going, he’s doing it to give people a local place to find good quality vinyl, for the joy it brings watching someone find what they needed and things that jump out at them as a winner.
“This girl, maybe twelve years old, came in with her mom the other day, she was looking for Sinatra. A twelve year old looking for Sinatra, that’s amazing. I found some for her, bundled them together and gave them to her because I thought it was so cool she was looking for Frank.” he said with a grin.
DeSpain’s wish is to keep The Music Exchange local. He doesn’t sell on line, doesn’t do ebay, he just wants people to come in and discover their inner crate digger. What he wants is a community of collectors ready for conversation. The Music Exchange could be the place that the record enthusiasts of this town need.
Rummaging through the packed shelves I saw everything from the wild, cool jazz of Miles Davis, the straightforward country song-craft of the red headed stranger, the over the top blowout that is KISS and the New York cool of The Talking Heads.
Turntable and headphones sit by waiting, waiting for you to pick a record to spin as posters and banners celebrating the likes of the Ramones, The Misfits and Fleetwood Mac hang from the ceiling, greeting all who enter. The Kinks playing “Lola” providing the soundtrack to my search.
The shelves, purchased from Hastings after the company’s collapse, are packed, bursting at the seams, loaded with precious gems, ready to be discovered. And to those of us looking for a good deal, DeSpain likes to bundle, “Come in, find a few things and we’ll talk.”
While the prices are comparable to shops in KC and Lawrence, KS, the bright side is: the money you save in gas you could spend on records. Also, it a great opportunity to support yet another unique local business that our city has to offer.
The deeper I dug, the better the stuff I was finding. 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s are everywhere. The Stranglers, New Order, the ramones, Hendrix, great Stones stuff, Leon Russell, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Refused, the Nuggets comp., Krokus, its all there. Every record I examined (and I examined a lot) where mostly free from scratches and dust, the records that DeSpain puts out for the public are all of the quality I would welcome into my collection at home and anyone that knows me knows that I’m picky to say the least.
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