By Tim Donnelly. A guitar player, he saw it as a mecca: the block of 48th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues that, since the s, had been home to dozens of guitar sellers, studios and repair shops. Rudy's was so happy have Dave Grohl in the shop that Rudy pulled out some of his favorite stash guitars to celebrate. For rock legends — Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles — it was one-stop shopping for everything from pedals and sheet music to accordions and amps. No one will ever have that dream again, though. High rents and changing shopping habits have whittled the block down to a shadow of its former self. Pensa closed shop on Friday. No thanks, says the shopkeep. By the end of the year, Music Row will officially be dead. The biggest hit came in , when Sam Ash — which operated half a dozen shops on both sides of the street, selling sheet music, brass, woodwinds, guitars and accessories — closed all those doors after 50 years.
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The other day, I biked the length of Forty-eighth street from Seventh Avenue to Sixth Avenue and encountered an unusual view. In the middle of the south side of the block, where a clutch of music stores had once been, was rubble. An enormous expanse of rubble. The municipal version of a tooth that has been knocked out. Forty-eighth Street was once famous for stores that sold musical instruments.
Sigh, still miss it. Gracins and nearly all of the other instrument shops are long gone. In the 80ies and 90ies I bought much gear in this street.. When I visited this street in after 17 years in Manhattan l was shocked. I remember the guy who sold me…Ray Carozza! I still remember once back in , I was there with a friend who then bought a terrific PRS. We spent the whole day playing guitars in those stores.
A recent article in The New Yorker brought back a ton of memories about how cool it was to be a musician in New York even if you were only visiting at one time in what seems like forever in the past. That was a time when the mecca of music stores was centered at 48th Street. Sadly, Music Row is no more as the the last tenants moved out in , although most had been gone for some time before that. The 48th Street stores also always had the latest gear, which was a big deal before the Internet made manufacturer communication about new product instantaneous. Talk about exciting. Then there was the service, which was surprising good given the hard-sell environment and alleged New Yorker hard-core sales attitude. Not only did I get a replacement with no questions asked, he put me at the front of the line as well. This was back when I was just a kid playing in a Pennsylvania band of no particular notoriety so there was zero celebrity involved. I was just a customer with a problem, and Henry took care of me.