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10 Questions with Greg Gabbard

Greg Gabbard ran City Lights Records on College Ave for 25 years. The record store closed on Saturday to the disappointment of State College music lovers past and present. Hasan stopped by to talk with Greg last week to pick the mind of a man who has done so much for our community’s musical inclinations.

What does the future hold for you?
Well that’s an interesting question. I am going to have a lot of stock left so for a period of time I will still be selling music. Probably utilizing the internet, the technology I struggled against for the past several years. I do not believe it shouldn’t exist, I just like a little variety so I will be utilizing that to sell records, CDs, and everything else I have for sale.

What inspired you to first start City Lights Records?
I was a record collector and loved music and had purchased thousands of records over time. I was about to become an English teacher in high school and a friend of mine says  “I will pay you more than that to open up a record store for me”. He already had one and wanted another one in another city. I said “I will do that for a little while” and well…its been a little while.

What is a typical day in City Lights Records?
A typical day here is pricing records, pricing CDs, selling records, selling CDs, answering questions about music, about new releases. It involves a lot of speaking so by the end of the day I go home and am very quiet.

If you were a musician in a band, what instrument would you play and why?
I actually was in a band in college and was the singer.

What do you like most about music?
I think my favorite part of the listening experience is the ability of the music to move you emotionally. It is a wonder to me about how much it can move me.

What are your top five albums of all time?
I have never been able to do that. I can say what some of my favorite albums are but it would be difficult for me to rank them because I would end up saying “that’s in the top ten, not the top five.” I don’t think I could live without the Beatles albums, John Coltrane albums, Miles Davis albums, Clash albums, The Jam, The Replacements. Some of the more aggressive music I like. Soul, Reggae….I need something from all genres.

What is City Lights Records relationship with institutions that promote local music?
Help in any way we can. I have always loved to tell people who the best bands in State College are, who they should go to see. They ask me “do you have an alternative band in State College, do you have an alt. country band in State College”. I always try to point them in the right direction for that. When clubs have shows I try to advertise as much as I can for the local shows. That is what keeps our community musical so I’ll do anything.

Do you have a favorite local hotspot for music?
I was just in one of my favorites last night. I saw our own Dawn Kinnard, a woman who used to live here in town and moved to Nashville and went to London and recorded an album. She is going to record another one in England. We are pretty proud of her and she stopped by last night and played at Zenos. It was great!

Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians in State College?
Be the best you can be at whatever you do and use your imagination.

If you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be? And why?
A pterodactyl, just to stay out of everybody’s way.

About the Author


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Staff Picks: Grabbing A Drink With A Prominent Penn Stater

If you had the chance to hear about Penn State from (or throw down at a State College bar for a night with) some of its most prominent figures, who would you want to grab a beer with?

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