During the spring of 1977, I was 13, and my father had turned me loose in Perimeter Mall, with a time set to meet back up with him after he shopped in whatever store he was headed to. Somehow, I stumbled upon Franklin Music.
At this point in my early record collecting adventures, I had acquired a couple of dozen 45’s and one full-length LP in my record library (My childhood records by then, had been lost or discarded). All of my recent record purchases had been made in the music sections of large department stores. Franklin Music was my first encounter with a full-line record store.
The Franklin Music chain was originally founded in 1968, by former Sam Goody employee Albert S. Franklin. He opened the first Franklin Music inside the brand-new Echelon Mall in Philadelphia. His store carried musical instruments, Hi-Fi audio gear, sheet music and of course a full line of records and tapes. He expanded his stores to New Jersey and then to Atlanta, with the first Atlanta store opening in Perimeter Mall. Eventually there would be four Atlanta locations.
When I first entered Franklin Music, I must have been like Dorothy entering Oz. I was filled with amazement and wonder. The store’s stereo system was playing Gary Wright’s “I Am the Sky.”
The records were not just occupying one section of floor-space, like in the department stores. They were in front of me, to my left and to my right. It was wall to wall records!
When shopping in the music sections of the large department stores, I had never seen the people who mysteriously stocked the records, only a cashier. Inside Franklin Music, I was greeted by a whole staff of employees who were pricing, stocking, talking about and playing records, real-life music people! They even had a special display for the album that was currently playing over the speakers. It was holding Gary Wright’s “The Light Of Smiles.”
There were huge, over-sized reproductions of album covers hanging up for display. I walked underneath The Jacksons, who seemed to be fully life sized, and then gazed in wonder at the giant ear with a mouth inside, on the blow-up of the cover of “The Roaring Silence.” I was hypnotized by all of the amazing artwork of the LP covers on display in the racks. The 45’s were not only the top-40, but they stocked the entire top-100 and oldies too!
Franklin music became my favorite place to go look at records, but I was still limited to going there only when my father or a grandparent were making the trip to the mall.
Franklin Music also carried a wide selection of import albums and 45’s. It was from Franklin’s vast import inventory that I made my second LP purchase, “The Best of K.C. and the Sunshine Band.” This U.K. album was the band’s first “best of” compilation, as their U.S. label would not issue one until three years later. It was priced as low as a domestic album too.
In 1979, as school classes ended and summer break began, my mother’s parents came to town and took me to Perimeter Mall. They gave me a ten-dollar bill. Finding myself instantly wealthy, I of course, went racing across the Mall’s fountain bridge and up the steps to Franklin Music.
Once I entered the store, I went over to their oldies 45’s section and discovered that they were all on sale for fifty cents each. To me, this was like hitting the jackpot in Vegas! I picked out eight of the Beatles’ reissued singles on the Apple label, plus classics by Neil Diamond, George Harrison, Carly Simon, Sonny & Cher, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, and still had money left over.
In 1982, Perimeter Mall added on a new wing with Davison’s as a third anchor store. Franklin Music relocated to the new wing and gave their store a new look for the 80’s.
One incident from this time period that I recall, was while I was browsing, a couple of teenaged employees queued up “Live Wire,” the first track on Motley Crue’s debut album. They played it at an incredible volume, which caused an elderly female shopper to actually cringe, duck and then eventually run out of the store with her hand over her ears, while the naughty Franklin teens watched and giggled. It was the first time I heard Motley Crue and also the first time I witnessed someone driven out of a store by a musical selection. I don’t think the store manager would have approved this sales technique.
Over the years I continued to shop Franklin Music at the Perimeter store, the Cumberland store and also the Lennox store. Then as 1984 dissolved into 1985, Franklin Music dissolved into Camelot Music.