The above photograph has served as my desktop wallpaper since April, when I was getting all jazzed up for Record Store Day. I knew almost nothing about the photo when I right-clicked it and selected “Set as desktop background,” aside from the fact that it caught my eye, and that its generous pixel count made it good wallpaper material. I’ve looked at it either hundreds or thousands of times since, usually lingering on the style of the clothing, the apparent lack of record jackets, or the way the man on the left is draping his arm over the register.
I decided to do a little digging yesterday, and as it turns out, this picture was taken in 1947 at the Commodore Music Shop in Manhattan, and the suave-looking draper on the left is the store’s owner, a man named Milt Gabler. The son of Jewish immigrants, Gabler was a legend in the recording industry, having been the first person to deal in reissues, the first to sell records by mail order, and the first to give written credit to all the musicians who appeared on a recording. That last honor came from his time as a producer, during which he oversaw the recording of some of the most influential music of the twentieth century, including Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” Oh, and did I mention HE’S BILLY CRYSTAL’S UNCLE? Small world, right?
It got even smaller when I googled “Sidney Bechets Trio” — the only legible text on the flyer to the right of the clock above Gabler’s killer combover.