small brush shouldn't fuck with big timber

Death's Door, the view from the Spanish announcers table: Ron Rooks

Wednesday, August 30

Ron Rooks

the backroom of the Music Exchange

I heard thru the grapevine last night that local music legend Ron Rooks died. I bet that I’ve known Ron off and on twenty-five years or better. Ron drank too much, talked too much and sometimes was a pain in the ass to be near, which is neither here nor there. It’s what Ron Rooks represented that’s important.

Ron was the last of, and for the lack of a better term I’ll use this cliché, the last of a dying breed. If there was a constant I knew about Ron Rooks was that he did things his way. He respected and valued the old ways which was clearly represented in his passion which was owning the largest vinyl record story in the city. If it was on wax Ron had it or he knew where he could lay his hands on it.

His store the Music Exchange was known not only here in Kansas City but every fan of wax the world over knew about Ron and his store. Ron used to boast to me that he had over a million pieces of vinyl sitting in his store at any given time and I never doubted his word.

I first met Ron back in the late seventies and it didn’t take me long to figure out that this cat didn’t give a fuck about upsetting the status quo. Some days I’d run into Ron in Westport and afterwards I’d tell myself “that went well”. Because I’d never knew which direction Ron might be coming from. He might hover and talk for minutes on end and I might or might not catch on or I’d catch him in a moment of clarity and hear a great story or he just might look around and not dig the cut of things and decide to shake shit up.

Ron knew that I loved to write and one day he walked up to me and told me that he wrote also. And from his pockets he started producing all these scraps of paper, post-it notes, bar naps, anything he found close to hand. And they were all full of thoughts and ideas, whatever he caught in his head he put to paper.

I tell em that he had to put all this down where folks could read it but he’d just stuff everything back in his pockets and smile as he walked away. Ron Rooks did life his way, with his own style and for better or worse, that’s gonna be missed.

"and the monkey flipped the switch"


Blogger Happy In Bag said...

Death- You brought tears to my eyes with this remembrance. That's a beautiful post.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous sheri said...

Ah wow. Total nostalgiaville. An old friend would drag me into the ME at least once a month, from the mid-90s to '03, faithfully following over to the Broadway location when they moved. He knew Ron pretty well, and his ever-changing moods. I was a little intimidated by him, so we didn't talk a whole lot =] He did help me find stuff I was looking for a couple times, and was really nice about it.
Great post! May he RIP.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Ole Blue The Heretic said...

That is a store that I would love to spend hours inside.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Bella said...

He sounds like he had a lot of character. People with a lot of character, tend to be successful in life even if they have a couple of flaws.

He owned a great company and it sounds as if people were proud to have known him and to have been apart of his life.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Nightmare said...

Nice Eulogy Big Daddy. You did the man a solid.

5:31 PM  
Blogger moose & squirrel said...


Thanks for the great post. When Ron purchased the Music Exchange in Sept. 1979 from Mike Fasone and Jack Ancona, I came as part of the deal. I stuck around full-time than went to part-time for over 20 years as an employee. I knew Ron really well to say the least. Our friendship actually began years before that purchase. We had complicated friendship but I never had nothing less than a dear love for the guy. I'm pretty broken up about this, but I think I saw it coming. Another time and place, I am going to write my eulogy for him.

For now, I take comfort in having his surviving family among my friends.

Bill "Stretch" Osment

7:02 PM  
Blogger MWebber said...

Well done Greg. The first time I met Ron and Bill Osment ("Stretch" to us back then) they were patients of the dentist for whom my mom worked in the late 70's. She knew they worked in a record store in Westport and one day after seeing the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour and Shea Stadium at the old Bijou, I found the store. Knowing that I was still in junior high and Ann's kid, Ron trusted that I "wasn't a cop" and showed me to the bootlegs. I'd know him for almost 30 more years. As you suggest, one couldn't be sure which Ron would pop out of the can but in a society that is increasingly sanitized for your consumption, such characters are increasingly rare. If there is a heaven, Ron probably just walked right past Elvis, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix to throw his arms aroudn Spike Milligan and some 110 year old blind Blues singer from Itta Benna, MS.


Mike Webber

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Oxnard Dubois, Crappy Pappy, and Suzie said...

Ron was the opposite of say, a Johnny Dare (Caprafoli), and that's got to be good! No that's got to be Wunderbar!!!

He was original and smart, and never a coked up biker bully with no business sense, hygiene, or intelligence.

We'll all miss you dude at the Crossroads!

7:38 PM  
Blogger Murrman84 said...

I started getting to vinyl pretty late in the game, and I first went over to Music Exchange at their location near Kemper Arena...It wasn't officially opened yet, but this eccentric character let me in and let me search around his collection. He even took me down into the warehouse and went through box after box of records he had to tend to and open, and we chatted with each other about music for 2-3 hours, as well as his life in general.
He made sure to help me find everything I was looking for, and he even sold me a rare record (with a price tag of $65) for around $20 something...and this was even before they were open for business. A month or two later, I found out secondhand that he had died there...
When I heard this, it really kicked me in the stomach hard. Even though I had only one or two moments in my life where I met Ron, I still felt like I had lost a friend. He will be missed by an appreciative music fan that he helped find his way...
Rest in Peace Ron.

3:23 PM  

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