COLONY RECORDS AND WHY IT SHOULD BE SAVED
In the movie, Air Force One, Harrison Ford, playing the role of the President of the United States, disables an inside terrorist on his plane and manages to grab on and hang on to the broken harness, semi-detached from the failing Air Force One, heading in crash mode for the ocean. He is rescued by the plane that the harness is attached to. When he is safely onboard, Liberty 2-4, the rescue plane, changes call signs to Air Force One. It’s pretty dramatic, and any mildly patriotic American would get chills.
This reminds me of every time I landed at any of the New York airports. I would get this warm, gushy feeling of being back home. The feeling was even stronger when I had been out of the country and was touching down on American soil again.
Both of these anecdotes relate to what I’m feeling today when I think about every time I walked into Colony Records, 49th and Broadway, the all-time primo music store that had sheet music and records, in my day. They were open ‘til 2:00 am every night (except maybe Sunday) so that we, the students, performers and other music enthusiasts could access our lovely sheet music or vinyl late at night.
The article today in The New York Times talks about how most employees, back in the day, knew so much about the sheet music sold and the songs represented on those sheets, how we could go in and hum a few bars to a song or even just a few lyrics and have one of the employees, who were, in my mind, the caretakers of a music legacy, the format, “sheet music,” in the landmark store, Colony, recognize the song and produce the sheet in one or two versions.
Colony also felt like home, even the first time I went in. I used to go several times a week when I was in music school and never stumped Jerry Joseph, night manager, who passed 2 months ago, when I sang one little phrase of any song. Even if he didn’t have the sheet, rare, he knew the song. It was almost uncanny.
I met Michael Grossbardt, current owner, pictured above, when his dad ran the store and we were in our late teens or early twenties. At the time, I didn’t know his dad owned Colony. He didn’t know Colony was one of my weekly priorities. He introduced me to his Hasselblad, and we talked a little photography. We saw each other a few times, and that was that. By the way, he looks the same now as he did then.
Instead of deleting Colony because of the digital age, the City of New York should preserve it by mandate as a historical site, or turn it into a shrine, of sorts, or, at least a non-profit that stays around for all to see and enjoy. It deserves to be available as a landmark, a preservation of an era, a repository for sheet music and old records, a museum. It could become part of the New York Public Library System, making revenue as a gift shop/museum, or be the first Sheet Music Museum. The least that should happen is that the City pick up half the rent.
Thank you to Michael for keeping Colony alive this long. Forever Colony Records! A great tradition and keeper of our music.