Jimmy Glickman’s Beat

Making the Music happen
Jason Raish illustration

Twenty-five years ago, Jimmy Glickman was toiling as a sales rep for an eyeglass company, covering the states of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. To say he wasn’t feeling the dream would be an understatement. A former bass player in a high school band back in his native Chicago, he decided to follow his muse.

“When I came to New Orleans I saw something eyeglasses couldn’t capture,” he told BreakThru Media Magazine in 2010. “It had an attitude that caught my attention first. Then without realizing it the rest of me just fell in sync.”

Glickman opened the New Orleans Music Exchange at the corner of Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue in 1993, when he was 29 years old. To call it Old School doesn’t come close to capturing the ambiance and attitude of the shop.

It is small, cramped, crowded, busy, disorganized, active and loud. A steady stream of delivery men pile boxes on whatever open floor space they can find. Music gear is stacked from the floor to the ceiling in every direction.

Even before you open the door, you know you’re leaving the madcap rush of contemporary America: The store hours are written in magic marker on a piece of cardboard. There is no computerized inventory list; they just know what they have and what they don’t – and if they don’t, they’ll find it for you.

Hell, there’s not even a cash register here, just a metal lock box. They process credit cards by hand. And if you need a receipt, they write one on a piece of paper.

“My idea was a New York/Chicago-style music store with a New Orleans attitude,” Glickman told BreakThru. In doing so, he became the very backbone of the New Orleans music business.

Glickman’s shiny bald head, Chicago accent and permanent Cheshire grin made him stand out in a crowd. But everything else about Glickman was behind the scenes. And his generosity was legend.

“Pay me when you can,” he would tell a musician down on his luck or who just had his gear stolen. And he would never ask about it later. He trusted you. Not only that, but he frequently hired musicians or sound guys who needed a quick break to make rent. Glickman propped up the New Orleans music scene as much as any famous producer, promoter or performer ever did. More than anything else, he was as kind and decent a man as you could ever meet.

Glickman’s kids go to Lusher, like mine. And for the past decade or more he stepped up with equipment, sound, lights and instruments, to power up the school’s fundraising concerts, crawfish boils and in-house musical performances, particularly in the rough years –you know what years I’m talking about.

But it wasn’t just Lusher. The Tipitina’s Foundation, the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, the list goes on and on. Glickman was there, always there, with a smile on his face and a van full of instruments and equipment and a crew full of guys to unload it, unpack it and set it up. And when he reached out his hand, it wasn’t for money. It was to wish you good luck.

But here’s the thing about the New Orleans Music Exchange that truly sets it apart from any other music store I have ever walked into: It’s OK to suck here.

Glickman treated all of his customers with equal graciousness and gratitude. He didn’t care if you had no idea what you were talking about when you went in looking for, well … what’s that thing called, again? A capo, he would tell you. And then he would fish around in a box and pick the one he thought would be best for you.

It didn’t matter if you were buying $2,000 worth of Marshall amps or a handful of plastic guitar picks, Glickman made you feel welcome. He gave you respect.

And as I write this, I’m torn for the great loss to our city, our music community. Jimmy Glickman died suddenly last month, leaving behind a family, a legion of good works and the coolest little music shop in the world. He was just 53 years old.

As the writer Michael Tisserand tweeted upon the news: “New Orleans is where a guy who runs a corner music store is recognized as a cultural hero.”

Indeed. It felt like the day the music died. But this is New Orleans. And the bands play on.




Categories: Music, Theatre + Art