Terry Currier loves his connection to the local music scene

by: TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Nick Skiles flips through the rows and rows of new and used vinyl records at Music Millennium on East Burnside. The 43-year-old music store converted its old classical annex store into an all-vinyl record section, as collecting records becomes trendy again.  Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band cranks out its sweaty, swampy, bluesy folk rock as a crowd of more than 30 people look upward at a balcony stage.

The band is in town for a performance at Dante’s this evening, and is playing a late afternoon in-store show at Music Millennium, 3158 E. Burnside St., in hopes of drumming up interest.

Wandering the aisles, and talking to the happy customers enjoying the tunes, is store owner Terry Currier. He’s not just excited about the in-store concert, he’s also debuting the store’s newest annex, Classical Millennium, dedicated to classical music.

At age 57, Currier looks a couple decades younger with his longish wavy brunette hair barely speckled with gray.

“I don’t dye my hair,” he adds with a chuckle. “I’m happy I still have hair!”

The secret to Currier’s eternally youthful appearance may lie not in his remarkable DNA but in the aisles that surround him and the live music coming from the store’s second-floor balcony. Stepping into Music Millennium is entering a different era, when vinyl records and cassette tapes and then CDs ruled the music world.

It was a time when no one had heard of the Internet or the Web, when people drunkenly smoked in rowdy bars and danced and fought to blistering rock ‘n’ roll rather than stay home sipping chilled bottled water, safely downloading tunes onto their latest computerized gadget.

It was a time when teenagers washed dishes or cars or wore dorky uniforms to serve up fast food just to earn enough money to buy the latest vinyl record by the Ramones, the Stones, The Replacements and The Clash.

Currier is not the store’s original owner, but he might as well be, having worked his way up from new store employee in 1984 to current lord of all he surveys through his passion for all kinds of music and people. He works 60 to 80 hours a week selling new and used vinyl, CDs, audio and videotapes, retro trivia and board games and a variety of other products.

“It wasn’t to be cool,” he says of digging music since he was a high schooler. “It wasn’t because it was the hip thing. It was because I had to know about this! I gotta know about this!”

“This” can be anything from the discography of the Kinks, his fave rock band — “both the lyrical content and the musical content of that band hits a nerve” — to Portland’s indie rockers Dolorean, whom Currier tags “probably hands-down the most underrated band in this city.”

He also digs 1960s rock group Spirit and says their first four albums constitute “maybe the best rock ‘n’ roll music ever,” and loves Portland-based acts The Decemberists, Ramona Falls and Helio Sequence

Possessing the most eclectic and catholic of tastes, Currier will go to a jazz show the same night he’ll go to a punk show. He eagerly and regularly books bands and acts of all styles to play his in-store shows, which have featured Randy Newman, Soundgarden, Paul Westerberg and Weezer.

“Being down in my store for an in-store (concert) is a ‘Wow!’ for me,” Currier says.

Satisfied customers

Currier is president of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, and has helped organize and promote blues and jazz festivals in town, among others. But it’s his daily interactions with customers that have made him a mover and shaker in the local scene.

Take Jason Kastrup, 38, a Portland massage and qigong therapist and frequent Music Millennium customer. Kastrup has purchased all kinds of records there and met some of his favorite bands there as well.

“If Terry is there, you’d be happy to listen to what he’s playing the whole time,” Kastrup says. “You will end up buying those records not because he sold them to you but you get that he really, really loves it.”

Meanwhile, J Lofberg, 66, has been going to Music Millennium since it opened in 1969, and briefly worked there in the late 1990s.

“There are many, many thousands of people who have met Terry,” he says. “He is the sea who accepts all rivers, helpful to a fault, incredibly kind. I’ve gone with him to several hundred concerts. You fully understand that the man lives for this. He’s dedicated to the proposition that music improves your life.”

That’s a feeling shared by such store employees as Larry Hass, who’s worked on and off at the store since 1983.

“You need to be open to all kinds of music to work in a record store,” he says as he and Currier note that can mean anyone from John Denver to Anthrax. “I like turning people onto new music and helping them find it.”

And despite constantly struggling to stay afloat financially in a world where people often don’t even pay for recorded music anymore, Currier cheerfully strives to serve folks who still want to touch a vinyl record or unwrap a CD to feel a closer connection to the artists who created them.

“This is probably the equivalent of two jobs,” Currier says. “I couldn’t work this many hours unless I loved what I was doing.”

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