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Blake Pontchartrain: Jim Russell Records 

What’s in store for the Magazine Street building?

click to enlarge After almost a half-century, Jim Russell Records has closed and the building is being renovated.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

After almost a half-century, Jim Russell Records has closed and the building is being renovated.

Hey Blake,

What is going on with the old Jim Russell record shop on Magazine Street?

Dear reader,

  For nearly 50 years, Jim Russell Records store at 1837 Magazine St. was known as a music emporium with lots of old and rare recordings. It closed in January.

  Russell James Baumbach, better known as Jim Russell, founded the store in 1969 and ran the business until his death in July 2014 at age 94. A native of Pittsburgh, Russell got into the music business after World War II as a disc jockey and concert promoter. He came to New Orleans in 1955 after five years on the air in Ohio, where he met and worked with legendary disc jockey Alan Freed. Russell is credited with encouraging Freed to play "race music," as music by black artists was called then. Freed later dubbed it rock 'n' roll. The two also organized some of the first record hops and rock 'n' roll concerts in the country, bringing the music to new, mostly white audiences.

  In New Orleans, Russell managed and worked with some of the leading disc jockeys of the day including Poppa Stoppa, Larry Regan and Jack the Cat. He organized record hops for the disc jockeys and shows by local musicians including Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Smiley Lewis, Professor Longhair and others.

  After the British Invasion of the 1960s changed the music business, Russell opened his record shop, using some of the thousands of singles he had accumulated in his years as a promoter. Russell's son and daughter-in-law operated the business for the past few years and sold the building earlier this year. They kept Russell's collection, which numbers about 1 million records, and are contemplating reopening somewhere else or selling the entire collection.

  The building is under renovation and the new owner says plans for it are undecided.

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