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A Quiet but Eternal Legacy

  03/24/13 20:26, by , Categories: Music News, Dan Grigor , Tags: ambassador of music, bulletin board, dan grigor, edward lawrence robinson, guitar lessons, larry robinson, les paul, music store, musical instrument, open mic, pete_s music

By Dan Grigor

I worked for a while in a little rustic music store in a tiny little town, selling high-school band instruments, guitars, strings and stuff. I also did minor repairs and gave guitar lessons. It was an altogether unforgettable experience with so many stories I really wouldn’t know where to begin.  Until now.

There is a horrible story playing out in a tiny little town near me. You see, the guy that worked there in the tiny little music store, Pete’s Music of Temecula, was beaten and robbed. Apparently, someone came in, tied him up, beat him within an inch of his life, took a guitar and left him for dead. He died. Aside from the obvious, his family and close friends, he leaves behind a quiet but eternal legacy. He was the local Music Store Guy. In case you are unaware of the huge responsibility that is, let me enlighten you.

The impact of this man has been something to see. I didn’t know him really, not like some of my friends did. I met him years ago in a different music store. I’ve driven by there and always meant to drop in and check it out. I know him more through his impact on my friends and the sleepy little town that has had a piece of it cut out. Friends and musicians for miles are crying today. Maybe playing, maybe writing songs as we do, I don’t know. I am grieving here in my way by sharing with you what I see happening in tiny little music stores in tiny little towns wherever you may go. The indispensible Music Store Guy. We’ll call him Larry. He is more important than you may think and if you stop and think about it, there may be a Music Store Guy in your past that, to this day, sticks in your mind.

There are lots of Music Store Guys. Often they are girls. One type is the young kid that works after school. He and all his friends at school want this job but only one at a time can get it. He makes up for what he doesn’t know by the exuberance of youth and a young passion for music. He’ll make a great “Larry” someday. For now, he is happy getting a discount on strings and stocking shelves and sweeping up. He is usually a young guitar player or something and has a rock band with an ironic name. His friends come in and hang out a lot. That’s where I started, hanging out with my friend who had the job and sort of helping out for a set of strings or whatever.

Another type is the guy who plays an orchestra instrument and he sort of hates it when guitar dudes in ironically-named bands show up and hang around and make a racket for hours. He’s great for the store, though, ‘cause school band sales are a small store’s bread and butter.

There is a different Larry though, who takes it way more seriously than you can imagine. He’s the guy who tunes all the guitars every day. He helps you and your precious little snowflake find just the right instrument to rent until they lose interest. He’s the one that encourages you and your brood to make music, somehow, some way, on some instrument, soon. You see, this guy, guys like Larry Robinson, they’re different. They have a passion for music that goes deeper somehow. Their particular passion is sharing the joy that PLAYING music brings into your life. Helping people, kids mostly, to find THEIR joy.

It is a huge responsibility. When you have the luxury of hindsight as I do some 35 years later, you realize that the impact you sort of unknowingly had is incredible. If you spend as much time working in music stores as Larry did, you reach two generations of people and often guide them through their learning process, teaching, advising or perhaps providing the contact for a good teacher nearby. If you spend time at it at all you will give one kid a kazoo while their older sister picks up her flute. Then the next year you rent them a violin, next semester maybe a French horn. The following year it may be back to the violin and then comes the day Mom and Dad come in to pick one out for Christmas or a sweet sixteen. That’s a big day for a lot of kids: a real instrument of their very own. You have no idea how cool it feels to be the one that makes that happen. It is like getting a kid a first bike, only better — music is forever.

You have to be able to trust that guy, that guy like Larry, to help with decisions like that. It used to be, before computers and whatnot, that the first musical instrument was the most expensive possession a child owned. They learned, often from guys like Larry, how to take care of them and keep them nice. They are also there when the phase is over and you need to resell it. They make sure you get as much as they can get you and that it fits the new owner as well. A double dose of satisfaction if you do it right.

