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Ron Rooks, RIP


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#1 Hot Ptah

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:04 PM

Ron Rooks, the owner of the Music Exchange in Kansas City, died this week. He had planned to reopen in a warehouse space in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City.

Those who visited the Music Exchange know what it was. For others, it was one of the largest used and rare music stores in the nation, with over 1 million vinyl recordings and an ever changing set of CDs, cassettes, 8 track tapes, videos, sheet music, music magazines, memorabilia, ephemera, etc. etc.

It was a colorful store, with a huge jazz vinyl section.

Ron was a colorful guy and seemed to enjoy putting on the press. Google will bring up articles about his antics, odd interviews and personal problems.

Above all, he really knew music, in all genres, from the first days of recorded sound through today, and was passionate about music and sound recordings. I am very grateful to him for the special items he would pull and save for me, from individual Sun Ra 45s to entire vinyl collections of avant garde jazz which he had acquired.

His passing somehow seems like the end of an era to me. I wish his wife and family peace in this difficult time.

Edited by Hot Ptah, 01 September 2006 - 12:10 PM.


#2 Spontooneous

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:21 PM

RIP indeed.

The store was in the process of reopening in the West Bottoms, but the process was agonizingly slow. I was there just a couple of weeks ago and came away dismayed at the state of it. Ron didn't seem to be around.

Can't tell you how many times over the decades I read about some interesting piece of music or some artist who was new to me, went to the Music Exchange and came home with the vinyl (or the CD) the same day. It was fun, and it was an education. I'll never forget it.

Edited by Spontooneous, 01 September 2006 - 12:24 PM.


#3 Eric

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:36 PM

RIP

That is really, really sad.

I started going to Music Excahnge around 1982. I would drive in from Lawrence. It was an amazing place for a small-town guy. Early on I asked Ron about some Freddie Hubbard record and he steered me directly to Lee Morgan, who I had never heard of.

I did not know him well, but he was always friendly, very enthusiastic and yes, very colorful.

Wow ...

#4 Eric

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:38 PM

Can't tell you how many times over the decades I read about some interesting piece of music or some artist who was new to me, went to the Music Exchange and came home with the vinyl (or the CD) the same day. It was fun, and it was an education. I'll never forget it.


Indeed, especially when they were over on Westport Road. The Music Exchange was my bar after work.

#5 Hot Ptah

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 12:50 PM


Can't tell you how many times over the decades I read about some interesting piece of music or some artist who was new to me, went to the Music Exchange and came home with the vinyl (or the CD) the same day. It was fun, and it was an education. I'll never forget it.


Indeed, especially when they were over on Westport Road. The Music Exchange was my bar after work.


Well, they didn't serve alcohol, at least not officially, but I know what you mean. It was my clubhouse, my refuge after work, to unwind. The staff was friendly and very knowledgable, always very nice to me. When it was on Westport Road, you could just stare at the walls and ceiling, at the massive amount of stuff they had posted and hanging from every conceivable surface. As one of the long time staffers put it to me, the decor was "nutso". Never dull, though.

With the massive selection in virtually every genre of music, one could flip and browse infinitely and never exhaust the possibilities. My bank balance provided the only limits to my purchases.

It was the kind of place, that on the rest room wall was hanging the original large Levis print ad from the 1930s from which the Byrds "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" cover was taken. I realized in looking at the ad that only a small fraction of that Levis ad was used for the Byrds cover. The ad, which was about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, was a small encyclopedia of words and drawings of everything cowboy related. And there it was, just on the rest room wall. Ron Rooks wanted $3000 for that ad when he moved the last time.

That's just one of many, many unusual items I saw there. There will never be another place like the Music Exchange in its heyday.

It was the kind of place, that if you needed some type of music supply, you could get a staffer to help you look in all of the odd nooks and crannies of the store, underneath the endless record racks, behind postcard trees, etc. etc., and you were sure to be able to cobble together whatever you needed. Once when my epileptic son had a seizure in the store, we helped him to the car, drove home and realized that one of his shoes had come off and was still in the Music Exchange. I immediately called the Music Exchange and asked them not to tie the shoe to the wall with a price tag on it--which I thought that they would do.

Edited by Hot Ptah, 01 September 2006 - 01:05 PM.


#6 clifford_thornton

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 03:14 PM

Damn!

RIP...

I used to shop there when I lived in Lawrence, and that was in the '90s as their prices started climbing. But deals could still be found, and the jazz collection was really strong. I was sad to hear of the store's closing, too, and this is really unfortunate. I never got to know Ron, but saw him around and definitely caught his vibe.

#7 Eric

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:29 AM

frm the KC Star blog:

Early Tuesday afternoon, we started getting e-mails from people who had heard rumors, if not the hard news: Ron Rooks had died Monday evening in the record shop's new digs in the West Bottoms.

Brian McTavish, one of The Star's arts & entertainment reporters (and former pop music writer), talked with Rooks' widow, Nancy, this morning. Here's an abbreviated version of the story he has filed for tomorrow's paper, with assistance from Hearne Christopher.

