Camelot Music, Stark County, Ohio 1971

Right after a difficult customer had left the store, Frank would say, “I gotta get outta retail!” Being a manager of the biggest record store in the region in the early 1970s was not as much fun as everyone thought. Oh there was the excitement of being the first to get the new Woodstock album (or for Frank, the new Elvis album) or have our photos taken with the Beach Boys for Billboard, but for every half hour like that, there were hours and hours of unpacking 33s and hoisting them into bins, angry customers toting unraveling 8-Tracks, and the 900th person of the week asking for Rubber Ducky or Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head on a 45.

He never yelled. By that time in my 20-year old life, I hadn’t worked for many people—restaurant owners, high school band directors, dance instructors, teachers—who did not yell to achieve results. Frank  Trace never yelled, despite the fact that he had to ride herd on a staff of mostly 18 to 22 year olds who, frankly, were in this job for the glory of being close to the music of our era. Dizzy college boys fascinated by The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Stones, and Rod Stewart, and young women fascinated by the boys who came in to hear It’s a Beautiful Day and Janis Joplin. How he got any work out of any of us, for minimum wage, makes me wonder even now, but what I remember is that he did not yell. Or threaten or seethe. He could have acted as domineering and superior as other managers in the shopping center, but he didn’t.

Instead, he himself seemed happy to be in the music and to be willing to buckle down (and encourage us to buckle down) and get the work done, even though record store manager was never what he wanted to be. He had wanted to go to art school when he took his first job for the company in a small shop downtown. And while he never did go to art school, he did use that talent to create elaborate visual displays for the store. I recall one that required some of the guys draping a lot of fishing net on the walls, then rigging its squares with albums containing some water theme. Not Rubber Ducky. And not Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, which people requested in a 45 years after 45s no longer existed and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had ridden away into the sunset. Frank was often rolling his eyes.

He didn’t gossip about the employees, not even when the assistant manager was found to be the one stealing massive amounts of money from the deposits. She was caught in a sting, she was gone, and there was no gossiping about it. I mean, not by Frank. It was all we could talk about, but he moved out of the discussion and suggested we might get on with our lives too. There was music to talk about. And listen to. He laughed often and joyfully, though he was not in the job of his dreams.

Eventually, I graduated and had to leave town to find work. In the ensuing decades, I worked for a lot of bosses, few as hard-working and focused and fun as Frank. When I returned home after 35 years away, I found he had indeed gotten out of retail (just in time, as the record store business was dying) and found his second career, doing choreography and teaching dance to songs like Meghan Trainer’s Lips Are Movin’, Fats Domino’s Kansas City, Mama Maria.  He’s winning international awards, still loving the music, still awash in it, still Elvis Presley’s biggest fan. Running his own show. Oh, and he teaches his very own version of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head. (They keep fallin’!) Happiness has definitely come up to meet him.

© Diane Kendig.