This story has been updated.
In the continuing effort to keep the concern for the impending sale of the historic Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broadway in Nashville top of mind on what’s it’s 75th Anniversary (May 3rd), and while talking to former employees, customers, and boosters of the Record Shop, and even the Executive Director of Nashville’s Metro Historical Commission, W. Tim Walker about the dilemma, one person’s name kept coming up in discussion: Terry Tyson.
Terry Tyson was the manager of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop from early 2018 until early 2020. In that time, the Record Shop went from being chronically understocked and under-managed, to once again becoming a hopping destination spot in on one of Nashville’s most bustling areas. So in the interest of trying to workshop ideas and solutions for how to save the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, I reached out to Terry Tyson to ask him about his time as manager, and what might could be done to secure the business for the future.
Originally from near Boise, Idaho, Terry Tyson moved to Nashville in July of 1999. He wasn’t an aspiring country music performer or songwriter, but as a passionate fan, he knew he wanted to be involved with country music somehow, hoping to maybe land a job at the Grand Ole Opry, The Country Music Hall of Fame, or the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, recognizing these places as the most important legacy institutions to country music’s history.
When Tyson arrived in Nashville though—as will happen—life got in the way, and the business of paying bills became the priority. He ended up working as a manager for Lowe’s Home Improvement for 17 years, and interacting with the country music world in his spare time. While attending the Midnite Jamboree one evening, Terry Tyson met the long-time owner of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, David McCormick, and they became friends. Over the years, McCormick would say Terry could come work at the Record Shop if he wanted. But of course, working at a record store doesn’t come with the same kind of pay or benefits as working as a manger for Lowe’s. But in 2017, Tyson finally had enough of the big box world, quit Lowe’s, and rang up David McCormick.
Terry Tyson didn’t start as a manager at the Record Shop. He was hired temporarily to help build out the Loretta Lynn display in the back of the store, commemorating the moments that helped launch Loretta’s career from that location via her appearances on the Midnite Jamboree radio program. Tyson was a good candidate for the job, because he had a good rapport with the Loretta Lynn camp after working as Loretta’s merchandise manager in 2004. He received minimal pay for the project, but it was a labor of love.
At that time, the Record Shop didn’t have a manager. The previous manager had committed suicide, leaving the spot vacant. But David McCormick was so impressed with Tyson’s work on the Loretta Lynn display, he offered Tyson the spot in early 2018. Terry Tyson was very happy, but the job was also very harrowing due to owner David McCormick’s notoriously overbearing nature over his managers.
“Right away after I went to work for him I started getting the crazy emails, and a lot of hate came at me from nowhere,” Tyson explains. “And all the women who had been there forever told me, ‘Don’t let it get you down. We need you here. Just let it roll off your shoulders.’ And I did. I knew I was doing really good for the shop. The shop was seeing huge numbers and success coming in. I knew how to manage something, and I loved what I was doing. I went out and invited artists to come in for photo shoots, album release parties, pop up stores, just everything I could. I’d go over to the Hall of Fame for meet and greets and stand in line, and ask the artists if they wanted to do something with the Record Shop. I took the dead Facebook and Instagram pages and got them popping, and really started to get some movement going to make the Ernest Tubb Record Shop a real destination point.”
Terry Tyson turned the Record Store into a hopping store front once again, and was also was responsible for getting the store restocked, and with more profitable merchandise. “We’d make orders and sell it, sell it, sell it, and in increments we kept ordering a little more, make a little more money, order a little bit more until we really had that store stocked,” Tyson says.
Tyson also had a display case built so the memorabilia from the Music Valley location of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop that closed in 2016 could be put on display. He would drive out to Loretta Lynn’s ranch once a month, and load up his car with Loretta merch to stock the Record Shop with, and designed custom merch for the Record Shop. Terry Tyson’s experience in retail at Lowe’s, combined with his passion for country music is what made him such a savvy manager.
“I really worked hard to get people down there for Fan Fair events, book signings, meet and greets, everything I could … I worked and managed that store from the cash register. I didn’t have an office in the back. I didn’t sit downstairs. I stood there at the cash register, rung up people’s orders, turned around and ordered product, and ran the store from the front counter.”
