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George Daniels

Record store owner George Xavier Daniels was born on December 18, 1946 in the Bronx, New York to Elvina and George Daniels, who were restaurant owners. After his parents separated, Daniels was sent to live with relatives in Texas. Having a hard time adjusting to the racist South, Daniels did, however, seem to develop an affinity for southern music. When he moved to Chicago, Illinois to live with his father and half-brother before high school, he became attracted to Chicago’s blues and early rock scene. In high school, Daniels played the trumpet. He graduated from Luke Junior College in Chicago, which he attended to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.

After working for a short time at a steel mill, Daniels took a job as a janitor at legendary Chess Records in Chicago. There, he met and heard artists like Muddy Waters, Etta James, The Dells and Ramsey Lewis among many others. At the same time, Daniels watched the independent music industry achieve some of its greatest successes. He then was hired at a black-owned record store wholesaler on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. In 1968, Daniels started managing one of the wholesale record stores, and in 1969, Daniels assumed ownership of the store, renaming it George’s Music Room.

For the first three years, Daniels was the only employee and worked sixteen hours a day. Overcoming bankruptcy and evictions, Daniels’s biggest problems have come from the modernization of the music industry. Daniels created and headed the National United Independent Retailers, an organization dedicated to preserving African American-owned independent retailers.

Daniels’ business has continually adapted. He has maintained his popularity in the community with artists’ store visits. These artists have included Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Al Green, R. Kelly, Alicia Keys, and The Temptations. George’s Music Room was singled out by Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley as a quintessential Chicago store and offered a space to open a branch at Midway Airport, which Daniels has operated successfully ever since.

Daniels was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 23, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.156

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/23/2007

Last Name

Daniels

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Ps 154

P.S. 143 Louis Armstrong School

Ps 16

E. O. Smith Education Center

Hirsch Metropolitan High School

Farragut Career Academy Hs

Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School

Harold Washington College

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

DAN02

Favorite Season

None

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/18/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mixed Greens, Ham Hocks

Short Description

Record store owner George Daniels (1946 - ) owned Chicago's famous George's Music Room. He also created and headed the National United Independent Retailers, an organization dedicated to preserving African American-owned independent retailers.

Employment

George's Music Room

Ernie's One Stop Records

U.S. Steel South Works

Chess Records

Marlow Machine Center

Favorite Color

Rainbow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Daniels' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Daniels lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Daniels describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Daniels describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Daniels talks about his mother's first marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Daniels describes his family's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Daniels describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Daniels describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George Daniels describes his parents' relocation to New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George Daniels describes his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George Daniels remembers the Daniels Restaurant in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George Daniels lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Daniels describes the Flushing section of Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Daniels remembers moving to Jackson Heights in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Daniels recalls moving to his maternal grandmother's home in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Daniels remembers E.O. Smith Junior High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Daniels remembers the Pleasantville neighborhood of Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Daniels describes race relations in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Daniels remembers moving between his family members' homes

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Daniels remembers moving to his brother's home in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Daniels reflects upon the impact of his frequent relocations

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - George Daniels describes his schooling in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - George Daniels remembers his neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Daniels recalls moving to the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Daniels recalls his early work experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Daniels reflects upon his schooling

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Daniels recalls his favorite childhood pastimes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Daniels remembers an early experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Daniels recalls his early interest in music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Daniels describes his early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Daniels remembers working alongside his father in the restaurant industry

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George Daniels recalls being hired at the United States Steel Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - George Daniels remembers becoming a custodian at Chess Records

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - George Daniels remembers his influences at Chess Records

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - George Daniels talks about the changes in the broadcast industry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Daniels describes his father's restaurant in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Daniels remembers the nightlife in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Daniels remembers the riots of 1968 in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Daniels remembers his mentor, Ernie Leaner

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Daniels recalls Ernie's One Stop Records in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George Daniels describes the music culture in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George Daniels talks about the black record stores in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George Daniels describes his older brother

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George Daniels remembers opening George's Music Room in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George Daniels recalls lessons in business from his father

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - George Daniels recalls opening a record store in a white neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George Daniels reflects upon the success of George's Music Room

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George Daniels recalls founding the National United Independent Retailers

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George Daniels remembers opening a record store at the Chicago Midway International Airport

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George Daniels describes the promotional events at George's Music Room

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George Daniels remembers his promotion for Sir Mix-A-Lot's 'Baby Got Back'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George Daniels describes his role in the community of North Lawndale in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George Daniels talks about his favorite musical artists in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George Daniels recalls his financial challenges at George's Music Room

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George Daniels reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - George Daniels describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George Daniels describes the Record Row district of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George Daniels talks about the changes in the music industry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George Daniels shares his criticism of contemporary deejays

