Cover Story: Everybody's a Star

Everybody's Records has outlasted corporate retail competition for 30 years

Joe Lamb

Vinyl junkies for 30 years: (L-R) Harry Lushey, Marilyn Kirby and Woody Dorsey.

In 1978, Marilyn Kirby was a suburban Dayton housewife with two kids, a shaky marriage and the need for occasional interaction with the adult world. To this end, she clocked part-time hours at her brother's Second Time Around used record store, which was frequented by Cincinnati resident Harry Lushey.

"Harry and his friends would come to the store the one day a week that I worked," Kirby says. "He said, 'You need to open one in Cincinnati. We really need one.' I would not have opened the store if he and his buddies hadn't asked me."

After careful deliberation, Kirby took Lushey's advice and scouted area locations, settling on a narrow storefront at 6106 Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge. On June 1, 1978, Kirby opened her store, christening it Everybody's Records.

"I wasn't seeing past tomorrow," she says. "I was divorced and needed a way to support my family. I didn't know what I was doing, and I didn't know how long it would go."

Everybody's dealt only in used material initially, but Kirby finally began stocking new products when Bruce Springsteen provided a clear winner.

"People were begging me to carry new stuff, and I couldn't afford it," Kirby says. "When The River came out, I said, 'OK, I'll try.' And it took off. Everything was either $1 used, $2 used or $2.50 sealed. It was real easy."

Everybody's occupied its original slim space for 11 years, expanding into a slot two doors down that housed used vinyl. Kirby eventually annexed the adjoining spaces, and the store now fills four storefronts. Lushey went from frequent customer to employee, and he's been a fixture at Everybody's for the past 19 years.

"I was fortunate to not be here during the early days when they had to struggle a bit," Lushey says. "I got here when it really started to happen. For me, it's always been a busy, busy day. A lot of people and trends have come and gone, but the store's still here with the original owner and that speaks volumes about this place. We offer something that people could get by without but people say they've got to have it. You can come in here with a dollar and find a 99-cent record."

Three years after Lushey's hiring, Kirby invited Pat Dorsey, a bartender at the neighboring Gaslight Cafe, to consider employment with her. She occasionally chatted to Dorsey and knew that his passion and knowledge about music rivaled her employees'.

"The guy I was with said, 'He looks like Woody on Cheers,' and I said, 'Yeah, he does,' " Kirby recalls. "I went back to the store and said, 'That guy knows his music. I'm going to tell him to fill out an application if he's interested.' He zoomed right over."

The nickname, Woody, stuck, and so did Dorsey. His 16-year span at Everybody's is exceeded only by Lushey.

"It was like crack to a crackhead," Dorsey says. "I will say I thought I knew music until I worked here. The education I've received from co-workers and customers is irreplaceable. It still happens. Someone will mention something that I don't know about and get turned onto it. That's a good part of the job."

Many employees have cycled through Everybody's, particularly local musicians who benefit from flexible hours, a relatively late start time and local scenester access. Renowned guitarist Ric Hickey, BPA twins Nolan and Tim Benz, Throneberry's Jason Arbenz and Buckra's Andrew Laudeman have all done stints at Everybody's.

From the other side, a quick perusal of the store walls today reveals a wealth of memorabilia — look for the vintage KISS dolls — much of it autographed to the store itself. Many celebrities, musical and otherwise, have visited Everybody's over the years.

"Grant Lee Phillips stopped in one Saturday, a personal highlight for me," Dorsey says. "Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, Bill Bruford, Moby came in. The tallest guy who ever came in was Sebastian Bach. A lot of sports figures, too. Barry Larkin's been in, Dave Parker, Eric Davis, Eddie Milner. (Former Bengals kicker) Neil Rackers sold his CD collection when he got cut."

"Fred Schneider (from the B-52s) called from downtown — they were playing the next night — and asked for directions," Kirby recalls. "It was Sunday, it was Fourth of July weekend, and we were doing a cookout that day in the back parking lot for everyone who worked and whoever was in the store. We said, 'Would you like to join us for dinner?' And he said, 'No, I'm a vegetarian. What I really need is a ride back to the hotel.' Tim and Nolan didn't have a car, but all the customers were like, 'We'll take him!' He gave everyone backstage passes for the show."

"He said it was the best store he'd ever been in," Lushey says with a grin.

When Everybody's opened, the primary formats were vinyl, cassette and 8-track tape. When the digital age dawned, compact discs increased in market share, ultimately forcing out archaic formats like the 8-track and rising concepts like DAT. Through the turbulent transitions — even with new competition from computer downloading — Everybody's has maintained a strong retail presence, thriving while major market players disappeared.

"We outlasted Media Play, Peaches, Record Theater," Kirby notes. "They made me really nervous when they opened, and people told me not to worry. We've outlasted them all."

Perhaps the next Everybody's anniversary should be their 33-and-1/3rd, given the recent increase in vinyl sales. Dorsey estimates that about 25 percent of new product is available as vinyl, and he's heartened by teenagers who purchase classic albums from the used vinyl section.

"I think it's a great trend," Dorsey notes. "They're seeing the whole package — the artwork, the liner notes — and it's hooking them to come back in. We've always bought a lot of used vinyl, but we're buying a lot more new stuff on vinyl now. And they also pick up used CDs. We're probably in the minority thinking that CDs will not go away totally."

"There's a different mentality now as far as 'I don't need to own the packaging, I just like that song,' " says four-year Everybody's veteran Michael Shuter. "The flip side is that younger indie kids do want to see that, so there's a subculture buying vinyl that wants to have the colored wax, liner notes and limited-to-500 vinyl."

Kirby credits her employees' passion and dedication for Everybody's longevity and consistent success and considers her current roster among her best to date.

"You go into a lot of (big box) stores and no one knows what they're talking about," she says. "But you come into our store, and these guys know."

Relative newcomers Wil Rhyne and Lizzy Klein (Kristi Wheeler was enjoying a day off during our interviews) are proof of Kirby's contention that the staff makes the difference.

"Music is universal," Rhyne says. "It's a good sharing tool, that's how I see it. I thank these guys every day for the chance to be part of the team."

"I love it, I would never quit," Klein says. "I had a chance to move to New York, but I decided to stay because I love the store. I would never work anywhere else. We're like family here."

Currently, the 30th anniversary is the major focus, specifically Sunday's Madison Theater concert commemorating the 1978 launch date and helping benefit the Michael Bany Scholarship Fund. The event features local historical notables like psychodots, the Modulators, the Bluebirds, Sonny Moorman, the Goshorn Brothers, Sacred Mushroom and New Lime, all MCed by "The Real" Mary Peale, WOFX (92.5-FM) Jelly Pudding host and longtime area radio presence.

The draining nature of planning this event and general industry malaise notwithstanding, Kirby says she's ready for whatever comes next.

"We have a lot of the same customers we had 30 years ago and their children and in some cases their grandchildren," she says with a laugh. "It's so weird. We're looking forward to the next 30 years."

EVERYBODY'S RECORDS 30TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY is 6 p.m. Sunday at the Madison Theater. Advance tickets are on sale at the store for $15.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.