Years before the band Soundgarden, Palatka business owner had the name for music store
It’s hard to miss if you’re driving down St. Johns Avenue. There’s the yellow Soundgarden sign for the music store. On the wall in the alley to your right as you enter the store is the peace wall. The wall is filled with hundreds of signed tile pieces formed in the shape of the peace symbol.
“We started creating the peace wall in 2010 to mark the 70th birthday of John Lennon,” said Jeff McDaniel, who in April marked the 43rd year of his music store at 912 St. Johns Ave. in Palatka. “We had people sign these peace tiles and we created the peace sign.
“It’s just about peace, love and respect for humanity.”
It’s obvious McDaniel is proud of the wall. It’s also obvious he enjoys his work with his business.
Get him to talk about music and he says he still gets goosebumps sometimes. It doesn’t matter if it’s rock, country, jazz, blues or anything in between. It is all about the music.
“I’ve always loved what I’ve done,” McDaniel said. “I’ve not made a lot of money, but the music still makes you feel young at heart. I still feel like I’m 30 years old.”
Flashback to 1976. McDaniel had gone to college with plans to become an accountant.
“I took one accounting class and I knew I didn’t want to go into accounting,” he said. “I had loved music all my life. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but Palatka was ready for a music store in 1976. I thought it would be a good side job until something else came along.”
It was a good time to go into the record business. Among the two albums released were Peter Frampton Comes Alive and the Eagles’ greatest hits, still two of the best sellers of all time. “We were selling a lot of records,” McDaniel said. “It was making us a good living.”
Then the music industry – like most every other business – changed. When McDaniel opened the store, he sold vinyl albums and 8-track tapes.
He and his wife, Josie, also got into the ticket sales business for nearby concerts, particularly in Jacksonville. There was no Ticketmaster in those days. “We’d go to Jacksonville and buy as many tickets as we could and come back here and sell them,” McDaniel said. “We got to know the folks at the coliseum, and the next thing we know, we became a Select-A-Seat outlet, which was eventually bought by Ticketmaster. This was before there were any online ticket purchases. If you were in Palatka and wanted a ticket for a concert, you would go to Soundgarden.”
Tickets for the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were big sellers. But the most popular? “Garth Brooks did two shows in Jacksonville one year,” McDaniel recalled. “We had people lined up down to Dairy Queen, up to Reid Street and down toward the bridge.”
Ticketmaster would come along as the way to purchase concert tickets. Meanwhile, McDaniel had to stay in tune with an ever-changing recording industry.
In the early 1980s, cassette tapes became the popular method for playing music. Later in the decade, CDs would take their place.
“When we first got CDs, I didn’t know what to do with them,” McDaniel said. “They came in these big boxes and we kept them in the glass case.”
And then Napster came along in 1999. Napster was a pioneer in online music and downloads. “It was the first hint that digital downloads were coming,” McDaniel said.
Today, of course, the music industry is all about streaming your favorite artist or downloading your favorite songs onto your smart-phone. There’s Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and more.
Many new cars today don’t even include a CD player as a standard feature. Instead, SiriusXM Satellite Radio is offered.
“When Napster started, it was a big turn for a lot of independent record stores,” McDaniel said. “Downloading definitely offset our business. I feel like a dinosaur.”
Soundgarden also took on another venture by framing prints and vinyl albums as a way to help pay the bills. “It’s helped bring in a lot of business,” McDaniel said.
Amid the changes, one item slowly began to rebound – the interest in vinyl albums. And that’s what dominates McDaniel’s store today when you walk in – rows and rows of albums, old and new.
“Vinyl started coming back big five or six years ago,” he said. “All these kids were getting turntables for Christmas and coming in to see what we had for sale.”
Offering a wide variety of music for his customers is one thing in which McDaniel takes pride. “I believe you can’t confine yourself into one kind of music. If you do, you miss out on a lot of great sound.”
One of those sounds came with alternative rock in late ‘80s. One of those bands was Soundgarden, formed by the late Chris Cornell. The band led a new form of music, paving the way for Nirvana, Pearl Jam and others. The band also wanted sole rights to Soundgarden – the name of McDaniel’s store.
“Their management company sent us a cease and desist letter wanting all rights to the name Soundgarden on the world wide web,” McDaniel said. “I talked with my lawyer and I didn’t sign it because the name Soundgarden was protected in the state of Florida.”
So, McDaniel kept the name, and the yellow sign still hangs above his door. And as long as he’s still enjoying what he does, he intends for it to remain there, directing visitors into the doorway of a music shop that has survived through all of the downturns.
“One of the things that keeps me going is that I enjoy meeting all kind of people,” said McDaniel. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, or what color someone might be, the common bond is the music. I’ve met some great people.
“If you have the right lyrics with the right music, it can be like a religious experience. When we find music we love, it brings out the best in everyone.”
These days, that sounds good.