Parents often need to trust Larry with their children for an hour or so for a lesson — again, not as easy as it used to be. It could have been much worse that evening if there was a lesson in progress. The Music Store isn’t like a candy store where you come and go — lots of folks spend time hanging around in music stores. Playing  new instruments, jamming with other customers, taking a lesson, you can spend some hours in there. Often though, for hours, sometimes days, nothing happens and Larry gets to sit and play, maybe work on a new song or finally try out the sweet new guitar that came in last week and give it a good workout. 

Most days though, Larry comes in early and opens up, makes coffee, maybe tunes a guitar or changes the window display. Maybe he gets the paperwork done and everything dusted and adjusted. A repair takes an hour and a phone call or two. Long-hair kid comes in for a cable and they talk about his upcoming gig. Larry probably knows the kid since his hair was short and probably the bass player too. They’re gonna play at the open mic that Larry hosts at the local bar someday, maybe next week. He’s watched them grow up. Perhaps he introduced them to the drummer who came in one day and bought a cowbell. He teases them and encourages them and has been doing so for years, since they were kids.

Larry is the guy who is the town’s Ambassador of Music. Always there at the fundraiser, the vigil, the memorial, the wedding, either playing along or having provided the means for others to do so. If a venue or a visiting band needs a wacky cable or help with amps or whatnot where do they go? They go see Larry. He has something that might help and when you get there it isn’t some pimply-faced ex-burger-slinger who “thinks that maybe the cello rosin is on aisle 5.” Big stores are great, they have everything all in one place and in stock and they are ready to upsell you  and ask you to turn it down a little. The little guy gets to know you better somehow; you can hang out there and, on a good day, they let you crank it up.

 If you’re new in town the best place to find out what the local scene is like is the local music store. That guy will know all the venues and players and bands in town. I love traveling around and stopping in at little stores in different parts of the country, shmoozing with Larrys. All so different, all so similar. You get to see what all the musicians are up to on the bulletin board. They’ll know in there if there is a pocket drummer available for hire locally or where to rent a stage. Larry will know who has a sweet Les Paul for sale. That’s what the guy took, by the way, we lost Larry Robinson over a Les Paul. What a waste.

Edward Lawrence Robinson, by all accounts, was a sweet, gentle man who loved music with a passion that touched thousands of people. His musical career touched thousands more. Google it. He was one of a kind.  Like those of his kind that have passed before him, though he may be gone from here, Larry will live forever. The lives he touched with music and enriched through his love of it, passed down now from the generations he reached to generations to come. That’s love with legs.

The news of his passing was all over FaceBook during a busy weekend for me. I tried to avoid it until I had time to process it. Then I got a message from a kid that I met in a little rustic music store in a tiny little town 35 years ago who shared with me the details. I cried and my wife held me for a moment as I reflected back and realized the impact Larry’s passing will have on this town and the people who loved him. There was a candlelight vigil tonight in front of the store; I couldn’t go, a little too close to home I guess. This really struck me, harder than I would have thought. It took a bit to process.

To those that knew and loved him I offer you this: Larry Robinson may be gone from here but he lives forever in the music he brought into this world, replayed and reloved over and over through little hands and big hands, passed on to little hands again and again and again.

Thank you, Music Store Guy; your contribution will not be in vain. You, sir, get to live forever.

 


Publisher’s Note:

The investigation is ongoing. Taken was a US made red Les Paul Studio in a hard shell case. Anybody with information was asked to call the Temecula Sheriff’s station at 951-696-3000.

Contributions are being accepted here for the benefit of Larry Robinson’s family.

 

UPDATE:  You can follow and join in on the conversation here at Fark.com

 UPDATE:  Pete Surowski (owner of Pete’s Music) believes the thief/murderer may have been a musician. In addition to the money in the cash register, he says a “highly traceable” Gibson Les Paul with a red-wine finish was taken. “We want to put out a kind of amber alert for the guitar to find the guy. The serial number is 01042519.”
~ San Diego Reader, Ken Leighton, March 25, 2013



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