At StoryCorps recording booths across the country, friends and loved ones interview each other about their lives. From June 29 – July 28, the oral history project’s mobile booth (an Airstream trailer) will be on the lawn at Detroit Institute of Arts. You can sign up for your own interview slot here.
When StoryCorps last came to town, they recorded a series of interviews at the Urban Consulate in Detroit. In one of those interviews, Detroiter Marsha Music recounted how her father tried to protect his record store on 12th Street in the summer of 1967. An excerpt is included below. To listen, click on the audio player above.
“I would start out on the night in a hot summer day. It was in July of 1967 and my father got a phone call in the middle of the night. Someone told him, “There’s something going on over on 12th Street.”
“He was a record producer. He had been producing records in Detroit in his record store which he opened in 1945 in Detroit after World War II. He produced the people that walked into his record shop off of Hastings Street because it was a reflection of the dynamism of the city at the time. Detroit was extremely dynamic.
“So, my father had received this phone call on the night of July of 1967, July 23rd. And he goes over to the record shop on 12th Street because now he has moved, he’d been over there on 12th Street about seven years. And he goes over to 12th Street and finds that the unrest is full-blown.
“By this time we knew what was going on because this type of unrest had been happening all over the country. And it was almost like a matter of time before it came to Detroit. But see one of the curious things about Detroit was that it was believed that unrest of this magnitude would not happen here. But there was an ignoring of the real turmoil that was going on underneath the surface you know, where blacks could not get jobs in certain industries – they would bar them from skilled trades, they were relegated to certain jobs – so, you had a level of oppressiveness that existed all over the city along with the police presence too.
“My dad had been on 12th Street, the second day, and he had gone over there to protect his store. He gathered up his gun and sat outside the store with the other owners as the looting began to move southward down 12th Street. And at a certain point the National Guard told him he had to leave. And he was always very bitter about that. There was a part of him that always felt that, if he could have just stayed there and protected his store, it would not have been ruined.
“I remember the stench of smoke and the evidence of complete mayhem and the hellishness of 12th Street on that day when we returned, the hellishness of those burned buildings and those destroyed buildings and glass everywhere.”
“When we walked back into that record store and I could see all of these reel-to-reel tapes on the ground, opened up, and these tapes were all over, the Scotch tape, brown Scotch tape, were all over the ground as we kind of stumbled over all of this debris and detritus. And I remember even as a kid knowing that there was a whole lot of voices in those tapes that would never be heard. You know, because that was probably my dad’s lifetime of tapes of all of these people that he had been recording for many years.
“I have said and I do say that the day that my father walked into that record shop and saw that his livelihood like that had been destroyed, and his life’s work had been destroyed, I say that my father died on that day. And I am very, very grateful that I was old enough that I remember my father when he was a great man on Hastings Street and I really have dedicated my life and my work in many respects to upholding his legacy as a pillar of Detroit music.”
Marsha Music was interviewed by Claire Nelson and recorded by StoryCorps. This recorded excerpt was produced by Hannah Barg and repurposed for WDET.
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Image credit: WDET DIgital
This post is a part of StoryCorps Detroit.
Giving people of all backgrounds the opportunity to record meaningful conversations, StoryCorps seeks to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. The StoryCorps Mobile Tour stops in Detroit from June 29 to July 30 to collect the stories of our region. Look out for the MobileBooth recording studio (a silver airstream trailer!) on the lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Learn how you can make an appointment to record a story with your loved one and hear stories from their visit here.