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"Suffer to Sing the Blues"

#167 / Video Extra

In “American Pie,” singer/songwriter Don McLean offered up a classic description of the glorious record shops of the past. Said his lyric:

I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before…

In the Huntington of the 1970s, that “sacred store” was Davidson’s Record Shop.

In the days before shopping malls and big-box stories — and decades before anyone even imagined downloadable songs on home computers, much less on phones — it was to that tiny store on Fourth Avenue that we came for the music of our heroes.

Disc-Diving at Davidson’s

Located an easy walk around the corner from their jobs at the Huntington Publishing Co., Dave Peyton and Charlie and Pamela Bowen frequently visited the store, often returning to the newsroom with the latest albums from Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder, from John Prine and Steve Goodman, from Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones and Joni Mitchell and James Taylor so many others.

Several generations of Huntingtonians had led the way. As writer James E. Casto once noted in his popular “Lost Huntington” column in The Herald-Dispatch, William A. Davidson opened the shop in 1957.

In fact, Davidson’s is thought to have been the first shop in West Virginia to sell retail phonograph records as a specialty, Casto added, rather than simply through a department in a musical equipment or department store.

Finding the New Artists

Davidson’s also was where we were always on the lookout for new artists, musical wunderkinds like David Bromberg.

Bromberg’s self-title debut album and its sequel, Demon in Disguise, already were in the Davidson’s bins (and in the Charlie and Pamela’s home) by the time Bowen and Peyton started picking together a year or so later.

And David Bromberg was a name they knew even before those first album releases. As Columbia Records' trade ad at the time commented, Bromberg's guitar playing for artists like Dylan had long been recognized in the underground press.

And above ground as well. In The New York Times, critic Don Heckman described Bromberg as "a major talent with all the qualities of a star.”

The second cut on that first album — Bromberg’s sassy original “Suffer to Sing the Blues” — was already rattling around Charlie’s head, ready to get Floodified when he and Peyton started finding tunes to try in the mid-1970s when the band was a-borning.

The song has regularly popped up at Flood jam sessions ever since, as it did just last month, when Pamela Bowen had her phone ready to capture the result.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch
Charles Bowen