You Can't Sell What You Don't Have
In 1974 I opened my first record store in Woodland, California. One of the first people to walk into my new store was an older gentleman in work attire complete with muddy boots. He asked if I carried any Buck Owens on 8-track tape. Not only did I not have any 8-tracks in my store, I had never heard of Buck Owens. The truth was I didn’t want to carry 8-tracks because I was a music snob and thought customers should only buy LPs. And I hadn’t heard of Buck Owens, because, well, I had just never heard of him. Growing up in Kansas City, I mostly listened to rhythm and blues and rock and roll. My father did introduce me to classical music at an early age and I played the oboe in the school orchestra. But the only response I could honestly give this customer was “I have never heard of him, who is Buck Owens?” The man politely explained to me that if I expected to do well selling records in Woodland, I better get some 8-track tapes and I better get some country music, including Buck Owens. So I ordered every Buck Owens title – in 8-track – from my distributor’s catalog and called my new friend when they came in. He was so impressed that he took all the titles plus about five other items I had added as well. He then proceeded to reel off ten $100 bills and laid them on the counter. He asked me to buy him five tapes or so each week until the money was used up.
About 15 years later my wholesale music business was booming and Buck Owens was making a comeback. I wanted to meet Owens and was invited to a promotional lunch for his tour. I told him my story from 1974 and how I had learned so much about business from him. And that I was really glad that I got the opportunity to thank him in person. He laughed and thought it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard. He liked it so much, he asked his manager to send me one of his red, white, and blue guitars he used on Hee-Haw.