Broken Bell | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Broken Bell

Morningbell Records & Café will close its doors April 5.

Morningbell Records & Café will close its doors April 5. Photo by Trip Burns.

I've heard this story before. Back in 2011, Bebop Record Shop closed its doors after years of serving the community. At one time, the Jackson music staple ran three stores in the metro area. Those who frequented the Maywood Mart location during its last couple of years could probably see the writing on the wall and likely weren't very surprised when its owners announced the closure.

Stories like this reverberated throughout the music world by the late 2000s. Brick-and-mortar record stores were dying. People had gone the way of downloading and streaming their music. Places that sold physical copies of folks' favorite albums were no longer needed.

Jackson was special in that, in 2010, it still had a place for music collectors such as myself to congregate to talk about music and their favorite bands. I got most of my musical education in that Maywood Mart Bebop, and the staff there became almost like extended family to me.

Then it was gone.

Let me allow you a peek inside the mind of a record collector for a moment. Finding an elusive record sitting on a record store shelf is like discovering a small gem that seems to be waiting just for me to uncover. I hold the record in my hand and examine the cover, looking at the song titles and credits. Then, I inspect the condition of the vinyl. Does it have any major scratches? Is it dirty? I can clean that. How much does it cost?

The Internet denies the collector this pleasure. It is too easy to search websites such as eBay for a desired vinyl record and simply bid on it. It's always a gamble to get a record based on a photo probably taken with a cell phone camera. I have to take the seller's word about the condition, and let's face it: No one is ever going to tell you that their product is really damaged and likely unplayable.

When Bebop closed, it left collectors like myself feeling a little like orphaned children. We had nowhere to go. No sense of camaraderie that the staff and rows of CDs provided.

Almost a year later, the news came that Jackson was to have another record store. It was going to be located in Fondren at Duling Hall and was called Morningbell Records & Studio. The store specialized in vinyl LPs and offered a recording studio for artists and bands. It also hosted live shows from local and touring groups.

I was there the day it opened. My wife and I bought a Mumford and Sons CD. Morningbell was quaint, but cool. I knew it wasn't Bebop, but I looked forward to the ability to shop for music again. After a couple of location changes, Morningbell recently set up shop in a strip mall near Maywood Mart. The recording studio was now gone in favor of a cafe offering lunch and coffee to patrons.

Even though the new location was a little more out the way, I could still manage a trip during a lunch break once or twice a week. Most of the time, I found something worthy to add to my growing collection.

On April 5, after two years in business, Morningbell will shut its doors to the public. We can ponder the what ifs and hows that Jackson can't seem to support a business like this, despite the reports of growing vinyl sales and the comeback of the record store. I prefer to simply say thanks for the awesome memories and the new friends I've made because of its existence.

Morningbell will still exist, but only as an online shop through For the time being, the nearest place to get a vinyl fix is in Raymond at The Little Big Store. While I won't be able to make lunch-break trips out there, the store has an awesome selection, and shoppers never run out of things to find.

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