Ron Rooks, longtime owner of the Music Exchange in Westport, died Monday at his recently relocated store in the West Bottoms.

Rooks, 54, was found dead by a tenant in the same building that now houses the Music Exchange at 13th Terrace and Hickory, said his wife, Nancy Rooks.

"I haven't even gotten the coroner's report yet," she said Wednesday. "But he was at work Monday evening and the police seem to think he choked on some dinner food.

"He passed surrounded by that part of his life that was most important to him and that he loved more than anything: his music. I'm sure the music was playing down there. There was always music playing down there."

Ron and Nancy Rooks founded the original Music Exchange in 1979 in Westport, where the store's stock of hard-to-find vintage records gained it a reputation as "The Midwest's Largest Music Store." The business's inventory eventually totaled more than 1 million 78s, 45s and LPs from virtually every genre.

"It's unique," Rooks said of the Music Exchange earlier this year. "People come in to see the things that are hanging on the walls, not even necessarily to buy stuff. Tourists have heard about it."

So what will happen to the Music Exchange?

"I'm not positive, but I'm probably looking for a buyer or somebody who would want to purchase the majority of it," Nancy Rooks said. "I personally do not think that I will be able to continue to run the store -- I can't. I don't have the vast knowledge base that he had about music and musicians. He worked really hard to keep that knowledge out there for the young people coming up. And he also really pushed the small, independent unknowns and especially local (musicians). He really wanted to help local people."

Roger Naber, former owner of the Grand Emporium, told McTavish that he was helping organize a party in Rooks' honor next weekend in Westport.

For information on services for Rooks, e-mail the Music Exchange at musicxch@aol.com

#8 Eric

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:46 AM

Image this x 1,000:

Edited by Eric, 02 September 2006 - 07:46 AM.


#9 Eric

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 07:55 AM

If one of you KC guys hears about the show in Westport next weekend, please post here - I am traveling all next week.

#10 Eric

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 11:39 PM

Obituary from the KC Star:

Ronald James Rooks, 54, of Kansas City, MO, passed away Monday, August 28, 2006. He died at work, surrounded by the music that he loved. Ron was born July 28, 1952 in San Mateo, CA but moved to K.C. when 2 years old. He was preceded in death by his father Donald Wood Rooks, mother Joyce Marie (Stackhouse) Rooks, aunt Irene (Stackhouse) Hetrick and uncle Gilbert "Bud" Hetrick. Ron is survived by Nancy, his wife of 33 years; son Kelsyn D.S. Rooks and wife Amie and grandson Kelsyn D.S. Rooks, Jr. of Overland Park, KS; and daughter, Kristyn J.O. Rooks and future son-in-law Richard Colon of Kansas City, MO; brother Donald W. Rooks and wife Lynnette of Raymore, MO; niece Natonya Pasley of Denver, CO; and nephew Donald W. Rooks III of Kansas City, MO. Ron attended Francis Willard grade school, Paseo High School, and graduated from Lee's Summit High School. He got his BA in Communications from UMKC. In 1979, a few years after leaving the Water Department over "refusing to cut his hair", Ron decided to take his career into his own hands and scraped together enough money to buy The Music Exchange in Westport. This was also convenient because it gave him a place to move all the "extra" records he had been hiding from Nancy. For 27 years The Music Exchange stayed true to providing the people of Kansas City and of the world an amazing place to buy, sell, or just talk music. It was a sad day in February 2006 when The Music Exchange closed the doors in Westport, but Ron and many of his staunchest supporters felt it would rise again in its new home in the West Bottoms. With his passion for music, and so many talented friends, it is no surprise that Ron's band, Three Businessmen, was assaulting this city for almost 30 years. With his alter ego altering between Skoor Nor and Redondo Flats, Ron brought his odd sense of humor and political commentary to light with lyrics performed to frenetic but often inspired music. One needed to catch the show early in the night for the true glimpses of genius, for as the evening went on the songs had a tendency to get drawn out and more likely to offend the weak-hearted. What Ron lacked in skill and training he more than made up for in enthusiasm, and over the years many musicians asked him to sit in with them. Husband, father, businessman, writer, musician, and friend, Ron touched so many people in his life that he will never be truly gone. To help us reflect on and celebrate the life of Ron Rooks there will be a visitation and a memorial jam. The visitation will be held at the Muehlebach Funeral Home, 6800 Troost, Kansas City, MO on Friday, September 8, 2006 from 6 to 9 p.m. The memorial jam will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, September 9, 2006 in the Valentine Room at the Uptown, 411 Valentine Road, Kansas City, MO. Memorial contributions can be made to the Coda Jazz Fund, P.O. Box 412116, Kansas City, MO 64141-2116 which provides for final financial assistance for all musicians. (Arrangements: Muehlebach Funeral Home, 816-4442060).

#11 Hot Ptah

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 06:00 PM

Image this x 1,000:


This is an accurate photo of a tiny fraction of the Music Exchange's collection.



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