Seattle’s U District Record Stores 1969-1975
While attending the University of Washington from 1969-1973 I lived in the record stores on University Avenue next to the college. It was a welcome break from studying all day long at the UW and do something I really enjoyed.
By certainly 1972, I was already playing in bands and totally into music and record albums. I had a collection of a few hundred lp’s which I was always adding to. By going into the record stores and talking to some of the owners, I also learned a lot about many different types of music, especially blues, oldies and jazz.
The two most visited stores were Puss n Books and Honest John’s Records. Puss and Books was about on 42nd and the Ave and Honest John’s was more about 40th and the Ave. Honest John’s was owned and run by John Vorhees and his brother Steve often helped out. Right next door was some of the best fried chicken I’ve every tasted prepared by a very nice black gentleman who claimed he knew Dootsie Williams of the Dootsie rhythm and blues record label. John was very knowledgeable about the blues, jazz, and some oldies artists.
Gaining information from all the record stores on the Ave was how I started both my blues and some of my oldies collection. The oldies music was often played on my Oldies Music radio show on KCMU FM called “Flat Top Heaven” which ran 1972-1973 on that station. I was the 2nd Program Director and the third General Manager for KCMU FM Radio.
Puss and Books was owned by a Mrs. Kutz. They had both books and records. You would often find brand new promotional copies of the latest rock albums sold to them by radio stations and promotional companies. You could even put your name on a waiting list for an album just coming out and get one of the first copies to come into Puss n Books. The people behind the counter were usually really nice younger guys very willing to help you. Occasionally, Mrs. Kutz herself would appear from somewhere and check you out at the cash register. She would often determine prices on unpriced albums that I had wanted and had just arrived . I remember she didn’t talk much and I don’t think she had any teeth. She always wore old dresses and loved all the fat cats hanging out in the store.
In addition there was Campus Music a great store just up the street from Puss n Books run by a nice hip gray haired pony tailed guy and his helpful staff, including John Daily, also one of the very first KCMU announcers. They had a wonderful black light room in the back. They always had a nice selection of records. I think I may have bought a first generation Beatles “Butcher Cover” album there. Second Time Around Records was just getting started on the Ave.
I first met the original owner of Cellophane Records in about 1973. His name was Steve Delph and he was a really great guy from some state like Tennessee. The story was tiny with just a few records on 42nd. Later, Hugh took over the store and expanded the first location on 42nd. One more store was called The Cheap Thrill Record Company. It was started by Leroy Skeers, one of my DJs on KCMU FM.
Then, he eventually moved the store directly onto University Avenue. One more store was a store started by Leroy Skeers,one of my DJ’s on KCMU FM. It was located on 55th and the Ave, just south of Cowen Park. It was open 1973-74 and he later closed the store and became an announcer on KZOK FM and other Seattle stations under the name Leroy Henry.
Later , in the 80’s, there was Urban Renewal , run by Timothy Jones who later later come to fame working for Starbucks and creating their branded coffeehouse sound. He came from Discount Records on 43rd and later Musicland. Another great place to hang out was the head shop on Brooklyn in between 50th and 49th, where Outrageous Taco later moved into. Lots of paraphernalia and fabulous black light room with incredible posters.
All these stores were run by really nice people totally into the music and devoted to spreading their love of all different genres of that music. It was always cheap entertainment for me and a different type of college of music that I entirely immersed myself into.
-Contributions to article by Leroy Skeers, August, 2017