Growing up in Oak Cliff, many ’50s and ’60s teens and pre-teens found their way to record stores sprinkled throughout the community: Priest Record Shop in Kiestwood Village, Coghill-Simmons on West Davis, Height’s Record Shop in Westmoreland Heights Shopping Center, and Mel Renfro’s House of Sound in Wynnewood Village, to name a few. Most of the stores’ customers were there to purchase the new rock and roll 45s, later some folk music, and then the Motown sound. School music teachers throughout Oak Cliff, struggling to instill musical integrity in their students, probably cringed.
One of these stops, Top Ten Records, 338 W. Jefferson, has changed little in over half a century. Same exterior, same basic layout, same size. Granted, the old listening booths are gone, as are the 78s, 45s, and LPs. (The “LP” stands for “long playing” for those born during the past two decades). The store now offers Latino CDs and DVDs, and some of the “oldies.”
The vintage neon signage and mid-century interior decor reflect owner Michael Polk’s efforts to keep the store’s originality.
“The shelves, bins, and most of the photos are all original to the store,” says Polk, Adamson ’59, standing next to a full-sized cut-out of Dolly Parton that greets customers as they come in the door.
“The store used to be the Davis Street Record Shop,” he says. “Dub Stark bought it from them and I bought it from Dub.”
In fact, after 51 years of operating as Top Ten Records, Polk’s water bill from the City of Dallas is still addressed to Davis Street Record Shop.
Photos of store visitors Emmylou Harris and Mickey Gilley are on display, and Polk says Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers also shopped here. Legendary Oak Cliff musician and vocalist Stevie Ray Vaughan used to peruse the place regularly back in the ’60s, looking for blues and rock selections.
The chrome-banded, rubber-surfaced counter shows significant wear, as do most of the store’s fixtures. But on the end of the counter is a piece of national and local history: a black, 1950s-style rotary mounted telephone.
According to official records, it’s the telephone Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippet used to make his last phone call before he was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963, at the corner of Patton and Tenth.
Stark later told police Oswald and his family had shopped at Top Ten in the past and that he had sold Oswald a “Dick Clark Show” ticket Nov. 22. The stub later was found among Oswald’s possessions.
When she was a girl, Linda Shipp Moon always enjoyed visiting her Great Uncle Dub Stark at the record shop. Then, in 1958, when fellow Texan Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Moon’s mother went to Top Ten and purchased Cliburn’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 — her daughter’s favorite classical selection and Cliburn’s winning piece. Though she moved through the years, Moon, Kimball ’65, kept her mother’s gift — and nurtured a desire to meet Cliburn some day.
“He was on my top ten list,” Moon says.
In May 2005, she attended a Fort Worth Petroleum Club luncheon where Cliburn was the guest speaker. When he finished his program, Moon sprinted to the podium with album in hand and blurted, “I’ve kept this since it came out.”
Surprised the album jacket was still in good shape, the musician gave her a big hug and autographed it: “To Linda Moon. With my sincere best wishes. Van Cliburn, 13 May 2005.”
Although she was Dub Stark’s great niece and a Van Cliburn fan, Moon also was influenced by one of her Oak Cliff elementary school teachers.
“Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 has long been my favorite classical piano piece, since I was in 5th grade at Mark Twain Elementary, and my music teacher, Miss. Shannon, played it for us,” Moon says.
For more info visit mcadams.posc.mu.edu/top10.htm
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.