The Boston music scene of the 1970’s-80’s produced legendary bands Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars, The J. Geils Band and many other notable artists. The seeds of Beantown’s music revolution were planted in the mid-60’s after The Beatles and other British bands inspired hordes of young baby boomers to join rock & roll bands. There were three bands on my street alone in the summer of ‘69. During this boomtime Boston musicians could count on a handful of music stores to provide equipment, service and advice, and E.U. Wurlitzer of Boston (EUWoB) was king of the hill.
The company was founded as an instrument repair shop by a German immigrant named Ernest Ulrich Wurlitzer during the Roaring 20’s. E.U. had worked for a Boston-based woodwind/brass instrument manufacturer where he developed repair skills. The high quality of his work endeared E.U. to his professional clientele who suggested he add instrument sales to his business. E.U. heeded the advice and successfully grew sales through the challenging decades of the Great Depression and World War II. His sons Al and Ernie worked in the store as youngsters and ended up spending their entire careers there.
In 1952, E.U. hired a sax player named Tim Jachrimo to handle woodwind/brass repair work. Tim was born in 1918 to a Russian family that had immigrated to Boston. The family name was Jefremow on his birth certificate, but by the time he filled out his WWII draft card in 1940 it had been changed to Jachrimo. At the time of his hiring, Tim had already earned a B.A. in Journalism from Suffolk University and was married with two young children. His arrival at EUWoB coincided with the birth of rock & roll, and this sea change in popular music presented Tim with opportunities.
Legend has it that Fender’s eastern U.S. sales representative visited the store one day in the early 1950’s to pitch the company’s line of guitars, basses and amplifiers – and E.U. promptly threw him out! The old man had no desire to serve rock & roll musicians, but Tim was interested and wanted to learn more. He chased the rep down the street and convinced him to return later in the afternoon when E.U. would be gone for the day. EUWoB soon became a Fender dealer and later added other R&R brands, including Ampeg and Vox.
Tim had no retail experience when he started at EUWoB, but it didn’t matter because he was gifted at handling customers, employees, suppliers and the operational aspects of the business. A decade+ after starting out as a repairman, Tim was promoted to President of EUWoB and in 1970 he engineered the store’s move to its iconic 360 Newbury St. location. It cannot be emphasized enough what a bold move this was. The previous location on Bedford St. wasn’t much bigger than an MBTA bus, while the Newbury St. store occupied over 20,000 sq. ft. spread out over three floors. The term “superstore” did not exist in 1970, but Tim created one of the very first in the music-products industry.
With the vastly larger space, Tim not only expanded the store’s assortment and depth of inventory but also built a comprehensive repair operation, far beyond what was found in a typical music store. EUWoB’s repair services covered all categories of instruments and electronics, employed 15-20 repair techs and occupied portions of two floors. Tim knew repair services were important to his pro clientele, and in the same spirit he constructed a large woodworking shop, which manufactured speaker cabinets and specialty items such as the EUCO Boston Strangler (predecessor to the Scholz Power Soak). Best-selling cabinets from the woodshop included the JBL 4530 and 4560, Thiele designs and Karlson designs. The woodshop also handled special projects, including the splitting of a Hammond organ into two portable modules for a world-famous touring band.
Tim enjoyed getting to know EUWoB’s customers, some of whom went on to fame and fortune. They included J. Geils, Brad Whitford, George Benson, Joe Val and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Jeff remembers Tim well and shares how much he meant to him.
EU Wurlitzer was an iconic music store located in Boston and held a revered place for musicians in the Boston area, much the same as Manny’s Music did in New Your City. And each of those stores had a special person that personified that store. For Manny’s, it was Henry Goldrich. For EU Wurlitzer, that person was Tim Jachrimo. Like Henry, Tim maintained a near-constant presence in the store and, although the point of any retail business is to make a profit, Tim was always very interested in supporting any musician that came into his store and he built a plethora of personal relationships with so many musicians. One of those musicians was me. I first met Tim when, for me, the go-to place for musical instruments and accessories was EU Wurlitzer and later on, I was repairing and customizing guitars for them. On one occasion, I had gone into the store to bring back some guitars that they had given me to repair. As I walked into the store, I spotted a brand new Emmons D-10 pedal steel guitar sitting on the showroom floor. It was a thing of beauty and I just stood there admiring it for a while. While I was standing there, Tim walked over to me and, without any preliminary conversation, said, “I will deduct 10% from the money I pay you for every guitar you work on for me. Take it, it’s yours.” Tim did not know that I had been playing steel for a couple of years before and was getting more serious about it. He just read the expression on my face, sensed and understood how much having this instrument would mean to me and, based on his years of experience, his good heart, his trusting nature and his natural desire to do good things, instantly figured out a way to make it happen. When I walked out of that store, carrying the pedal steel in its case, I looked back and saw Tim standing in the doorway, giving me the big smile he was always known for, the high-sign, and a friendly wave. There are some people who when they come into your life, make a huge difference. Tim was one of those special people and I will always remember him for his kindness, his friendship and, most of all, him standing in that doorway. That is an image I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Godspeed, Tim.
Tim had a knack for business strategy, and a good example was his philosophy about advertising, which was to spend almost nothing on it. He instead used the funds to buy innovative new products that other dealers deemed too risky, such as synthesizers and multi-track recorders. Tim believed that cool new products were the store’s best advertising. He was also good at building relationships with his suppliers, and while he was a tough negotiator Tim was known for treating manufacturer reps with respect. He loved to tell stories and chit chat, so a sales call with Tim could eat up hours of a rep’s time, but they knew it was worth the effort to build trust and understanding. It also built loyalty, which paid off for Tim every time a rep had to allocate a hot new product in short supply and EUWoB would be the first to receive them.
Tim was truly a unique personality. His employees nicknamed him “the better way” because he was a perfectionist who constantly strove for better ways to do things. Tim loved to smoke cigars, which could complicate an employee coaching session due to the risk of asphyxiation. Many of the folks who worked for him fondly remember the variety of quirky, talented people Tim hired and the family atmosphere he nurtured. Tim retired from EUWoB in 1983.
A decade later I visited him and his wife Alice at their home in the Maine woods. He had installed a huge satellite dish next to the house in order to pick up broadcasts from every corner of the world, and confided that his biggest regret was he wouldn’t be around to see the many extraordinary changes the future was going to bring. Tim passed away on April 15 2007, just 2 ½ months before Steve Jobs launched the iPhone. He was 88.
(by Gene Joly)