For Sale: A Record Store For The Ages Murray Gershenz, the 89-year-old owner of the world's largest private vinyl collection, is looking for a buyer.
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For Sale: A Record Store For The Ages

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For Sale: A Record Store For The Ages

For Sale: A Record Store For The Ages

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

There's a music store for sale in Los Angeles. It has old, sagging shelves stuffed with hundreds of thousands of recordings, from wax cylinders to eight-track tapes to LPs and CDs. The man who's owned the business since 1962 is Murray Gershenz, "Music Man" Murray.


MURRAY GERSHENZ: I love this place. If I had nothing else to do, I would just be here and listen to the records all the time. But the business is not thriving. I mean, we stay alive and we sell a few things all the time. But it's not thriving and at this point, I'm the only one really working here.

SIMON: Murray Gershenz turns 90 years old in a couple of weeks. And his shop, called Music Man Murray, are the subject of a new short film by Richard Parks. It will be broadcast tonight on the Documentary Channel. It's also available at NPR Music to mark today, Record Store Day, an honor which may be fast turning into a commemoration of those places in which people can still thumb through music.

We're joined now by Murray Gershenz, who's at NPR West. Thanks very much for being with us.

GERSHENZ: Oh, thank you.

SIMON: Filmmaker Richard Parks is at member station KQED in San Francisco. Mr. Parks, thank you for being with us.

RICHARD PARKS: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And let me turn to you first, "Music Man" Murray. How did you come to open your shop? Aren't you a cantor?

GERSHENZ: Well, I was. But to be honest, I was not earning enough money to support my family. So I decided to get some extra income by putting my record collection up for sale. I opened the store and built some shelves - with the help of a rabbi friend of mine - and little by little, the music took over me.

SIMON: Richard Parks, what made you see a film in Music Man Murray?

PARKS: Well, first, it's the place that I had visited as a teenager, when I got interested in records. There is a lot of Judaism in there, but there's a lot of records, too. And I think it's kind of like a temple when you go inside. It doesn't feel like you're in a record store. It feels like you're in, you know, someone's personal collection.

SIMON: Mr. Gershenz, who goes there now?

GERSHENZ: It's very interesting. People will call up and they'll say, you know, when I was very young, my wife and I loved this song. And that was sort of our song when we were teenagers, and we'd like to be able to hear it again. And that's what I enjoy the most - trying to find those things for people.

SIMON: Your son says in the film that you and the store are one and the same.


GERSHENZ: Well, I guess after 50 years, I guess you become attached to each other.

SIMON: Well, he says that's why he wants the store to go on. It means you'll go on.

GERSHENZ: Oh, I don't think so. I don't think, from a practical point of view, that it will earn enough money to keep itself going. So I'm hoping that somebody will donate it to an institution, to a university, because it really should stay together. It's a one-of-a-kind collection. I have rock 'n' roll. I have Chinese music. I have operatic music. I have jazz and blues. I have everything you can possibly imagine.

SIMON: Richard Parks, how do you bottle someone like Murray the Music Man in a good film?


PARKS: Well, it certainly was a challenge. One of the more interesting things that I found inside this old record store is a great story about a father and a son, and what it's like when the father's coming to the end of his life. And so instead of trying to capture everything that Murray's done, you know, since his childhood in the Bronx to his cantorial career - and he has an acting career now so, you know, that was something that I could have focused on.

SIMON: Yeah, he's been appearing in "Parks and Recreation," right?


PARKS: That's right.

GERSHENZ: And also, I was on "House." and I was on Sarah Silverman, and I was in the first "Hangover." And just Tuesday, I filmed a commercial for The Weather Channel. And so...

SIMON: You're getting all the roles that Charlie Sheen turned down?

GERSHENZ: Probably.


GERSHENZ: Thank you.

SIMON: I want to share one of the most wonderful moments, I think, from the film. And it's you in singing class.

GERSHENZ: Yeah, right. I go every Tuesday night.


GERSHENZ: (Singing scales)


GERSHENZ: That's the warm-up. That's the - the teacher insists that we warm up.

SIMON: I also notice - not far from that clip - you drive.

GERSHENZ: Oh yes. I drove here today.

SIMON: Not every 90-year-old drives.

GERSHENZ: Yeah. Well, like most older people, I'm very reluctant to give up my independence.

SIMON: Well, I mean, I - do you really want to sell the place, or do you...

GERSHENZ: I have to, I have to. First of all, I can't take care of it much longer. And I'm really busy with the acting. And I love the acting. And I've been a natural actor all my life, as an amateur. And now, for the past 12 years or so that I'm doing it professionally, I'm getting busier than ever. But I'll tell you something - most of the people I've met in the film and TV business have been nice people. And so that's one of the reasons I love to go on the set.

SIMON: Mr. Parks, this must have been fun for you.

PARKS: Oh, it was a blast. You know, I'd like to keep hanging out at Murray's forever.

GERSHENZ: But we fought like crazy, didn't we?

PARKS: Don't tell Scott that.

GERSHENZ: Of course I got in trouble for that.


PARKS: There were some areas that Murray just wouldn't go with me.


SIMON: Well, in fact, I admire at one point in the film - I forget what the question was - but you - Murray, you say, that's none of your business.

GERSHENZ: Right, right.

SIMON: I admired that. I wish more people would say that to people in my business.


SIMON: There's a song you sing in this film, a very moving - it really got to me because I love your interpretation of the son. And I must tell you, the man I so blessedly worked with for so many years, Dan Schorr - much older than you; I think about five years older than you - Dan used to sing his own version of this song, which is "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

GERSHENZ: Oh, that song, yeah.

SIMON: I'm trying to remember how it goes.

GERSHENZ: (Singing) Once I built the railroad, I made it run, made it race against time. Once I built the railroad, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime? Bump-a-dump-a-bump-bum...

SIMON: You do that song very beautifully, Murray.

GERSHENZ: Thank you very much. Yeah. I tell you, I never was a great singer but I always tried to tell the story. To me, the lyrics are so important. If you do that, you don't have to have a voice like Caruso. People will be interested in what you're saying.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, gentlemen, it's been a pleasure talking to both of you.

GERSHENZ: Thank you very much, Scott.

PARKS: Thanks so much, Scott. I really appreciate it.

SIMON: Murray Gershenz - he owns Music Man Murray, a store in Los Angeles. Richard Parks is a filmmaker. And the short film "Music Man Murray" airs tonight on the Documentary channel. It's also available at

GERSHENZ: Shall I give my phone number in case somebody wants to buy it?

SIMON: Why not? Please.


GERSHENZ: Just call me at 323-493-1860, and I will be very cooperative.

SIMON: All right. Well, I hope the operators are standing by now.

GERSHENZ: Thank you. Thank you so much.

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