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How Did You Get The Nickname Applejack?

& What's That Record Shop Receipt Above?


Basically, I consider it a gift from the guru. In Chicago, in the mid 60's era, William (Bill) Chavers was the well known proprietor of the "Old Wells Record Shop" in the Old Town neighborhood. I first encountered him when the shop was on Wells Street, one of the several locations he occupied sequentially. Bill ran a very unusual store for that era, decorated in the individualistically funky hipster style of his own personal vision. The concrete floor was painted in mulitple swirling colors, quite novel at the time. Shelves held stacks of 45 rpm (and even 78 rpm) records, while racks revealed a tasty selection of LPs. The walls displayed not just the latest Blue Note releases but original oil paintings, a battered trumpet, and other miscellania. Oh, and a parakeet, as I recall. There was one unforgettable painting I couldn't get enough of, which depicted a colorful street hustler backgrounded by a large-finned Cadillac in a bustling ghetto neighborhood.

Bill not only allowed us to enjoy alcoholic beverages in the store and listen to every record in the inventory, he was also kind of selective about who gained admission - he would often have the front door locked and picked the people he wanted to allow access. In this manner he kept out the pests, the deadbeats, and the squares. This is how to create your own party!!!

With a modus operandi like that, quite naturally, his shop became a magnet and hangout space for musicians, digging the very comfortable and relaxed vibe, something like a clubhouse atmosphere. Among the many who passed through or hung out were Michael Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite. Being of Afro American and Cherokee ethnicity, Bill had a tendency to give people nicknames, partly because it was hip in those days, particularly in the Black subculture, to use colorful language both as a code not accessible to squares and ofays, and just because it was a way to be creative. He kept up a steady and well informed patter about everything under the sun, and was a never-ending source of opinions on so many subjects, like racism, urban renewal (so called), music, love, and life in general. In our youthful exploration of the music scene, most of us looked up to him as a well informed and groovy mentor.

Anyway, one day about 1964 or 1965, Bill Chavers decided out of the clear blue sky to start calling me "Applejack". And since all the musicians hung around his store, they all started calling me that as well. So, I thought, what the heck, I would go with the nickname for a little while, and use it on my musical posters and promotion flyers. Little did I realize that the name would stick for decades and become my "appellation" henceforth.

So there you have it. Bill was also a Checker cab driver and union treasurer and personally enabled me to get me a job (1965) driving a cab in Chicago, out of the Old Town garage of Checker Taxicab Co. As part of his own daily cab run, Bill would frequently make the rounds of his favorite record distributors early in the morning and pick up the latest in-demand discs.

Bill Chavers was additionally the former proprietor of the Groove Record Shop, a major record outlet on 47th Street and what was then called South Parkway (later to be M. L. King Drive) in the heart of Chicago's south side (near the Regal Theater). Here, he became an in-law (by his marriage to Bernice) to the famous Leaner Brothers of the Chicago record business scene. Legend has it that he was coerced or forced by circumstances of business and family politics to make an exit. Whatever the true details, he did wind up divorcing Bernice in 1945 and giving her the store. He always maintained a presence in the record biz, though, and eventually wound up on the North Side, first on Wells Street (hence "The Old Wells Record Shop"), later again relocating (lock, stock, and vibe), to North Park, still in Old Town, and thirdly yet again, south of Old Town to north State Street - just a few blocks from Bob Koester's famed "Jazz Record Mart", which in turn was right off the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue, at 7 West Grand prior to expansion.

For more on the Leaner Brothers, check out the index to Robert Pruter's great book "Chicago Soul", published by the University of Illinois Press.

About That Receipt Shown Above:

That store receipt from above commemorates the last time I saw Bill before I moved to California for the second time. Clearly, I bought eleven 45s at 25 cents each, four 45s at 75 cents, one (illegible) at 1.75, and a bargain (!) Snooky Pryor 45 for 1.99. I wish I could jump in a time machine and go back for a visit.