The store was a constant part of my week and it vied with Orlando’s Murmur Records as the epicenter of my music buying during my college years and slightly beyond. But not always in its South Orange Blossom trail location. After a year or so of hours spent weekly browsing bins of new stock, or chatting amiably with Craig or his second-in-command, Matt Gorney [who once called an album I bought there “modeling music”], a small bomb was dropped when I found out that the store was moving uptown to Fern Park some time in 1983-4. I lived in South Orlando, and Fern Park was practically in Longwood! Not my usual territory, so my “heavy hitting” period of relying on Crunchy Armadillo Records was to change.
The store in Fern Park was across from the Jai-Alai Fronton, so visits there were far fewer than when the store was in my part of town. But I will admit, that the store was larger, brighter, and just as thrill-packed with more vinyl than ever! It was in another small strip mall albeit one of a far higher caliber. The store’s name, as I recall, had mutated into the slightly-more-commercial Armadillo Records. The bins were still rich with goodness, but the most striking thing at that point were the loads of what I’ll call, ironic vinyl there in the store; as if Catskills entertainers who departed this mortal coil had provisos in their last will and testament that their Tubby Boots albums must be sold to this store! My respect for you, dear readers, prevents me from including a Tubby Boots cover. My friend Tom and I often contemplated loading up on these records just for the brain-boggling covers, but our modest music budgets prevented such excursions, alas. It would be a decade later when the book at right was released to give a focus to the ironic vinyl scene that was obviously being partially generated within the store.
It was some a few years later when I discovered that the store had moved for a third and final time. I found this out when I was working on my college newspaper in the advertising department and if memory serves, Craig entered the office to purchase space in the paper. He had moved Armadillo Records to the shiny new UC6 shopping plaza across from the University of Central Florida for the third and most glamorous incarnation of Armadillo Records. This would have been about 1-2 years after the Fern Park location, ca. 1985-6.
The store was big and roomy and this was the last decade of the bygone golden era where ex-DJs could reasonably open a record store next to a University and sit back and skim the cream… for the last time in history as we know it! I was the Ad Production Manager for the college paper, so every time Armadillo had an ad, I designed it and paginated that sucker on the pasteup sheets. Naturally, since I was attending the University, I could drop in on a daily basis to check out the bins. Since I bought my first CD player by mid 1985, I don’t recall buying any vinyl at Armadillo III… only shiny CDs. Armadillo still had a good selection to offer with the usual low prices. Such was my CD snobbery at the time, that I no doubt passed up huge amounts of analog delights I’d give an eyetooth for at any time in the last 22 years!
After I graduated, I took a job on the University Campus and remained there until 1988, when I ventured into the larger world via an ad agency. Until that time, I took advantage of the proximity of a great record store near where I worked and once I moved on to my next job, Armadillo Records fell off of my radar screens entirely. I don’t think it lasted much longer, though. When I caught up with Craig a few years later in the early 90s, he was working for an Orlando music magazine publisher and the store days were behind him.
Though it was proper seeing the fledgeling store blossom into ever more upscale digs, and no one wants to romanticize downscale values per se, the fact remains that by far the largest slab of vital vinyl in the Record Cell that came courtesy of this store dates back to the earliest days of the store with the full Crunchy Armadillo Records moniker. The days when it was sequestered behind an equally indie gas station on the borderline sordid South Orange Blossom Trail where all of the manifold delights of the Post-Punk era were there to be had for a song.
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