by Andria Lisle
Yesterday morning, without any fanfare, hope for a miracle, or opportunity for a last-minute reprieve, the Nashville-based Music City Record Distributors unceremoniously pulled the plug on Memphis' final two Pop Tunes locations including the first Pop Tunes, located at 308 Poplar Ave., which was opened by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese in the late 1940s as a retail record store, a jukebox supplier, and a wholesale operation.
Eight years ago, Music City Record Distributors, owners of the beleaguered Cats Music chain, purchased all seven area Pop Tunes stores. According to this June 2001 story, which originally ran in Billboard, retail VP Scott Perkins assured Pop Tunes fans that the stores would largely retain their unique identity in the Memphis market.
"Pop Tunes has too much history — that's where Elvis shopped," Perkins said.
In a similar interview published by the Memphis Business Journal, Music City Record Distributors president Bruce Carlock promised, ""We're putting the pop back in Pop Tunes."
Then the internet changed the retail music game. Some local independent record shops, such as Goner and Shangri-la Records have managed to flourish in these trying times, but the guys at Music City Record Distributors seemed to lose interest in music and instead shifted gears to sell head shop paraphernalia, tapestries, and t-shirts in their Memphis stores.
Carlock and Perkins shuttered the iconic Summer Avenue Pop Tunes location sometime in the past decade, leaving the gorgeous 40-foot tall neon sign — a huge vinyl record surrounded by flashing musical notes — to rot. The building's then-tenant painted over the sign two years ago, whitewashing the memories of thousands of Memphians who discovered the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or, in my case, the Stooges' Raw Power album in the bins at Pop Tunes' classic eastern outlet.
They padlocked the Cat's Music on Union Avenue not long afterwards. I was surprised, but wasn't as saddened by that blow — although Cat's had a fantastic staff that once included current Stax Museum employee Steve Walker and musician Bret Krock of Good Luck Dark Star, the building didn't hold too many memories.
But the Pop Tunes on Poplar Ave?
Ever since the "Superman Dam Fool" graffiti was removed, Pop Tunes has provided the only bright spot on a dim stretch of Poplar that includes the city jail and bail bonds offices and pawnshops galore.
This city's history is fragmenting and disappearing overnight.