Taulbee Music: a mountain music store rich in history

Since the early 1940s, Taulbee Music in Hazard has been selling instruments and other musical goods to folks across the mountains, but that is only a small part of a story rich in history.
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For some of us, music is a lot more than simply something we listen to recreationally.

“It’s a way you can express yourself, without saying anything, you can let your music do your talking,” says Philip Stidham, owner of Taulbee Music in Hazard.

For nearly seven decades, Taulbee Music has been a place for musicians to explore that form of communication, which in some cases translates into a lifelong passion.

“Back in 1983, I had $20 to buy a [tuxedo] and go to prom, or $20 to buy a bass… I didn't dance that night, but I had a good time playing the bass. That was the best decision I ever made in my life,” says Sherman Mullins, a long-time customer of the store.

From Grand Ole Opry singers, to renowned performers like Merle Haggard, and the late Marlow Tackett, the shop has welcomed its fair share of well-known talent over the years.

“Dad was talking about the time that Tiny Tim came in. A lot of the girls were out looking at him too, so he came in an old Volkswagen... and spent a lot of time,” Stidham said.

But while celebrity stories are fun, he says the true spirit of his store is shaped by the simple love of music, and patrons say sharing that philosophy is a big reason they keep coming back.

“I usually come up here even when I [don't] need anything, just to talk about music,” said Caleb Johnson, a frequent customer at the store.

“They’ve had years and years of experience with it, and you can always expect a conversation when you come in here too, and it's really delightful,” says Tracy Gwin, another customer.

In every music store, you’ll likely find guitars, drum sets and maybe an occasional "jaw harp," but you don't often find them sold at a place this rich in history, surrounded by artists who strive to preserve it; and for that reason, folks here say they hope Taulbee Music remains standing for years to come.

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Stidham says the store originally sold furniture, with musical instruments being just a small part of its inventory. It transitioned to exclusively selling music related items in the 1970s.


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