In the spring of 1979, a new record store entered into my record collecting universe. It was called Chapter 3 Records and was located in the new Cedar Ridge shopping center on Roswell Road, just north of the Dalrymple intersection in North Springs.
Although it was part of a small chain, Chapter 3 undeniably had the atmosphere of an independent store. It was the third of the three stores operating in the Atlanta area at that time.
In February of 1979, two years after I had first started, I would have to begin my record collecting all over again as all of my records (and everything else my father and I owned) were destroyed in a fire.
A few weeks later, once we were settled into a new apartment, my father surprised me with my first post-fire possession, a brand-new stereo! He had chosen a Harmon/Kardon 430 receiver with Kenwood speakers, and a Kenwood KD-1033 turntable. It was a beautiful system. Even though I now own two other receivers, that Harmon/Kardon 430 is still the main base of my stereo system to this day, forty-three years later!
Replacing the records that I had collected during 1977 and 1978, did not turn out to be as hard as one might suspect. Most of the music I had collected was current and was still in print, and all of the places that I had purchased them from were still in business, and with the opening of Chapter 3 in North Springs, I had a brand-new record emporium nearby to shop at.
The first thing I did after getting the new stereo system, was to join the Columbia House Music Club whose enrollment offer allowed me to purchase twelve albums for a penny. This deal was the perfect opportunity to start rebuilding my music library, as one dozen new albums soon showed up at my door.
Another thing that had happened to make some albums more affordable is what I like to call “The Great Cut-Out Flood of ’79.” The years of 1976-78 had seen a boom in album sales, with many record-setting blockbuster releases, but at the end of that period, the U.S. record industry began to experience a rather dramatic slowdown in sales. This led to an over-saturation of album inventory. The units from this surplus inevitably became the filler for most retailer’s bargain bins for several years.
What this meant for me was that many of the albums that I wished to replace were a fraction of the price that I had paid for them during the previous two years. The average price of a cut-out was $1.99-$3.99 for a single album. Some of the extravagant double albums that I had saved up for and purchased for eleven or twelve dollars just a year before, could now be bought for $3.99-$4.99. This included “Out of the Blue” by E.L.O., the soundtrack to the move “F.M.” and of course “Kiss Alive II.”
It was during this time period while visiting the grocery store and post office at the new Cedar Ridge shopping center with my grandfather, that I discovered Chapter 3 Records. I had seen the Buckhead location of Chapter 3 numerous times from the car window whenever my father would drive through that area, and I would wonder what the mysterious music store was like inside. Now I was very excited to discover a brand-new Chapter 3 which was just down the hill from the high school that I was attending that year.
The North Springs branch of Chapter 3 was operated by Jimmy Vining and Billy Ratliff who were both musicians. Shoppers were often greeted by music coming from one of the store’s stereo speakers which would be placed just outside of the doorway, on the sidewalk.
The North Springs Chapter 3 was not a large store but still a decent enough size as not to feel cluttered or crowded. The sales counter was just to the right as you entered the store. Behind that counter, displayed on the wall, was the store’s tape inventory. Chapter 3 did not stock classical albums. This left more room for their main inventory of Rock and Soul. Import albums and E.P.’s were always on hand too.
My introduction to the 12-inch single format was at North Springs Chapter 3. The first one I ever purchased was Blondie’s break-through hit “Heart Of Glass.” It featured a much longer version of the song than the version which was on the 45.
Another feature at Chapter 3 was a section of used LP’s. Even though I had encountered used records at places like the Salvation Army, this was the first time I had seen them as part of a record store’s inventory. This presented another way for me to more affordably replace some of the records that I had owned before. The first album that I purchased from their used section was “McCartney” by Paul McCartney, priced at four dollars, to replace the first copy which I had purchased at Kmart two years before at $5.99. Pre-owned records would soon become a major part of my record collecting when I would begin to explore older music that was out of print.
Jimmy and Billy were often playing new music by artists that I had not actually heard before. Many of these records were by singers and bands that I had read about in Magazines like Creem, Hit Parader, Song Hits and Trouser Press. I could easily read about these artists and their music, but actually hearing it was a different matter. Their records had not yet managed to make it onto Atlanta’s top-40 radio playlists, and thus not to my radio speakers. At that point in my musical exploration, I still liked to have my hit records introduced to me on Casey Kasem’s Sunday countdown. Once an artist’s record made it onto “American Top-40” they were then validated on my musical map. When Chapter 3 opened in 1979, some new wave artists such as Talking Heads and The Police had just broken into the American top-40. Patti Smith and the Cars had already cracked through the top-40 ice with singles in the summer of 1978.
In 1979 it was not as easy to hear up and coming new music as it is in our current times when everything is instantly available via the internet. MTV was still two years away. On occasion “Saturday Night Live” would showcase a new artist on network TV, but it was on Chapter 3’s turntable that I got my first earful of The B-52’s and Elvis Costello.
I can still remember entering the store one afternoon to the sound of a bizarre but instantly engaging song about people going to parties where they do sixteen dances: “They do the Coo ca choo, do the Aqua Velva,
do the Dirty Dog, do the Escalator.” It was “Dance This Mess Around” by The B-52’s and it was the first time I heard them.
Another time I walked in to hear an intense but funky song playing, steered by a Vox organ riff. It was Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” Although I knew Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 cover of his song “Alison,” this was the first time I got to hear one of Costello’s album sides.
At the front counter of the store was their selection of 45 rpm singles. These were not the current top-40 radio hits or classic oldies that I was familiar with. The stock was an obviously curated selection of New-wave and import singles. Even though I didn’t know most of them, it was still fascinating to see all of the exotic artwork and creative packaging these records sported. It was my first time to see these types of singles by such artists as Tubeway Army, The B-52’s, Lene Lovich, Elvis Costello, Devo, XTC and Squeeze. It was like an alternate universe top-40. These singles did cost more than the average U.S. major label 45, so one had to be selective when it was time to commit to the cash register.
I don’t know when the Chapter 3 at North Springs closed down. Afterwards though, I did get to shop at the newer location on Spalding Drive near Norcross which was also operated by Jimmy. Billy by then, had split off on his own, to operate another Chapter 3 store. During the early 1990’s, I would occasionally venture over to visit the Chapter 3 location on Ponce De Leon which was operated by Madison Dougherty. My fondest memory of Chapter 3 still remains those few years of visiting the North Springs store.
2 thoughts on “Chapter 3 Records – North Springs”
Thank you for this…a former Chapter 3 worker…Morgantown, WVa, Greensboro, N C, Gainesville, Fla, and Hotlanta.
Hey Larry… You would probably like this trip down memory lane… store.retrozest.com/atlanta