Skinner, Jimmie Music Center

The place to buy bluegrass records in Cincinnati and southwestern Ohio for many years was Jimmie Skinner’s Music Center. It operated in several different locations in Cincinnati, the earliest at 31 East Court Street (where it was called the Jimmie Skinner Hillbilly Music Shop), the best known being at 222 East Fifth Street (downtown across from the Greyhound Bus Station), later at 124 East Sixth Street, 1300 Vine Street, and finally at 5825 Vine Street. Majority ownership in the store was vested in Jimmie’s manager, Lou Epstein; there were also some silent partners. Jimmie lent his name to the store, but he had a relatively small ownership interest. The heyday of the store was when it was at the 222 East Fifth St. location. Jimmie did a live show there every weekday morning at 9:00, broadcast over WNOP in Newport, Kentucky. Jimmie sang and promoted his records as well as other records available at the store. Local guest artists were welcome, including Joe “Cannonball” Lewis and Inez Hellman who later became much better known as Connie Hall. National artists going through town often dropped in. The store was modeled after the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, and their main business was worldwide mail order sales. They put together special offers of bluegrass recordings which were sold in the store and over WCKY and other stations. At the time, not many record stores carried country or bluegrass records – much less local artist’s records. At some point, the whole block where the store was located fell victim to urban renewal and the new Cincinnati Federal Building was constructed there. The store moved but it was never the same. Lou Epstein died, Jimmie stopped coming to the store, and local business dropped off. Eventually the store was acquired by Lou Ukelson, who owned Vetco Records and Aunt Maudie’s bar.

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