John “Smokey” Koelsch, long-time manager of the Cosmic Aeroplane’s record department opened his own store in 1981:
In Medias Rae — Death of the LP Party (A New Orleans Funeral)
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey both start in the middle, and so does Smokey’s memorabilia.
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.
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
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 …
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.
Early Days — Pictures, Posters, and Lists
Smokey’s co-sponsored musical events and sold concert tickets — strategies that served other Alternative businesses well.
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
Inside Smokey’s Records and Bestseller Lists
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
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
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
Smokey’s Records was familiar to the Salt Lake Jazz Society:
Read Barbara Terry’s article in Jazz Voice Vol. 3 Num. 19 July/August 1986:
(Large PDF files may take time to fully load.)
Instrumental Blues with Smokey:
Harmonica solo (Video by Joe Stohel): Smokey Koelsch Harp
Recorded behind the Smokey’s Records building in 1986.
Sales and in-store parties rewarded the expanding crowds:
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
Smokey’s Records was the focus of an article by the Salt Lake Tribune in 1987, before vinyl records were buried by compact discs:
Read the article by Guy Boulton from Sunday May 17, 1987:
(Large PDF files may take time to fully load.)
Gift Certificates helped introduce new customers:
View the 1984 party announcement as a PDF file: Christmas Party 1984
View the gift certificate as a PDF file: Gift Certificate
Sales and Parties continued at 15th & 15th:
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
Later Day Newsletters
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 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
Public votes of confidence for both Cosmic Aeroplane and Smokey’s Records
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
Smokey’s 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, 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.
“Seamus – His real name is Jim “Seamus” Connelly, and I do recall that he was also, in earlier days an employee of the Cosmic Aeroplane too, in the books department. I believe we called him Seamus because he was Irish, and he was perhaps a foreign national from Ireland, because his ID Number is totally different from other Social Security numbers.
Lisa Faith – Lisa was a great employee, who in the last years wrote up my orders to Pacific Coast One-Stop, which was one of our main distributors for major label product. In the last few years we were in business, she got married, and her name changed to Lisa Nelson.
Winter Green – Libbi Poppystone’s daughter, who worked in the shop from 1994 until we closed. She supplemented her mother as assistant bookkeeper, counting money and preparing the nightly deposits.
Seth Roberts – A good worker in the last couple of years.
Leif Myrberg – Leif was one of those types who was something of a journeyman musician on the Salt Lake music scene in the 1990’s. He was a good worker, and his myriad connections with local musicians was a valuable asset up until we closed down. After we closed up Smokey’s records. Leif became employed at Salt City CD’s, and I’d often see him there whenever I’d go in to buy music.”
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.
We actively request your contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane and related enterprises — please contact our blogmeister: email@example.com