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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Music feeds the soul of Bobby Dee


If music feeds the soul, Bob Dachowski has one of the biggest banquets around.

In the age of iTunes and Spotify, you can go online and find most of the music stored on the 15,000 LPs and the hundreds of compact discs, casettes and 8-track tapes packed into the shop "Bobby Dee" operates at 132 Main St. in Pembroke. But you wouldn't have his big personality to guide you through the music.

Bobby Dee's Records and Audio Repair is right across the street from the Rock On diner, a music-themed mom-and-pop with faded album covers decorating the windows. The restaurant was already there when Dachowski opened his business 2½ years ago, but the two seemed trapped in time together.

"I enjoy all types of music. I love rock 'n' roll. I grew up in the rock era. But I also grew up with jazz," Dachowski says. "I'm a jazz aficionado. Louis Armstrong's 'Basin Street Blues' and stuff like that. And right around the corner from that came Elvis Presley."

Dachowski relishes talking about the Golden Era of rock 'n' roll when he aspired to be like those 1950s New York DJs Alan Freed and Murray the K., charismatic voices who would "never let you change that dial," he says. Beatles, Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard albums stand out among the racks of vinyl records, their vintage underscored by the faint whiff of mildew that permeates the store.

Some of this stuff has spent time in someone's basement.

Now those neglected gems share space with a giant Deborah Harry poster from her Blondie days, its edges curled from age, and an Elvis tapestry that rivals those velvet paintings of The King for kitsch appeal.

Dachowski, 74, says he's never felt older than 17. "I think it's the music," he says, during an interview on a recent weekday, comfortably nestled in a rocking chair at the back of the store. The conversation shifts from the "original country" of Johnny Cash, which he prefers to the modern version of the genre, to Buddy Holly, whose music straddled rock and country.

"We try to bring people back to the world that they never really forgot, maybe kind of repressed a little bit," Dachowski says.

Strangely, no music offers a soundtrack here. Sometimes Dachowski will put some speakers near the door and pipe some music outside to let people know he's here, but mostly he keeps it quiet so he can haggle with customers. With the door open, the only sound comes from the occasional car driving by in this small stretch of Suncook Village.

Along with the records and tapes, Bobby Dee's is brimming with memorabilia - think Pink Floyd concert posters and KISS action figures - and vintage stereo equipment, like the turntables Dachowkski and his repair technician have refurbished for retro audiophiles.

A sign on the window says records are 99 cents and up, but you won't find anything with price stickers, at least not any that Dachowski put there. It's a cash-only volume business. Pick out a stack of what you want, and Dachowski will give you a price, based on the condition of the albums and the quantity.

"I tell people to bring me a list. I can get it," he says. His customers "like personality. They like product they can't see anymore. A lot of these are original albums. You pick up an album. It's not a reissue. It's my own collection."

The self-described King of Golden Oldies entered the New England School of Broadcasting while still a teenager, and later organized weekly dances in New Hampshire ballrooms in the '50s, but he didn't become an on-air DJ until a few decades later, hosting an oldies show on the now defunct WKBR-AM in Manchester in the late '80s and early '90s. He has also written hundreds of newspaper columns over the years, profiles on iconic artists such as Bobby Darin.

Now he revisits that era with the Bobby Dee Rock 'n' Roll Caravan Show, which airs on Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. on Concord's WNHN, 94.7 FM (wnhnfm.org). Dachowski and his son repackaged some of his old broadcasts for the programs, though he says they plan to record some new material.

Dachowski plays whatever he wants to play - and aims to make it personal.

"I recreated New York radio in my mind," he says.

Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or mcote@unionleader.com.

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