When I was a teenager, my family inherited a church lady organ from my grandmother. You know the kind: two rows of keys, some fuzzy percussion presets like “bossa nova” and “waltz,” and a particle board enclosure that was somehow both cheap and stately. Since the actual piano in our house didn’t see much use, I convinced my parents to let me take the organ to the New Orleans Music Exchange. That was probably my first interaction with Jimmy Glickman, who happily traded this antiquated, very uncool piece of equipment for a Marshall combo amp, one of the first pieces of gear that was truly mine and not a hand-me-down. I was off on the never-ending road of musical expression, and I’m sure Jimmy knew a church where that organ would find a new life.
I would go on to spend many hours in the Exchange, and Jimmy was always accommodating to my amateur ass. One time (long ago), after picking up a guitar and playing Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” opening notes—I’m sure the bane of shop clerks everywhere at the time—Jimmy just looked at me with his trademark, almost cartoonish salesman smile and said, “Yeah, that’s the one!” The Marshall combo is long gone, but to this day I have a couple of axes picked up from the Exchange that mean a lot to me: a Fender Telesonic with humbucker pickups that sounds like melted angel butter, and a Vox hollow- body bass, my go-to riff writer for a long time. The most critical purchase I ever made, however, was a Tascam 424 Mark III cassette four track—also probably traded for god- knows-what. That single piece of equipment had more impact on my musical journey than anything else, following me wherever I’ve lived. It sits at the ready to this day.
It’s not easy to sell gear to musicians, not now and certainly not back in the ‘90s when Jimmy opened shop. Musicians are a broke, distrustful, and often ignorant lot. They don’t trust the sticker price or the salesman, and who can blame them? The marketplace is bleak: large, sterile chain stores like Guitar Center undercut everyone else, often hiring a revolving door of brohams who don’t know you or give a shit about your music. Or you might have a high-end boutique shop for the weekend warriors, hedge fund hobbyists, and anyone else with a couple grand to burn, but certainly not a resource for working musicians.
NOMX was different, of course. It didn’t always have the best stuff, but then it wasn’t really supposed to. It could certainly be a place of great chaos, with stacks of PA speakers creating a claustrophobic maze; but more often than not, I found what I was looking for. It also helped to see people like Paul Webb, a gigging musician who shared the same stages as many of the Exchange’s customers, working under Jimmy. The NOMX crew took their customers seriously—whether they had earned that respect or not. In 2009, after Paul opened his own shop in the Bywater, I asked him what he had learned from Jimmy, and he responded, “How to sell; how to confront people, look people in the eyes and make it happen. Jimmy’s probably the best salesman I’ve ever worked for. Yeah, that’s pretty much it: say ‘Hi’ to people when they walk in the door. That’s all you have to do.”
It strikes me that there are two kinds of successful people in the world: those who hoard and guard their successes, and those who share and pass them forward. Jimmy was clearly the second type and it’s evident in the way Paul still speaks about his time at the Exchange, my own interactions and of course, the pained reaction of the music community at large upon hearing of Jimmy’s death.
Delivering each month’s stack of ANTIGRAVITYs to his shop, Jimmy never failed to give me an “attaboy” or a good-natured jab. Traditionally, New Orleans has been a town where it can take a looong time to be appreciated, respected, or even acknowledged by the establishment, and the weight of Jimmy’s encouragements were never lost on me. One regret of mine is never getting a chance to properly profile him in the magazine.
Jimmy and I always talked about it, but in the way we take some of our New Orleans institutions for granted, I just figured he’d be there, on the corner of Louisiana and Magazine streets, forever. He just had that kind of presence. It’s truly a huge loss for New Orleans. Jimmy’s lasting legacy—a man who could broker the peace between commerce and art, and do it with a smile—will certainly be the challenge going forward.