Cosmic Generations Vol. I — Smokey’s Records at 15th & 15th

John “Smokey” Koelsch, long-time manager of the Cosmic Aeroplane’s record department opened his own store in 1981:

Composite photo of 15th East & !5th South with King's English and Smokey's Records circa 1995.

Composite photo of 15th East & 15th South with The King’s English and Smokey’s Records.

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In Medias Rae — Death of the LP Party (A New Orleans Funeral)
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Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey both start in the middle, and so does Smokey’s memorabilia.

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Vinyl pallbearers left to right: Robert Firmage, behind Dana Wilson and the back of the coffin, Seamus at the front, Wayne Hentschel, almost unseen behind the coffin, Joe Stohel in the top hat, Nan Sondrup behind the counter, and Libbi Poppystone wearing the derby hat. Photo by Charlotte Bell.

Smokey’s Records opened at 15th & 15th in 1981 and closed in 1995 — (Above) The funeral service for the Vinyl LP occurred in 1988. As of this writing in 2014, vinyl records and turntables for playing them are sold in music stores around the world to enthusiastic fans.

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(Center) Robert Firmage delivers the Eulogy for the LP as Smokey Koelsch listens on the left. Other attendees include, from left to right: Nan Sondrup behind the umbrella, Lisa Faith behind the counter, Joe Stohel in the top hat, Seamus, and an unknown customer by the door. Blogmeister Michael was an eyewitness at this event, standing against the westward-facing wall, outside of the frame off the right side — Photo by Charlotte Bell.

EULOGY FOR THE LP (With GRAVE apologies to Shelley)
I weep for the LP — it is dead! O, weep for the LP though our tears
Melt not the vinyl of so dear a head! And thou, sad music, recorded through the years
To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers (Cassette and 8-track and the new CD)
And teach them sorrow, ’till the future dares — Forget the past, its fate and fame shall be
An echo and feedback into Eternity!

Read the complete Eulogy, transcribed by Robert Firmage,
in PDF form: Eulogy for the LP

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The Homeric journey of Smokey Koelsch’s record store begins in used record bins within the Cosmic Aeroplane at 366 South West Temple, then leads into a larger basement space under the Aeroplane at 258 East First South, with a mix of new and used items, and goes even further …

Smokey's Records from the cover of Smokey's Newsletter of 1995.

Smokey’s Records from the cover of the store’s Newsletter in 1995.

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Independent Smokey’s Records, helping to anchor another Artistic/Alternative business district at 15th South and 15th East, near Westminster College and the University of Utah. These memorabilia below illustrate some aspects of the story.

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Early Days — Pictures, Posters, and Lists
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Smokey’s co-sponsored musical events and sold concert tickets — strategies that served other Alternative businesses well.

(Left) Poster announcing Smokey's Records move to 15th & 15th; Early concert co-sponsored by Smokey's Records.

(Left) Poster announcing the opening of independent Smokey’s Records; (Right) Early Windham Hill concert co-sponsored by Smokey’s Records.

See It’s A New Record Store as a scalable PDF: Smokeys_Poster_1981

See the poster for George Winston and William Ackerman
as a scalable PDF: George_Winston_1981

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Inside Smokey’s Records and Bestseller Lists

Smokey Koelsch posing at 15th & 15th.

Smokey Koelsch posing for photos at 15th & 15th circa 1985.

See the full photo of Smokey’s Records (above) as a PDF: Smokey_Store_1985a

Smokey kept track of what was selling in the store, and made lists:

See Smokey’s List of Best-Sellers from 1983 as a PDF file: Smokeys_1983_List

See Smokey’s List of Best-Sellers from 1984 as a PDF file: Smokeys_1984_List

See Smokey’s List of Best-Sellers from 1985 as a PDF file: Smokeys_1985_List

Full-sized picture of Smokey’s Records (below left) as a PDF file: Smokey_Store_1985b

(Left)  Smokey at 15th & 15th circa 1985; (Right) Smokey visits independent distributor Silo in Vermont circa 1987.

(Left) Smokey at the 15th & 15th location circa 1985; (Right) Smokey visits independent distributor Silo Inc. in Waterbury, Vermont circa 1987 — (L to R) Dave Lovald, Will Forrest, and J. Koelsch.

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Smokey was well-known on AM and FM Radio as a Blues aficionado:

Smokey says: The name “Smokey’s Records” was chosen by agreement between my partners Vaninnetti and Setzer and me to try to get some mileage out of a connection with my long-running radio show, “Smokey’s Blues Hour,” which I kept on-air for the first year of the existence of Smokey’s Records.

Read about Smokey’s Blues Hour: Daily Utah Chronicle Article 1981

Smokey's Records logo featuring Blues great Memphis Minnie in various forms.

Logo for Smokey’s Records — The great Memphis Minnie from the W.C. Handy Blues Hall of Fame.

Memphis Minnie’s line drawing by future Hollywood designer Roly Pearson was the appropriate logo of a music store that not only featured Blues, but was a major source for Women’s Music, World Music, Folk, Jazz, Country, Bluegrass, and Rock, as well as Classical, Children’s, and New Age Music.

View the bumper sticker as a PDF file: Memphis Minnie Bumper Sticker

See the front of the postcard as a PDF file: Memphis Minnie Postcard (Front)

See the back of the postcard as a PDF file: Memphis Minnie Postcard (Back)

View a Jazz Voice page from 1985 as a PDF file: Memphis Minnie ad in Jazz Voice

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Smokey’s Records was familiar to the Salt Lake Jazz Society:

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Jazz Voice newspaper July/August 1986 — featuring a front page article about Smokey’s Records.

