Backstage Music among 'Top 100 Dealers' for second straight year

Backstage Music was named among the Top 100 Dealers by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) on Tuesday. Pictured, from left: partners Jim Beaty, Allen McBroom and Tony Foster (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Tucked along Highway 12 near the intersection of the busy route and Jackson Street is a Starkville staple that recently received worldwide recognition for the second-straight year.

The staff at Backstage Music on Tuesday was told it had yet again been named among the Top 100 Dealers by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).

The list spotlights “the industry’s very best music product retailers and shares their strategies for success.”

“There’s Big Music in Australia, Blue Dog in Canada,” partner Allen McBroom said, pointing to his computer screen. “This is the top 100 in the world.”

Jim Beaty, the music store’s founding partner, has been with Backstage Music for all 40 years - an anniversary the store is celebrating this month.

“I’m just humbled not only to be on the list, but to say we’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Beaty said. “Somebody ask how we stayed in business so long … the secret is you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to screw up, just don’t let it be a fatal mistake.”

Along with Beaty, McBroom and Tony Foster are the other partners in the store.

“When Allen walked in today and told me (about the award), my jaw hit the floor,” Beaty said. “That’s a huge honor. When we got the honor last year I couldn’t believe it.”

While Beaty is the most-senior partner, Foster and McBroom have been partners for 20 years.

Foster said he felt blessed, then modestly praised both Beaty and McBroom for their individual efforts, such as McBroom’s marketing skills and Beaty’s community involvement.

“I like to think the people that decide take that into consideration,” Foster said. “If they don’t, they should. We try to treat people like we would like to be treated.”

McBroom, an amateur radio operator and guitarist who also writes a monthly column for the industry magazine Music & Sound Retailer, said the store had applied for the NAMM awards three times over the past three years and won twice.

“We entered in the ‘marketing and sales promotion’ category, which you can imagine is a congested category and we floated to the top somehow,” McBroom said. “They don’t tell you what turned the switch, but we did something off the hook this year for our 40th anniversary.”

That special nod to the store’s 40th anniversary came in the form of the Federal Communications Commission granting an application to Backstage Music for a special event station to operate May 3 through May 6.

“The FCC issued a special call sign - W5B - whiskey five bravo, and that’s going to operate on multiple stations,” McBroom said. “The frequencies they will be on will feature the number 40.”

While the store is in the midst of exciting celebrations in the present, Backstage Music also has a rich history.

Beaty reminisced on the first incarnation of the store. Part music store and part record store, the first Backstage Music opened in 1978 on Highway 12 at the current location of Corky’s Package Store.

The original name of the store was Elysian Fields, which eventually sold out to Jackson-based BeBop Record Shop. The Starkville location would close sometime in the 2000s and BeBop followed suit in 2011.

Backstage Music would then come its current location across from Cook Out on Highway 12 in 1990.

“We’re just real,” Beaty said. “There’s no real pretense, we are just a music store that does everything a music store should do. There are big box stores that are sexier, more gear, but they are devoid of that mojo.”

If you ask many in the community, though, that “mojo” is more than amplifiers and guitar picks.

Apart from the storefront retail, Backstage Music also is involved in the community from everything to sponsoring a championship 9-year-old girls basketball team to the sound system at both the old and newly-renovated Dudy Noble Field on the Mississippi State campus.

Other projects range from churches to Harveys and Central Station Grill.

Behind the sales counter and past the walls of guitars and music equipment, though, the maestro is often at work out of sight of the customers.

With a handwritten note from guitarist and singer Luther Dickinson, of the North Mississippi All-Stars and the Black Crows, hanging by his work bench, Foster stoically worked to replace a nut on a Gibson hollow body guitar.

“We’ve done some stuff for Luther Dickinson,” Foster said. “We took a 70s (Fender Stratocaster) and put Gretsch electronics in it, and that’s what that letter is about.”

Among his inspirations were Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Pat Travers.

“I’ve worked on a lot of stuff,” Foster said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some clientele up in Nashville. I’ve rebuilt an amp for Shelby Lynne that she took on tour and used.”

Looking ahead to next year, while still enjoying the success of Tuesday’s news, McBroom said the job is a labor of love.

“I look forward to coming to work every day,” McBroom said. “This month I’ll be 62, and never in my life prior to Backstage Music did I wake up in the morning and say ‘I have to go to work today’ with a smile on my face.

His partners agreed and hoped to continue the success for years to come.

Beaty acknowledged that he does have friends retiring, which is a nice thought, but when asked if he had any plans of joining his friends in retirement, he said “I’m going to do this until Jesus drags me out the front of the building.”