S & R Catalogue – Gary

One of the great influences on Rock and Roll and other newer music was the advent of the “Sears & Roebuck” Catalogue… think about that one.

The first time I was exposed to that statement was a course I took at George Brown College, on the History of Rock and Roll.  The teacher was one “Roger Ashbee” of CHUM fame.  We actually became not friends, but friendly.  The second time, I read it in “Rock of Ages” The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll, which I own.  So here is the reason as basic as I can remember.  Up until the time before the catalogue, musical instruments and music was basically a big city thing.  The Sears & Roebuck Catalogue made instruments and sheet music available to everyone.  So the Hillbillies in  Mountains of  Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and just everywhere could purchase guitars and sheet music and have it delivered to the extreme rural areas.  Now we know that a lot of influences came out of remote areas, Delta Blues, Bluegrass, Country, R&B and so on.  So really if we lived in the mountains of West Virginia, had the money, Sears would deliver a guitar.  According to Rolling Stone it changed the face of music in the very early years.
– Gary
PS:  I found the quote in Rock of Ages.  Outside the big towns, things were very much as they’d been since the revolution.  Over time, old folk tunes and ballads had eroded, since oral transmission is a notoriously inaccurate method of passing stories along, but, particularly in Appalachia, there were plenty of people who were untouched by the changes the United States was experiencing.  Some of them even spoke Elizabethan English.  But just as the railroads opened up the West, The U.S. mail opened up the farthest corners of the hills.  Mail order houses like Sears, Roebuck & Co. sold not only the plows and stoves these people needed, but the 1900  catalogue offered violins for between $2.50 and $9.60, guitars for between $2.70 and $10.80 and banjos for between $1.75 and $25.00; the only piano offered cost a flat $98; and all prices were F.O.B. Chicago.  All of a sudden, people with no access to a music store could obtain well-made, affordable instruments.  Sears did not sell sheet music.
There is more, but that should give you and idea.

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