It was the summer of ’66. I can still remember getting off a Trailways bus from Hartford over at that lovely complex known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal. God, what a pit! The guys in the garage band that I was part of had just made the two and a half hour journey to the Big Apple. We were on a mission to visit the world famous 48th Street, “Music Row”. It was quite the pilgrimage and my heart quickened as we turned off Times Square heading east on 48th Street. There they were. It was one music store after another lining both sides of this magical block. What a staggering selection of guitars (acoustic and electric), sexy drum sets, and powerful amplifiers like I never could have imagined. Along with that monstrous array of instruments came the most surly and cranky sales guys the world has ever known. “Have you kids got any money or, are you just lookin’? Let me know when you’re ready to buy.“
Manny’s, Sam Ash, We Buy and Rudy’s all showing off their goods with the accompanying racket of hundreds of aspiring guitar slingers cranking up the latest Vox, Marshall or Fender amp. The stores were a mecca for musicians with star sitings quite common. The Who were in town the day we visited so I kept one eye peeled for Townshend or John Entwistle with hopes they’d be by checking out new gear. Every flavor guitar was there waiting to be touched and played. A few years later during the country rock craze I bought a Sho-Bud pedal steel (in stock!!) at Manny’s. And, in the late 1980s Sammy Ash had two Roger McGuinn Rickenbacker 12-string guitars for me. Yum.
Yesterday the NY Times ran an article saying the very last of the West 48th Street shops had finally closed. I’ll never forget that beehive of musical energy and commerce. Goodbye 48th Street.