POPLAR TUNES RECORD SHOP - Elvis Presley used to hanging out at Poplar Tunes, located at 308 Poplar
Avenue, when he was in high school. The store was founded by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese. Poplar Tunes was opened in 1947, just a few years before Elvis Presley recorded his first song.
Poplar Tunes has come to symboliz e the very best in Memphis music. B.B. King came into the store on his own one evening and played his guitar. Cuoghi liked King so much that he called a friend of his who worked at a radio station, supposedly giving B.B. King his first real break.
Under the name of Hi Records, a record company they operated besides Poplar Tunes, Novarese and Cuoghi jump-started the careers of a number of local and regional entertainers including
Al Greene, Ace Cannon, and Ann Peebles.
They also found time to increase the size and scope of Poplar Tunes. After Joe Cuoghi died
in 1970, John Novarese was joined by Frank Berretta. The company now has more than 100 employees and seven locations including one in Collierville and another in Horn Lake; three are company-owned,
and four are leased. While the Memphis downtown store has quite a bit of walk-in traffic, its main thrust is on the wholesale market. This Polar Tunes is a standard record store with a
unique history. Located a few blocks from Lauderdale Courts, this one store brick building looks just it did now over forty years ago. In 1953 Elvis Presley was buying records here, and
in 1954 Elvis' own records sold like wildfire at Poplar Tunes, the first record store to sell Elvis Presley's music.
Dewey Phillips used to stop by the store on the way to his afternoon radio show, and he often came by after the show when the store was closed. After hours, Cuoghi and his other music-business friends would
sit around spinning records and filling each other in on the latest industry gossip.
Whether Elvis Presley knew of Cuoghi's
influence when he first started hanging around the record store is debatable. Located a short walk from Lauderdale Courts, Elvis Presley spent so much time in the store that Choughi came to know him as a shy, polite kid. Years later Cuoghi remembered
a very young Elvis Presley coming into the store just to see if his records were selling. Whenever a young girl came in to ask for one of the records, Elvis would start to grin, but he would never come forward. Cuoghi would tell the girl, "Elvis
Presley? Why that's him right over there". After the girl left, Elvis would to say, "Mr. Cuoghi, don't do that. It embarrasses me".