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George Daniels describes his plans for George's Music Room

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George Daniels reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George Daniels describes his family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George Daniels describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George Daniels describes his concerns for youth in the United States

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
George Daniels remembers his promotion for Sir Mix-A-Lot's 'Baby Got Back'
George Daniels describes his role in the community of North Lawndale in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
Some of the displays, I saw a photo of Sir Mix-a-Lot's visit--$$Oh, yeah, on the roof, the big, 'Baby Got Back' on the roof, yeah.$$Yes. Right. So on your roof is a, really a big, back basically on it.$$Yeah, this was during the time, actually, I lived upstairs over my store [George's Music Room, Chicago, Illinois]. I had the apartment up there. And, and I'm the hype-ster, you know, I used to call myself the Barnum and Bailey of black retail, you know, anything for excitement because music is excitement. This is the closest thing that these children in this neighborhood growing up will come to, will, will be able to touch and come to and touch the industry. I mean I was able to attract all of these artists and they would come and just touch the kids and, and excitement. And so this opportunity came became many of the stores, they refuse to put that big ass on their roof. And me, that was a perfect thing for me. I didn't care. And so it was, it was so funny, the day they delivered it, UPS [United Parcel Service] comes and this is, a box, and this big ball. I didn't know what the hell it was. And the same day, the people to install it showed up. During the time, The Source magazine had just started their van, The Source van. They'd come on the road and they were in the yard at the time with EPMD, K-Solo, Redman. They were all just hanging out in the yard, meeting the kids and this was before they had exploded as big artists. But the van was in the yard. This was before I even had the grass and stuff out there--as a matter fact, I have to get it taken care of this summer. But, and so we go up on the roof, me and this guy, the installer, and so they pull it up on a pulley like, to pull this big, huge thing. And they said they have to install it. They had the big pump, we put up there. We--I had the electric line already set up, up there. They turned this thing on. The thing started opening, opening, big ole (laughter). I didn't know it was gonna be that big.$$(Laughter).$$And so it was the funniest, and then it had this little mark on it, so I'm trying to rub this black spot off the side of the butt, right, and it was like a patch. That happened to be because that same butt was on a roof of Tower Records in, on Sunset Boulevard [West Hollywood, California], and somebody shot it with a arrow, and deflated it (laughter). And it wound up coming to Chicago [Illinois], where I was the only store with the balls in, in the Chicago area and Illinois to put it on his roof.$$The balls to put a butt on the roof.$$(Laughter) Exactly. That was, that was crazy. And, oh, we got a publicity because the year end issue--I think it was 1993, of Playboy magazine, in the back they had pictures where people send in the year's best photo. And we had a little segment in there with the big butt on my roof.$How did the neighborhood react to that?$$Oh, they had no problem with it. Man--see, you have to rem- when you look at this neighborhood, it basically looks the same as it did almost when I first started, but there used to be a supermarket on the corner. There were more merchants around. But nobody brought excitement to the neighborhood like I did. You know, the excitement I'd bring, the other merchants would benefit as well. You know, who comes to the, who comes to Lawndale [North Lawndale, Chicago, Illinois]. You know, they know it's gonna be trouble. Never, one time. It was almost like the neighborhood put a halo around this store because the kids that grew up winding up being the thugs, they protected the store. They wouldn't let nothing happen to George's [George's Music Room, Chicago, Illinois], no matter what. I didn't condone any of the things that were done. As a matter of fact, I was one of them old fashioned merchants, the kids get out of line, they get their butt whipped, and I'll take him home, like, "I'm tell my mama." Then get in front of the house and the kids find out I know their mothers and fathers 'cause I used to whip their butts too. And so it's that type of merchant I am. It's--I often say I'm a better merchant than a businessman. A merchant is part and parcel of a community. I'm not in a mall. I'm not so far removed from the pain that this community receives. I'm not far from when the houses catch on fire or when the guys lose jobs. Those over the years that, they'll shop with me every payday, and then one day they'll come and say, "George [HistoryMaker George Daniels], look, I'm running short, I--you know, I got laid off, you know, the kids ain't got food." First, I go in my pocket. "How much you need?" Now, try that at any store in the mall. It ain't gonna happen. And so this is, these are the people that are responsible for me still being here. I mean who's gonna come from somewhere to shop at George's other than the neighborhood. So this is why I never left. Over the years, with, you know, with the heightened visibility and the opportunities and I've been made many offers to, you know, to put a black face on a white owned business, if you will, that I've refused to do. That's, that's not me, you know. If, if I was chasing the money, no problem, but like I told you earlier in the interview, I just did this to make a living. And as long as I can continue to make a living, then I can continue to keep my integrity.