Wallich's Music City at Sunset and Vine


Remembering L.A.'s First Great Record Store, "Wallich's Music City". Bing Crosby shopped the aisles, Frank Zappa worked the floor. 

Before there was a Tower Records, before the Capitol Records building was the Capitol Records building, L.A.’s coolest music-industry hub was Wallichs Music City.

Glenn Wallichs opened the record store with his brother, Clyde, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in 1940. Until Tower Records set up on the Sunset Strip 30 years later, Wallich's Music City was the place to go for concert tickets, sheet music, LPs, 45s, tapes, 8-tracks, cassettes, and musical instruments. It’s where a friend of mine purchased a double neck guitar right off the wall, and where my mother picked up an alto recorder for my second grade music class. Maybe you remember its radio and TV jingle: “It’s Music City, Sunset &Vine!”


When Glenn Wallichs co-founded Capitol Records in 1942 with singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer and songwriter Buddy DeSylva, the record label had its offices above the store. (Dot Records moved into that space after Capitol left for Hollywood Boulevard in 1956.) On their way in and out of meetings, recording stars including Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Eddie Cochran, and Brain Wilson browsed the aisles and signed their names on their latest hits at the display counters downstairs.

Eddie Cochran and Sharon Sheeley looking through records







'

















Singer and song writer, Brain Wilson of "The Beach Boys"

A display for KLAC 570 in 1974. 

But Wallichs Music City wasn’t famous only for its clientele: It had the distinction of being the first record store to seal albums in cellophane and display them in racks. Before that, customers could listen to tracks—or record one of their own, for a small fee—in tiny chambers that looked like old wooden telephone booths. 

The hippest cats in town could be found in the listening booths of Wallich's Music City 




Here’s Mel Blanc in a promotional video for Capitol Records and the store 

By the mid 1960s, the area around Hollywood and Vine had become a place “to cruise” and an even more popular zone for music lovers. The Lawrence Welk Show was filmed and the “Teen-Age Fair” was held around the corner at the Hollywood Palladium. Wallichs Music City kept hip hours, staying open until 2 a.m. The store was so cool, in fact, Frank Zappa worked there part-time in 1965. I would have loved to see him in his company-issued coat and tie.


Despite its following, the Wallichs Music City lost business as record chains like Licorice Pizza, Music Plus, and Wherehouse Music & Movies popped up and then multiplied in L.A.’s suburban malls. Wallichs Music City closed in 1978 and the building was razed. Today, a Walgreens stands at its former location. Just don’t go in expecting to “try before you buy.”

This article was published for Los Angeles Magazine on June 16th, 2015


Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.

alisonmartino.com

Comments

  1. Nice subject, but, seriously? The writer misspelled Brian Wilson's name...twice! He's just the most influential musical artist of the last half of the 20th century (if not longer)! I could possibly understand if he was from somewhere BESIDES L.A.! Yet he was born, raised, and has lived most of his 75 years there.

    You'd think in two years, someone would correct this here.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Los Angeles during the 1970s

Remembering Tower Records

Melrose Ave in the '80's