But according to Tyson, nothing seemed to satisfy McCormick. Tyson was commonly working 6 and 7 days a week, and upwards of 50 and 60 hours a week, and would still receive emails from McCormick complaining about how he wasn’t working enough. “But it was a labor of love. None of us were working there for the money,” says Tyson. “I thought often that I needed a career that’s going to pay me well, a 401K, some insurance, benefits, paid parking. I wasn’t getting any of that, but the whole time I was thinking that I have a really awesome job here with a wonderful responsibility, and I didn’t want to walk away from that either. I wanted to ride that out. I thought I may retire a poor broke man, but I love what I’m doing.”
Then after working for David McCormick and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop for two years, Terry Tyson was terminated in a late night email. “People kept telling me that David doesn’t keep a manager here for any more than two years. I kept just blowing it off and thinking, ‘We’re gonna work through this.’ And it was exactly two years and one day after he hired me that he terminated me.”
It was in the wake of the Terry Tyson firing that the owner of Robert’s Western World, JesseLee Jones, decided to help David McCormick with the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and eventually the two entered into a partnership to purchase the business and property. It’s that deal between David McCormick and JesseLee Jones going sideways and ending up in the courts that has resulted in the impending sale of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, putting the future of the business in peril.
“I think that none of this would be happening today if he hadn’t fired me. I’d be there, and we’d be rockin’ and rollin’,” says Terry. And many of the people who you talk to about the Record Shop feel the same way. Along with being well-known among many country legends, Terry Tyson also helped to restore Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch in Madison. He currently works as the merchandise manager for Richards & Southern, which is a merchandising company that does the concert merch for many big country artists and bands.
As for the future of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Terry Tyson says,
“I think in order to save it where it’s at, you’d have to have someone who’s buying it putting money behind it because they believe in the historic merit of the building, and know they may not get a huge return on their investment, but they’re doing something to save this landmark, and save this institution the Ernest Tubb started. I think the store could make money, but it needs to have someone who believes in it, and let myself or someone manage that place and really let them go.”
Hopefully, that benefactor will present himself once the Ernest Tubb Record Shop is officially put up for sale. Located at 417 Broadway in Nashville, the business was first opened on May 3rd, 1947, and has been at its current location since 1951. The building itself dates back to the 1850’s, and was once used as a Civil War hospital.
To celebrate the 75th Anniversary, the store is opening again for a celebration.
“We turn 75 years old today. On May 3, 1947, Mr. Tubb opened the doors to his vision and no one could have known the impact he and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would have on the music landscape. Tonight we celebrate Mr. Tubb with a very special Midnite Jamboree at 7pm. We have some great guests lined up and 75th merch that will be available during the Jamboree. Our doors open at noon and they will close at 6pm to prepare for the taping. The doors will re-open and 7pm and we’ll all celebrate the way Mr. Tubb would have wanted, with world class musicians and some good old fashioned live music.”
No word as of yet of when the actual sale will transpire.
UPDATE (5/7/2022): After the posting of this article, David McCormick has responded in a comment,
“The comments made my Mr. Tyson are absolutely NOT TRUE. He was not a ‘Savior’ of the shop. The shop was not in bad financial condition at all nor was it poorly stocked. He is a ‘disgruntled’ because he was terminated simply because he decided to take a ‘extended vacation’ without letting anyone know where he was or when he would return. While he did a good job, he was never hired just to add the Loretta Lynn edition. That came later after his employment began. Too bad he has chosen to lie about his termination. I never did anything but support his employment as “manager” of the shop and certainly nothing more. He had no clue as to the financial status of the shop (which was fine and the time of his employment) nor making decisions that most ‘management’ positions make. I hate Terry wasn’t there that long and made the decision to leave himself. I thought he could have worked out and been a valuable asset to the shop. Why he has chosen to bad mouth me, I don’t understand. I have no bad feelings toward him and totally supported him during his tenure with the shop and will always wish him the best.
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Stay tuned to Saving Country Music for continuing developments on the sale of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. To sign the petition to save the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, CLICK HERE.