Big Things in Store

When you visit your local record shop, make sure that's not the next Springsteen selling you a CD

Struggling musicians. By definition they haven't reached the pinnacle of success they would like to reach A that maybe you'd like them to reach. It's a plain fact. Whatever money they make from their live gigs doesn't exactly put them on the A list for a visit from Robin Leach.

While they're paying their dues, they must also pay their bills. And being, um, artists, many career opportunities are closed to them by simple discrimination. Most banks aren't looking for branch managers who have tattoos covering their once-virgin skin, earrings dangling, hair down to there, or rather individual ways of dressing (to put it nicely) that would be obfuscated by a corporate uniform.

Further, most musicians play late at night.
One obvious solution: seek employment at record stores or in related facets of the music-selling bidness. Work it from both sides at the same time.

Jessicka knows. The singer for Jack Off Jill (a red-hot band she calls a "monstrosity") has been paying the stage-props bill for the past eight months by slinging slabs at the three outlets of Broward-based CD Exchange. "Our band fliers have a lot of profanity on them," she notes casually. "But since I work here, I can put them up in all three stores."

Maybe that's why her bandmates love her like a mother. "I was poor at the time I took the job, and in our band we practice five nights a week. That rules out waitressing. Whoever has money supports the others, buys them dinner." Before CD Exchange, Jessicka tested the retail waters at a shop called Square Circle, which used to be in Sawgrass Mills. "It was pretty bad there. These people would come in and ask me if I knew a particular song. They'd say, 'I don't know the artist or the real lyrics.' Then they'd try to sing it for me. I'm not lazy, but I really don't know the songs off the Power 96 playlist."

Jessicka isn't the only local rocker who can be found at the CD Exchanges in North Miami, Lauderdale Lakes, and Fort Lauderdale. Look A there's Jeordie White from the hard-thrashing Amboog-a-lard. And that's free-lance bassist Patrick Joyce. And isn't that singer Sean LeClair from Sister Venus? "It's an easy job and you listen to music all the time, but a lot of the music that stores sell is mainstream," says LeClair, who previously worked for Vibrations and a Q Records outlet, both of which have since closed. (He says there's no connection between his stints at the markets and their misfortune.)

Versatile singer-songwriter Mary Karlzen, who has lately been enjoying national attention for her two eclectic CD releases, has found employment at record stores since she was a teenager. First was a Musicland in her native Chicago when she was fourteen. After high school and a move to Florida, Karlzen briefly worked at Peaches before moving to Spec's, where she's labored off-and-on since 1984. "It's great because it expands your musical horizons 100 percent," she says. "I'd dig through the bins and listen to just about every kind of music."

Before becoming a DJ at WSHE-FM (103.5), Glenn Richards could count on the Peaches in South Miami for a gig. "They always let me come back, and they were flexible with the scheduling," says Richards. That was only one benefit. Imagine hanging out in a record store where the employees consisted of such notable Miami music stars as singer Raul Malo of the Mavericks, bassist Juan Diaz of Nuclear Valdez, drummer David Hanono of the Voice in Fashion, jazz trumpeter Matt Pierson, and Brevard Sullivan (rock guitarist and son of jazz legend Ira Sullivan).

One of Richards's flexible bosses at that Peaches was Alex Jimenez. Since leaving the retailer in 1986, Jimenez has gone on to become a sales manager at Bassin Distributors, one of the largest such companies in the nation. "We had some great times there," Jimenez says of the Peaches years. "One time I was in the back and Juan (Diaz) told me to come out front to meet his friend. I was busy, but I went out there and I saw this guy with suntan lotion all over his nose, and he was wearing a sun visor and a pair of shorts. Juan said, 'I'd like you to meet Eric Clapton.' Clapton had spent the weekend in the Keys, and he came into the record store for directions to the airport. Of all places, he had picked the one where he would most likely be recognized. Anyway, that same day a local rep named Jim Page came into the store on business. From that point it was a running joke that we had Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in the store on the same day."

While Diaz was at Peaches from 1986 to 1989, the store was supportive of Nuclear Valdez's progress. After cutting two albums for Epic Records, the Nukes have been on a songwriting hiatus while negotiating for a new label deal. Diaz currently works at the Yesterday & Today music mart on Bird Road, while his band occasionally performs, unannounced, around town. "We're not really playing the old stuff," he says. "Most of the music is new because we're trying to see how it comes across. Another reason we don't announce them is that the shows are about 30 minutes long and we don't want our fans coming out and being disappointed."

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