by Norman Hunter
I had the great good fortune of managing the Chapel Hill Record Bar on Henderson Street for approximately 2 ½ years between 1972 and 1974. Not only that, I lived less than a block from the store in a totally cool third floor apartment situated above the import store / head shop run by the legendary Kemp B. Nye. Just writing these words brings back a flood of memories.
My strongest memories of living above Kemp's are waking to the sounds of Indian music and the fragrance of incense burning in the court yard outside his shop. Kemp was truly a unique individual with a zest for life, and the ladies, that was a pleasure to behold. I have no idea how old he was, probably in his 50's, but I remember thinking of him as living proof that one can age without getting old.
It's been over five years since I've been back to "The Village", but I'm confident it has continued to drift away from those elements that made that nickname so appropriate. Back in the day before parking garages, strip centers, malls, and big box stores came to town, Chapel Hill was a small town oasis still reflecting the atmosphere and vibes of the 1960's.
By the way, my personal prejudices have always considered the 60's to be more about a state of mind and outlook than simply a decade with years numbered from 1960 – 1969. As a I contend that the 60's began with the Beatles first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9,1964) and ended with Richard Nixon's resignation (August 8,1974). For me this was the beginning and end of an incredibly optimistic time when anything seemed possible.
The music of this era was new and exciting, with vitality, creativity, and culture changing impact. This was a time when buying records (vinyl long players, 8-track tapes, and cassettes) was a central part of most college students' lives. There was no competition from video games, DVD's, or computer software to capture their attention, imagination, and disposable income.
As a , many of the store's regular visitors / customers were people who simply wanted to experience the pleasures of hanging out in a record store, listening to the latest releases, and visiting with like minded friends or strangers. And to this day, nothing has ever equaled the pleasure I felt when I was able to turn someone on to a new release or new artist, knowing I had provided some enjoyment for their lives.
At this point I feel compelled to mention the "Cosmic Goodies Rack" we had positioned at the front of the store that featured employee picks. It had twelve slots which contained a mix of new releases and overlooked "must haves". Nearly 35 years later it’s difficult to remember all the records that made the rack, but here are some of the ones that come to mind.
The Who Sell Out
David Bowie – Hunky Dory, Space Oddity, and Ziggy Stardust
Blue Oyster Cult – first album
Grin – first album and 1+1
Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies and Everybody’s In Showbiz
Asylum Choir 1 –featuring Leon Russell
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks – first album
Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Running the Record Bar gave me a fairly high profile around town which was nearly always a pleasant experience. However I do remember one time when it was a bit of a drag. It had to do with the pending, and long delayed, release of "Harvest", the follow-up to Neil Young's break through solo release "After The Gold Rush". People wanted this record!!
It got to the point where I couldn't take two steps out on the street without being stopped and asked when the album was coming out. With even this minor taste of public recognition I can certainly sympathize with real celebrities and the price they often pay in privacy lost. By the way, I still remember to this day that we sold 149 copies of the album on its first day of release.
Barrie Bergman - first Manager of the Chapel Hill Record Bar (His Dad started the company)
Music has always played a central role in my life, and managing the Henderson Street Record Bar will always hold a special place in my heart; not only for the incredible music of that era but also for the people who frequented the store and shared their love of music with me.Comment
What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.