- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - Not sure where George Deahl is on the seven steps of grief - maybe it isn’t any of the seven steps - but just a nostalgic twang every time he looks into his room full of music or passes the empty shells of the stores around town.

“Pretty bad, honestly,” said Deahl, 60, of his withdrawal pains. “I’m not happy about it, but there’s nothing I can say or do to bring it back.”

The Amarillo Globe-News (https://bit.ly/2kmXPpf ) reports Deahl is a lifelong music collector, mainly the vintage vinyl records and CDs. One of his go-to places was Hastings, the Amarillo-based chain of music, video and books that closed after 48 years in late October.

“On our date nights on Fridays with my lovely wife Sylvia, it seemed like we always ended up at Hastings,” he said. “She would be in the books and DVDs, and I’d be at the music.”

Where else would he be? Deahl began record collecting through family ties. When growing up in Lubbock, his dad, George, Sr., was a retail manager for TG&Y, yet another defunct retailer. His father had different tastes, from old country to classical to jazz. A Johnny Cash tune today conjures up a reminder of him.

When he was 7, his older sister brought home a 45 record of Elvis. On the A side was “His Latest Flame.” On the B side was “Little Sister.”

“‘Little Sister’ was what put me over,” Deahl said. “I just really dug it. And then came The Beatles.”

Indeed. In Deahl’s Amarillo home today, he has an entire room that are stacks of his collection. There’s a computer, stereo and TV in there, but the rest are vinyl records and CDs. He estimates 1,300 vinyl records, a small number, he thinks, for a lifetime collector.

The Beatles sold 600 million albums worldwide, and Deahl has all 13 studio albums the group produced, plus double boxed sets, and all the anthologies.

“I’m pretty sure I have everything they’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy of me.”

Deahl, who often bought one, if not two, albums a week, loves old music, not just the Beatles. Grand Funk Railroad is one of the all-time favorite bands. The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” from 1966 is what he calls “a perfect record.”

Back in the 1970s in Lubbock, Deahl began serious record buying at Hastings, along with places like Record Town, as well as some independent stores. But Hastings was a favorite, if for the main reason, he started working there.

For three years he was music manager at a store on 19th Street, and then worked nine more years for Western Merchandisers, which later became Anderson Merchandisers, Hastings’ wholesaler. Deahl bought music based on what he thought the market’s taste was.

As a music manager he had a store that had 12 feet of jazz, 12 feet of classical, and 16 feet of blues in addition to rock and country.

“Turning people onto a 30-year-old record and the guest being blown away and thanking us for helping them to discover the magic of music was a great feeling,” he said.

Deahl left Anderson Merchandisers in 2002, and in the few years leading up to Hastings’ demise, especially after the company was sold to Draw Another Circle LLC in 2014, he knew the countdown was on. Hastings was losing the battle to Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, just about any kind of online buying or listening experience.

“I saw it coming,” he said. “When they decided to put all the swag and toys up in the front and the music in back, I knew they were finished. They were done.”

So, for now, Deahl, as others probably are, is going through Hastings withdrawal even as the former Hastings store on Gem Lake Rd. prepares to become a group of restaurants.

He’s done some shopping at Amazon but said it doesn’t have the same appeal. He’s poked around Sixth Street to some success, hit some flea markets as well as estate and garage sales.

“We call it ‘crate digging’ or ‘dusty fingers,’” he said. “Records usually have a lot of dirt on them. You really have to clean them up. There’s nothing like buying a new one.”

Deahl speaks almost in mystical tones about a new vinyl album. He delves into reading the credits on the cover, details even a CD doesn’t have. There’s a way to open a new album just so, to pick up the record with the sloping end down and let it settle against the crease. And that distinctive smell?

“They all have a unique smell,” he said. “It’s that mixture of ink and new vinyl and it smells wonderful.”

When Hastings was closing, Deahl, with nothing to lose, wrote to the corporate Barnes &Noble. He’s seen a few vinyl records at one of the bookseller stores. He told them his story, told them there might be a bit of a niche market for them.

“They said the store was not formatted for that,” he said. “The last of the chains that was a rebel from the start and did things like no other. Guess there will never be another like it.”


Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, https://www.amarillo.com

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