Musician, record store owner longs for rock’s glory daysWritten by Katherine Timpf | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some knew him as the owner of Joey’s Record Mart. Others knew him for his hit song, “Pretty Little Girl.” But from the late ’50s and through the ’60s, everybody knew Joey Leal.
Leal, who lives in Sylvania Township, said he prided himself upon providing the rock ‘n’ roll and Motown records Downtown department stores didn’t sell.
“It wasn’t a very big place, but what it was was I didn’t do classical things and I didn’t do too much country because country wasn’t really big back then,” Leal said. “I used to cater to kids, teenagers and African-American people and I always had what they wanted.”
Leal said a lot of big-time musicians, like Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis Jr., used to wander into his store during the day before playing their shows at night.
Leal got into the music-making side of the record business after sending a sample tape to a Detroit record salesman. His song, ‘Pretty Little Girl,’ became No. 1 in Toledo and went national on the MGM Cub label. Leal said he also had the opportunity to play with greats like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
As much as he loved working in music, Leal said his popularity often caused problems at home, particularly with a young female lawyer who used to bring him lunch.
“There was a lot of girls [around the record store] at the time, and women are usually attracted to people in music and stuff, and I had that to fight, and my wife was getting kind of ticked off with this whole thing,” Leal said.
The final straw came when Leal returned home from a music-business-related trip to Detroit only to find his house was dark and his family gone.
“The guy next door turns on his porch light … and said, ‘I just took your wife to the hospital, you have a baby daughter.’”
That was the end of Joey’s Record Mart.
Apart from family issues, Leal said he didn’t like much of the “psychedelic rock” of the ’70s, and had no motivation to sell the music in his store.
“It was a good 10 years; it was a solid 10 years, those ’60s were,” Leal said, nostalgically. “Then in the ’70s, they got more into the acid rock, and I was really kind of bitter about that, because it was … weird psychedelic music and it was different. It went from one extreme to the other.”
Leal said he now works as a disc jockey, mostly for weddings. However, once in a while, he gets to do a class reunion from the ’60s, and sometimes gets reconnected with people from his past.
“I’ll go in, and people remember me from the record store and they’ll say, ‘Hey, are you Joey from the record store?’ They’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, I was wondering what happened to you,’” Leal said.
Leal said he used to have a hard time driving past the building where his store used to be.
“They have a little business in there or something. When I used to come there, I almost just used to want to cry. I know what it was like back then, and I know what it’s like now,” Leal said. … “It’s like a ghost.”
However, Leal also said he feels lucky he got to be a part of Toledo’s musical glory days.
“I’ve seen the good days of rock ‘n’ roll, man,” Leal said. “The best days.”
Here Joey leal’s “Pretty Little Girl” here