Read Barbara Terry’s article in Jazz Voice Vol. 3 Num. 19 July/August 1986:

Smokey’s Sings More Than The Blues

(Large PDF files may take time to fully load.)
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Instrumental Blues with Smokey:

Check out Smokey's hat in the Jazz Voice article!

Smokey is wearing this same hat in the Jazz Voice article above.

Harmonica solo (Video by Joe Stohel): Smokey Koelsch Harp
Recorded behind the Smokey’s Records building in 1986.
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Sales and in-store parties rewarded the expanding crowds:

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Charlie Parker “sits in” with Smokey’s Customer Parties and Sales for 1987 and 1988.

View a larger 1987 party announcement as a PDF file: Sale and Party 1987

View a larger 1988 party announcement as a PDF file: Sale and Party 1988

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Smokey’s Records was the focus of an article by the Salt Lake Tribune in 1987, before vinyl records were buried by compact discs:

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Detail from the full Tribune photo by Lynn R. Johnson.

Read the article by Guy Boulton from Sunday May 17, 1987:

Smokey’s Records: Choice Selection for Clientele

(Large PDF files may take time to fully load.)

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Gift Certificates  helped introduce new customers:

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(Left) Medieval Fiddling Lion on a party card from 1984; (Right) Smokey’s Gift Certificate.

View the 1984 party announcement as a PDF file: Christmas Party 1984

View the gift certificate as a PDF file: Gift Certificate

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Sales and Parties continued at 15th & 15th:

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(Left) Sale and Party card from 1990; (Right) Winter Blow Out Sale card from the 1980’s.

View the larger-sized party announcement as a PDF file: Spring Sale and Party 1990

View a large Blow Out Sale announcement as a PDF file: Winter Blow Out Sale

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Later Day Newsletters
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During the 1990’s the store published a newsletter for its far-flung customers. There are even MORE best-seller lists in the following publications, plus revelations about the store and contemporary music:

Smokey's Memphis Minnie Logo

Smokey’s snail-mail catalog — sixteen pages on newsprint.
Summer 1990 Update_Smokeys Mail Order Catalog

Four Page Newsletter(s) — Volume One Number One
September 1992: Newsletter_1992a

Winter 1992: Newsletter_1992b

Spring 1993: Newsletter_1993a

Volume Two Number One
Winter 1993: Newsletter_1993b

Announcing the closing of Smokey’s Records
Summer 1995: Newsletter_1995

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Public votes of confidence for both Cosmic Aeroplane and Smokey’s Records

(Left) Smokey Koelsch managed Cosmic Aeroplane's Record Store in 1979; (Right) A readers poll in a similar publication gave Smokey's Records their Best Of ... votes in the 1980's for another publication.

(Left) Smokey Koelsch managed Cosmic Aeroplane’s record store in 1979, and Randy’s is still doing business in 2014; (Right) The Event magazine chose Smokey’s as “Best Specialty Records” during the 1980’s.

Read the full page from Utah Holiday Magazine (Cosmic Aeroplane)
as a scalable PDF: Utah_Holiday_Magazine_August_1979_Page_33

(Smokey’s Records) See “Best Specialty Records” clipping from The Event magazine as a scalable PDF: Best_Specialty_Records
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Smokey Officers and Crew: Curt Setzer, formerly of Round Records, was an initial partner in Smokey’s Records  — and an important link with the 9th & 9th Community. Another initial partner was Jerry Vaninnetti. Smokey’s staff included bookkeeper Libbi Poppystone, Mike Shelby, Joe Stohel, Seamus, Sean, Deena Brazy, Mike Miles, Wayne Hentschel, Myra Robbins, George St. John, Michael Rotter, Dana Wilson, Sara Koelsch, Reid Sondrup, Cosmic DJ/Journalist Barb Guy, Cosmic Bob Firmage, who started Fifth World Books near Sugarhouse, and Cosmic Jon Bray who founded Dr. Volt’s Comics.

Joe Stohel’s historical article from The Event in 1992 includes a specific section about Smokey’s Records: Cosmic Aeroplane History

Many thanks to Smokey Koelsch for his pictures and historical material — all of which is under copyright by the owner, and is used with his permission on this site.
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We actively request your contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane and related enterprises — please contact our blogmeister: mike_evans_exile@yahoo.com

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About Michael Evans

Michael has lived in Montana, Washington State (East and West), Holland, and England, but he was born in Salt Lake City, and graduated from the University of Utah.
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3 Responses to Cosmic Generations Vol. I — Smokey’s Records at 15th & 15th

  1. Pingback: The Cosmic Staffers Project V.4 — Smokey’s Blues Hour Etc. | Cosmic Aeroplane 1960's to 1990's

  2. Pingback: Cosmic Music — Jordan River / Avant Garde | Cosmic Aeroplane 1960's to 1990's

  3. Mike says:

    Hi Mike Miles here. Amazingly, I came across this article searching for something in Utah. It’s a great historical piece and I thank you for putting it together. One note: I worked first at Cosmic Aeroplane with Smokey in the record department and later (after Smokey’s Records), at Randy’s Records.

    I can say without hesitation that Smokey and his musical interests had a great influence on me in many subtle ways. Just having to listen to his “favorites” was an education.

    Mike

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