Today (1992), you can still purchase Elvis' music at Poplar Tunes, and many of the other voices which have emerged from Memphis. The walls at Poplar Tunes are lined with uncommon
photos of Elvis Presley. "He was in here all the time", says Mary Anne Linder, who's worked in the store since 1955.
He was working
at Crown Electric when Dewey Phillips first started playing his record, and he would come in on his lunch break to see if people were buying it.
In those days Poplar Tunes was known as "one-stop shop" where jukebox owners would line up outside the on Monday morning to buy the latest 45s. It was also a favorite hangout for local teenagers. The
two groups would stand elbow to elbow at the counter listening to records on turntables, trying to decide which ones to buy".
Elvis was so shy", says Linder, "he usually hid behind the Coke machine. After they'd leave", she fondly recalls, "he'd come up to me and ask, 'Did anybody buy my record". "Long before Elvis met Colonel Parker", says Joe Scola, "it was Joe Cuoghi who convinced the late Bob Neal - who at the time owned a Pop Tunes outlet near the old Warner Theater on South Main - to manage the young singer's career. Joe said he'd buy
Neal out if he would manage Elvis", recalls Scola, now advertising director for Poplar Tunes. "Joe took a real interest in Elvis from the start, but you never hear much about that any
more. We do a lot of wholesaling to mom and pop operations that don't have connections with the big national distributors", says Scola. "Right now we've got about 330 customers. Although
the larger chains continue to garner a sizable share of the retail record market locally", says Joe Scola, "Poplar Tunes has remained a viable competitor. Lots of record companies have come and gone", he
points out, "but we're still here. We're a Memphis institution".
In 2011 without any fanfare, hope for a miracle, or opportunity for a
last-minute reprieve, the Nashville-based Music City Record Distributors unceremoniously pulled the plug on Memphis' final two Pop Tunes locations including the first Pop Tunes, located
at 308 Poplar Avenue., which was opened by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese in the late 1940s as a retail record store, a jukebox supplier, and a wholesale operation. Someone died, even Elvis Presley...!
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