Skip to content

'For people like us, music means something' — the enduring legacy of Mister Disc

Sault ex-pat Todd Gordon explains why his CD store that closed down over 20 years ago is still bringing music lovers from the community and beyond together.
0

It can be easy to get lost in the social media shuffle. Facebook has over a billion people who are members of “groups”. 200 million of those are considered “meaningful.

For lifelong music aficionado Todd Gordon, who operated the Mister Disc store from October 3, 1988 to July 1, 1999, the Mister Disc Music Group on Facebook (which just celebrated its 5th birthday) is more than a tribute to his old store.

“It was an opportunity to recreate the social element of the physical music store and reconnect with friends and former customers.”

Music has always been important for Gordon. “I used to take my bicycle and allowance, go to Records on Wheels, Sentry or Jupiter, and I would come home with a stack of records. They knew me at all the stores. I remember the day I bought [The Clash’s] London Calling and Liam and Mike from Records on Wheels said, you might want that Sex Pistols album over there. I was thinking, ‘yeah those are the guys who spit.’ They threw it in for free and it turned out to be one of the greatest albums ever.”

“I remember going to Sears, and you would have to put your hand through a [security] thing with some flaps so you could look at 8-tracks.” He describes meticulously switching a higher priced Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks price tag with a lower priced Cars price tag. “With my hands through the flaps, I spent forever peeling off the price sticker off and just put it right over top of the Stones price tag. I told the lady that I wanted to get that Rolling Stones 8-track because I only had enough money to buy it.”

In time, 8-tracks gave way to vinyl, vinyl gave way to CDs. When he was old enough, Gordon scored a job at A&A records in the Cambrian Mall. Although his time there was short, it gave him the foundation for what was next. “It was one of my dreams since I was a little kid to own my own record store.”

When it was time to make that dream happen, he secured a location, ordered stock, took out ads in the Sault Star and Mister Disc was born. His opening day sales set the bar high for him as the heightened appetite for CDs made the store an instant success. Gordon set out to be different than his competitors. He had CD players so people could listen to albums before buying them. He quickly gained a crew of supporters who stopped in to not only pick new purchases, but to share their music, meet other music fans and talk.

“People loved to come by on Saturdays … You knew who was going to be there: Barry, Mike, Renzo, Gerry, the ‘coffee club’ as I called them. Sometimes they would all bring me a coffee and I would have 5 or 6 of them on the go,” Gordon laughs.

Renzo Cacciotti, who was a member of the informal ‘club’ didn’t know Gordon before he opened the store on Great Northern Avenue.  Cacciotti had just starting to move away from vinyl and getting into CDs when he heard about Mister Disc. “I decided to check it out and glad I did,” he laughs. “This is where we met other like-minded lovers of music and shared our own tastes of musical preferences. What better place than a music store...It became our Saturday routine and a great way to start the day … I miss those days.”

Like many of the customers, Cacciotti became good friends with Gordon, a friendship that lasted longer than the store itself.

But by 1999, peer-to-peer file sharing had begun hurting the music industry, devaluing official releases and undercutting the CD market. Commercial rental prices were increasing in the Sault and Gordon realized that he had to close to store. He felt he was letting his customers down and found it especially hard “because of the social thing.”

Not long after closing in 1999, Gordon moved out of the Sault with his wife Lisa. First to Oklahoma for seven years, then eventually settling in Beverly, Massachusetts, a town that although smaller than Sault Ste. Marie, shares some similarities. “Like the international bridge that divides the two Saults, Beverly shares a small bridge that leads to Salem. Beverly and Salem are almost like sister cities.”

Besides owning record store, the second thing Gordon ever wanted to do was to write. So Gordon became a screenwriter.  “For my whole life, I have only ever done the two things that I always wanted to do – run a record store and write.” But the Sault friendships and his love of music didn’t fade. So he decided to create a Facebook page where he could post famous musicians’ birthdays and link a favourite song by that artist. He named the page after his store. As one can imagine, there wasn’t much action on the page at first. At a friend’s suggestion, he developed more structure and added themed posts. 

“I changed it from just a ‘page’ to a ‘group’ to make it more interactive. I made it open so lurkers could come in,” he laughs. In addition to themes, Gordon started posting important dates in music history, developing his own Music Hall of Fame and other interactive elements. The group grew exponentially. A friend from Sault Michigan, added 1000 of his friends to the group. It went from a couple hundred to 1200 overnight.

Other former customers of the store started reconnecting with Gordon, reminiscing and talking music like they once did in the store. “We were glad that Todd started his Facebook group,” says Cacciotti. “What had started as a Saturday morning coffee club sharing of music to become a daily dose of music sharing has kept Todd's Mister Disc alive and kicking. It gave us that access to so many people and so many music tastes. [Participating on the music page] has become a daily ritual.”

It was that same ‘social’ element from the store that seemed to catch on with group members. “That page is my connection here to the Sault,” says Gordon. “So just because a physical place closed doesn’t mean the social atmosphere left too. The social atmosphere carries on. It’s now a virtual thing, but it is the same in many ways,” says Gordon.

“[Music] both divides people and brings them together on a couple of levels,” says Mark Dunn, a songwriter and professor at Sault College, often teaching music and popular culture. “We are more likely to associate with people who have similar interests. The larger effect of that attraction is to organize people into groups.”

The Mister Disc Music Group fluctuates in numbers. People come and go. Often hovering around the 1100, there’s an average of 1600 posts a month. There are 554 Canadian members with 263 from Sault, Ontario and 180 from Sault, Michigan. There are also members from the U.S., Norway, Australia, Italy and Sweden.

From his Massachusetts home, Gordon keeps a tight regime to keep the page in top running order.  He carries a binder that helps him keep the page organized. It contains statistics, member names, albums he’s recently listened to, theme possibilities, alphabetized list of band names, Hall of Fame options, and page statistics. “It took me forever at the start … It was lot of work and took a while to get it into a shape, but now it’s easier to maintain and I enjoy it.”

Gordon personally inducts every member into the group, finding songs and artists he thinks they would like based on their profiles. He moderates the group, participates in the discussions and removes non-participating members to ensure the group remains meaningful.

“Maybe some people don’t care if music is on a crappy AM radio, or if they go two weeks without hearing anything. It doesn’t bother them. Me? I’ve got to hear music every day.  The group has both of those types in it. It has us, the fanatics, and those who like the concept of it and just joined. For people like us, music means something.”

For Gordon, sharing an experience through music is at the core of things. “Even when I had the store, I would want you to listen to this song or that song. I want you to get the tingles that I did when I was listening to it, because it is too good for people not to hear. I still get that feeling when I post songs on the group page. I want people to listen. Even if only one person listens to it, that’s what keeps me going.”

Have an idea for an upcoming Arts and Culture feature? Send it to sootodayartsandculture@gmail.com



Comments