Our good friend Joshua Clark Davis has just written an article that has relevance to Carolina Soul. “For the Records: How African American Consumers and Music Retailers Created Commercial Public Space in the 1960s and 1970s South” focuses on the history of black-owned record stores in North Carolina and throughout the South and is a recommended new piece of original research that appears in the current music issue of Southern Cultures. The following excerpt touches on some personalities and establishments of the Triangle region:
“Records is a market that can be used to brighten the future of lots of black people with jobs and higher prestige all over the country,” Jimmy Liggins announced in 1976 to the readers of the Carolina Times, Durham, North Carolina’s most prominent African American newspaper. Liggins, a minor rhythm and blues star of the 1950s, was publicizing his Duplex National Black Gold Record Pool, headquartered in Durham, which sought to “help and assist black people to own and sell the music and talent blacks produce.” With the aid of this “self helping program,” aspiring hit-makers could record and release music that Black Gold sold through mail order and at Liggins’s shop, Snoopy’s Records, in downtown Durham.
Kenny Mann (of the band Liquid Pleasure) vividly recalls his frequent trips to Snoopy’s as a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Liggins “was like a god” to Mann and other young customers who patronized the store. “Everybody knew” Liggins and his two business partners, Henry Bates and Paul Truitt. “These guys, I was listening to them talk about bringing Tyrone Davis and Johnny Taylor and Al Green to town . . . It was fun to go [to their store] because it felt like the place to be; there were girls in there, and I was twelve, thirteen years old.” Not only that, but Mann “never felt the pressure to buy something” like he did in stores in his hometown of Chapel Hill, where white shopkeepers frequently followed young African American shoppers around their businesses, suspecting they might shoplift. “They had a double standard,” Mann remembers. Chapel Hill “really was set up as if they didn’t want to do business with us black people.” In sharp contrast, Liggins envisioned Snoopy’s as “our mall”—a “hang out” where black consumers could buy black music in a record store owned and operated by African Americans. Black-owned record stores like Snoopy’s represented a crucial nexus where African American enterprise, consumer culture, community, and of course, music all met.
Many more local luminaries figure in the article, such as Curtiss “Curt” Moore, who was previously profiled at Carolina Soul here and here. Owner of three Curt’s Records Stores in and around Greensboro from the 1960s through 1980s, Moore is seen below in one of his shops circa 1966.
If you’re interested in reading more, you can: