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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: April 17, 2017

How the brainchild of a Bull Moose employee became ‘the largest celebration of music in the world’

Written by: Ray Routhier
Special releases of albums, some on vinyl, are a highight of national Record Store Day, which will have its tenth anniversay Saturday. Chris Brown, of Bull Moose stores in Maine, helped created the worldwide event. Photos courtesy of Bull Moose

Special releases of albums, some on vinyl, are a highight of national Record Store Day, which will have its tenth anniversay Saturday. Chris Brown, of Bull Moose stores in Maine, helped created the worldwide event.
Photos courtesy of Bull Moose

Give it a spin!

Chris Brown has proof you should never discount an idea as “crazy.”

Brown was working in the front office at the Bull Moose music stores a decade ago when he began brainstorming ways to promote independent record stores, at a time when chains were folding and shopping at a physical record store felt as old-fashioned to some as getting milk straight from the cow.

His idea was this: Why not have a day to celebrate records and record stores? Comic stores already had free comics days, why not a day with free live performances in a record store and all kinds of special deals?

Today, Record Store Day is celebrated annually around the world, with hundreds of special releases just for the occasion. The event’s 10th anniversary will be held Saturday at more than 1,400 locations, including at the Bull Moose stores in Maine.

Special releases of albums and singles are a highight of national Record Store Day, which will have its tenth anniversay Saturday. Chris Brown, of Bull Moose stores in Maine, helped created the worldwide event. Photos courtesy of Bull Moose

One special release this year is a new version of Elton John’s live album “17-11-70,” remastered in Portland by Bob Ludwig at his Gateway Mastering studio. John is being named the first ever “Worldwide Record Store Day Legend,” and he made a video to talk about his love of records and record stores.

“It’s amazing to see what my crazy idea became. I’m flattered that so many people, especially music fans, made Record Store Day into something Elton John would make a video about,” said Brown, chief financial officer for Bull Moose. “It reminds me how important music is in all our lives.”

The idea came to Brown because he had been emailing Michael Kurtz, president of the record store consortium Music Monitor Network, about ways to get consumers more engaged with physical record stores.

During one exchange, Brown threw out the idea of an “Indie Record Store Day.” He talked about in-store music performances and special releases as a way to remind people that independent record stores “rule,” he said, and that “we haven’t gone anywhere.”

Kurtz liked the idea right away and told Brown they should discuss it with other record store folks at an upcoming industry gathering.

“When Tower Records closed (in 2006) there was a lot of negativity in the media about record stores. I began corresponding with (Brown) about what could be done and (he) suggested that we do something similar to what independent comic book stores had done with their Free Comic Book Day,” said Kurtz. “This idea caught on with a bunch of other record store owners and the rest is history. Record Store Day is now the biggest sales day of the year for vinyl and the largest celebration of music in the world.”

Special releases of albums, some on vinyl

Special releases of albums, some on vinyl

The genres of the various Record Store Day releases are all over the map. There’s blues, classical, classic country, new country, electronic, folk, hip hop, pop, R&B, reggae, classic rock, yacht rock, grunge, alt rock, soul, soundtracks, spoken word and world music.

Some notable special releases this year include The Doors’ “Live at the Matrix 1971”; The Grateful Dead at P.N.E. Garden Auditorium, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on July 29, 1966; NRBQ’s “High Noon: Highlights & Rarities From 50 Years”; and re-issues of six 12-inch singles by Prince.

Brown, as he does each year, has made a video talking about the releases and posted it on the Bull Moose website.

“We hoped (Record Store Day) would touch many people,” said Brown. “But it’s still a huge surprise to me.”

Record Store Day 10th Anniversary

Hundreds of special releases plus in-store performances will be featured at independent record stores around the country. Chris Brown of Bull Moose stores in Maine helped create the worldwide event.
WHEN: Saturday
INFO: recordstoreday.com
TO LEARN MORE about performances by local musicians at area Bull Moose stores, go to bullmoose.com.

Performance Schedule:
Brunswick, 151 Maine St.: Dominic Lavoie at 1 p.m.
Portland, 151 Middle St.: Spencer Albee at 4 p.m.
Scarborough, 456 Payne Road: Weakened Friends at 2 p.m.
South Portland, 219 Waterman Drive: An Overnight Low at 11 a.m.
Waterville, 80 Elm Plaza: Fifth Freedom at 2 p.m.

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