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I wouldn't have believed you could have a Milwaukee without Radio Doctors, but here you go.
I wouldn't have believed you could have a Milwaukee without Radio Doctors, but here you go.

6 Milwaukee record shops I miss

I’ve been a record store rat since I was about 9 (no, I won’t tell you how many years ago that was), but I’ve whiled away countless hours in the dens of wonder, from sea to shining sea and even beyond.

Luckily, there are still some great record shops in town, but not nearly as many as there used to be. Here are six lost Milwaukee places that I wish were still here (in no particular order)...

Tropical Records

In addition to his "Jamaican Winds" radio show on WLUM-FM, Nigel Scott ran this Caribbean vinyl emporium on 27th and Wells. When I arrived here, I’d walk across the 27th Street viaduct in the snow to get there. If I eschewed the bus, I could afford another gem from Nigel’s timeless stash of great 45s, LPs and 12"s. Like any self-respecting reggae shop, the records were alphabetized by first name.

When he shuttered the shop, he’d still invite me over to his northwest side house to cherry pick stock. Nigel was a gem and I miss his shop as much for him as for the records I got there.

Atomic/Ludwig Van Ear 

What to say about Atomic and its predecessor? Atomic owner Rich Menning had what has to be Milwaukee’s most landmark-worth record store, after, maybe, Radio Doctors. What he didn’t stock – which wasn’t much in the world of alternative and punk rock records – he’d order. In addition to stocking and supporting local bands – and hosting in-store performances – he hired knowledgeable staff, who were often local musicians. Also like Radio Doctors, it seemed like a place that would never go away. Sadly, they both did.

Audie’s/Audio Vibe

When I was devouring hip-hop and club records in the second half of the 1980s, Audie’s on 23rd and Capitol (first on the south side of Capitol and later across the drive) had it all. I dropped more coin there than I probably should have.

Mean Mountain Music

For a while I had an unquenchable thirst for vintage R&B, especially the great 45s that flowed from Detroit in the 1960s and early ‘70s via Groovesville, Ric-Tic, Golden World, Westbound and other labels. Amazingly, the folks at Mean Mountain on 8th and Oklahoma Avenue had so many of these records in stock in mint condition, you’d think they were new releases instead of 20-25 years old.

Earwaves

Dave Szolwinski ran Earwaves in three locations on Farwell Avenue from about 1985 until Luke Lavin bought the final location next to Landmark Lanes and turned it into Farwell Music. I stopped in all three of them as if my life or job depended on it. The first two locations (the initial building was razed to build Pizza Shuttle’s home) fed my weekly thirst for the NME as well as for all the latest singles from The Mekons, The Smiths, The Style Council, The Three Johns, Redskins and the other bands that made ‘80s music great. But, really, like most of these places, I loved the place in large part because I liked the people.

Radio Doctors

What to say about Radio Doctors? My grandfather bought records there and so did my mom. Before I even moved here, I’d shop there when we’d come to town to visit my grandparents. The day I moved to Milwaukee. The actual very first day, I took the #20 bus to Radio Doctors to make myself feel better. Over the years, Radio Doctors often made me feel better thanks to Dorsey’s advice about hip-hop, Pope’s jazz advice and the singles section. But I bought out of nearly every section of the site. I can vividly remember buying records there by The Jam, The Wailing Souls, Jimmy Smith, Gang of Four and tons more. Like Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, it seemed impossible that there could be a Milwaukee without Radio Doctors, but it’s gone and we’re still here.

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