Goner Records ties together the past, present, and future of Memphis music. You can browse through rock and soul LPs and 45s that made your parents put on their dancing shoes; find pristine vinyl pressings of hot new bands; and hear about what’s coming up next in the local music scene.
Owners Eric Friedl and Zac Ives are both musicians who looked for a way to move their love for music beyond playing in a band. When Ives returned to Memphis in 2004, the timing was perfect. Greg Cartwright’s Legba Records was moving out of the space at 2152 Young. Friedl and Ives were ready to move in. They were already producing records under their Goner label and were doing some mail order business. The segue into bricks and mortar wasn’t difficult.
The store offers a great mix of old and new, vinyl and CD, and multiple genres.
“Some people think we are just into punk rock,” says Friedl, “but we buy and sell all kinds of music.”
I ask him what people might consider the holy grail of old vinyl. He told me that it is different for everyone and for every kind of music. Goner tends to lean toward early Memphis soul music and some obscure Memphis artists. He said that the recent use of Wendy Rene’s Stax song “Bar-B-Q” in a national television campaign has generated a lot of interest.
Friedl says, “A lot of music is under appreciated because it is local. It’s right here in your neighborhood. Some things are so close you take them for granted.”
Now that so much music can be streamed for immediate gratification, I ask Friedl: Why vinyl?
“There’s access to more music digitally, but I think records are more fun,” he explains. “There’s more interaction.”
Friedl went on to speak about looking at the cover, reading liner notes, and physically putting the record on the turntable.
It isn’t all about nostalgia, Friedl claims. It’s about full immersion in the act of listening to music. The listening station in the back of the store lets customers experience new sounds as well as try before they buy.
“I love to turn people on to new stuff,” Ives adds. “If they’re willing to talk about what they like, I can spin off from there.”
Goner Records has an international customer base.
“People from Finland love us. We’re a destination stop for people all over the world who love Memphis music,” Friedl says. “One of my favorite things about Gonerfest is that it brings everybody together. Our local customers and international customers get to meet each other and listen to music together.”
Gonerfest takes place at the end of September every year. In 2017, there will be 35 bands. During the day, the Cooper-Young gazebo serves as the music stage. At night, the bands typically play in local venues like Memphis Made Brewing, the Hi-Tone, and Murphy’s.
Also on the horizon, are two new albums on the Goner label: the second record from local female-fronted group Nots and, early next year, another release from Aquarian Blood. Goner releases its albums on vinyl, CD, and digital formats.
“You don’t need an appointment to bring in your music to sell,” Friedl says. “Goner looks for discs in good condition. Believe it or not, not all great LPs get played to death.”
In addition to buying and selling records and CDs, Goner has a selection of Memphis music-themed t-shirts, mugs, and some music books. They also offer gift certificates.
Friedl, Ives, and their five employees like to talk about music with customers.
“We don’t bite,” Friedl laughs.
“And we aren’t music snobs,” Ives adds, reiterating that they have a lot of mainstream music as well as the more obscure Memphis records.
Some of the music sold and produced by Goner may be “off the beaten path” but their location is not. Ives and Friedl encourage people to stop by and spend some time looking through their music collection.
“We’re situated between Burke’s Books and 901 Comics,” Friedl says. “You could spend a whole afternoon browsing on this block in Cooper-Young.”
A stop at Goner Records will spin you into both familiar and uncharted territory. Either way, I’ll bet you come out with a smile and a song.