Tower Founder Russ Solomon Shares Company History
SacTV.com "video of the day" review by Alex Cosper on Dec. 29, 2011
Tower Records founder Russ Solomon shares his history developing the record store chain that started
in Sacramento in 1960 then grew to become an American icon that lasted nearly 50 years.
This promotion-only interview was chosen as "video of the day" for its rich local
historical content. The 2004 footage is part of MMMLIfestyle's documentary Music Moves Me about how musical
energy can heal and inspire people. Russ traces the history of the company and examines
music's effects on society.
Russ says his mentor was his father, who owned the Tower drug store that he grew up working for.
The small drug store had a soda fountain with a jukebox. Tower made a deal with the jukebox
operator to buy records for 3 cents and sell them for 10 cents. After awhile they started selling
hundreds of records at 35-50 cents. Tower started out selling 45 rpm singles one song at a time
until the excitement of the Beach Boys inspired kids to start buying albums.
Tower Records was born in the surf era as the Beach Boys developed a huge national
following that started on the West Coast. Surf music was a hot trend that propelled
Tower's success prior to the Beatles, who further escalated the frenzy for buying records.
Russ says at that time he could put a Beach Boys album on sale and sell a thousand copies at
two stores in a weekend. He points out the original album cover of The Beach Boys Concert is a photo of a Sacramento crowd
here in town at the Memorial Auditorium and the show was put on by Tower.
The 6,000 square foot San Francisco store opened in 1968 in the midst of a musical
movement that attracted young explorers to the Bay, a major epicenter of the emerging new music.
LPs were only $2-4 at the time, which allowed people to affordably feed their musical
tastes. A few years later he opened a store in Los Angeles, which was also an instant success.
The success continued through the 2000s when digital technology changed the course of
His love for a wide variety of music spans from opera to rock.
He says great artists are the ones who have a lot of insight. "They
seem to have in their minds what people really want," he observes. "It is the
profound message of a song that connects." He says the lyrics are what connect the artist
with listeners. He relates artists to being leaders of ideas that people want to hear
and that artists can help clarify ideas in people's minds, which makes people's lives better.
Although Tower eventually went bankrupt, its legend lives on and
the man who put it together remains an important figure who built an empire from
scratch that made many people happy and has generated many great memories. That important legacy can never be erased and
will always be an important chapter in not just Sacramento history, but
American music history as well.
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