In the 1960s, growing up on Elmhurst and Linwood in Detroit definitely had its perks.
John Frazier, then just a boy, had already developed a deep love of music thanks to his jazz musician father when he learned that members of the Fantastic Four (a group whose one hit was “The Whole World Is a Stage”) stayed right around the corner.
“I introduced myself,” Frazier says, “and after that, they couldn’t get rid of me.”
There was Kendricks Record Shop on Fenkell and Meyers, where the Temptations would be hanging out. And the owner, Clarence, would pass out records for Halloween. “I still have those records he gave out,” he says.
You sense the past pulling him back into a multi-tracked reverie. Good times for the retired Wayne County employee, who decided it would be the perfect second act to open a record shop in, of all places, Inkster.
“There’s a lot of music history in Inkster,” Frazier says. “That’s where the Marvelettes come from. I like Inkster. Actually, by Henry Ruff, that’s where WJLB was (in the ‘60s).”
The moment you enter The Sound Explosion, all time periods, musical eras, musical expressions, collide. Located on 3561 Middlebelt Rd. (between Michigan Avenue and Van Born), the white storefront seems out of place in Inkster. But Frazier, owner of The Sound Explosion, easily connects the dots, in a kind of one-size-fits-all approach.
What you see is the product of decades of collecting, trading, and ultimately, shepherding a lifelong fascination with music. He’s also a caretaker of what he likes to call “odd ball stuff.”
“I’ve always liked old magazines; I like to read about history,” Frazier says, though he regrets not paying better attention at school. “Looking back, it’s really interesting to me, the pictures, and all that stuff. I love going to garage sales. I used to take records and trade at record shops. I was always the middleman, the guy everyone wants to cut out. When I finally decided to do it, I quit trading.”
Originally, the idea was to take his collection and use it as a college fund for his kids. But that fell through. “I never found anyone that wanted to pay the price. So, I’m selling it one at a time then,” he says.
You’ll find 78s, 45s, LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes, DVDs, music concerts on DVDs (and on Beta). Original recordings from Dinah Washington, Bill Haley & The Comets, Elvis Presley (78s), James Brown, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and others. Many others. You’ve got to dig in those stacks. Flip through the covers. Experience it, literally, first hand.
And for those who really want to step back in time, The Sound Explosion has vintage turntables, vintage hi-fi stereo equipment, including speakers such as BOSE 501s.
“I had some (BOSE) 901s, but I just sold them,” Frazier says. “Usually what I try to do, I’ll go on eBay and try to price it cheaper than what I see it going for. Most feedback I’ve gotten has been positive.”
Lined across the wall, you’ll find plenty of autographed albums. In his younger days, Frazier grabbed a stack of records, put them under his arm, and would head back stage at concerts any time he could and get a record signed. You can see some of those albums on display at The Sound Explosion. Mose Allison. Terry Collier. George Clinton.
At least four of your senses are engaged, as you browse through The Sound Explosion’s offerings. You see perhaps a watermarked Ebony magazine from the ‘50s, hear a soundtrack on the sound system, pick up that peculiar scent of aged dust jackets, thumb through Fisher Theater programs from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
There’s the odd.
And the very strange.
A battery-powered boom box with cassette and a turntable that slides out. A Jerry Garcia doll. A discolored train set from yesteryear in a plastic container.
So far, he’s seen people come in from Canada and Japan (one bought about $900 worth of records).
“The people are getting off buying vinyl,” he says. “It takes people back – back down memory lane. A lot of the younger people are coming in, too. Across all lines.”
Frazier had some challenges getting the proper permits to open, and there’s still some work left to do, but he is committed to Inkster and his customers. “The main thing I’d like to give people is good quality stuff for a good price,” Frazier says. “Give them good quality equipment.”
He hopes that when you walk into The Sound Explosion, you’re going to find a largest selection of vintage stereo equipment and records. Hands down. For Frazier, it’s personal. He’s sharing his personal record collection with the world.
“My wife and I are running this, just having fun and enjoying life,” Frazier says. “I love music. If you do what you enjoy, you never work a day in your life. I enjoy doing this.”
The Sound Explosion is located at 3751 Middlebelt Rd. in Inkster. The shop is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call (734) 729-0398, or visit www.thesoundexplosion.net. You can also email the store at email@example.com.
Cornelius Fortune is a Detroit-based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in The Detroit Metro Times, the News-Herald, Yahoo News, eHow, Cinema Blend, WD’s Ventito, and others. Follow him on Twitter @Arlingtonscribe.
All photos by David Lewinski Photography.