Chapter 7 ~ Wallich’s Music City

21 Listening Booths

Glenn Wallich was a great innovator in the record industry.  He founded Wallich’s Music City at Sunset and Vine in 1940.  Two years later, he opened Capitol Records in the same building.  Music City operated at the same location for over 40 years and became renowned for offering the most complete sellection of new records in the country. Glenn and his brother Clyde, were instrumental in providing personal service and a new concept in record merchandising. The entire sales floor was stocked with demonstration records that patrons could take into  private listening booths and sample before purchasing. After selecting a record, the customer would take the demo record to a sales clerk and exhange it for a new, unplayed copy. All long play records were sold in shrink wrap, another innovation of Music City.  Wallich’s sold records at list price, although discount shops would pop up in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The store would stay open until the 1980’s, until the neighborhood and tastes began to change.  With the opening of Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, where “serve your self” was king, Wallich’s fell to new marketing strategies.  In it’s day,  Music City was the mecca for music lovers and celebrities.  The store welcomed customers in the morning and stayed open until 2:00 am. Those who remember the 1950’s and 1960’s will recall the famous radio jingle, “It’s Music City, Sunset and Vine,” introduced by singers such as Bing Crosby and  Perry Como and many more. Through the years, local radio personalities, from Jack Bailey, Dick Whitinghill, Wink Marindale, Gary Owens, B. Mitchell Reed and others roamed through the record store, sometimes broadcasting from a makeshift studio behind the store windows on Vine.

Over the years, Wallich’s added new merchandise, selling televisions, stereo components, musical instruments and concert tickets.  Teenagers lined up for their turn to play records at one of the 21 listening booths, selecting the latest hits from the KFWB  top 40 list, while adults might play the latest Sinatra recordings. Movie stars were seen thumbing through the bins for records  found only at Music City.  Burt Lancaster often spent an afternoon searching through the opera section, while Herb Alpert would ask clerks to check the sales on his latest Tijuana Brass  album.  Johnny Mathis would drop by after midnight and hang out with the clerks.  Comedian Red Skelton spent an hour behind the singles record counter one Saturday afternoon buzzing customers through the turnstiles to the listening booths. Rock Hudson would come by late at night when the store was quiet and Christmas shop. The Rolling Stones, the Byrds, the Mamas and Papas all shopped at Wallich’s.  Johnny Rivers, while playing to sold-out crowds at the Whiskey a Go Go, would shop at Music City during the afternoon.

Wallich’s was more than a record store. It was a place to meet friends, listen to records and hang out.  Managers Darryl Stabile and Hugh McCurley insured that every customer that walked into the store was approached and offered assistance.  Music City was a time and place that passed through the lives of many, relegated now to memory.