Ohio Music Shop home to OHIO rock tribute band

Ryan Young

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When a local music store dragged its feet on a partnership with guitar designer and retailer Woody James, he and his investors opened a store of their own.

In May, the Ohio Music Shop moved into a new building located on Main Street in downtown Kent. The new store has a working bar and a stage where open mic nights and a prolific amount of jamming goes down.

Before gigs, James, along with his co-owner Jeff Fulkman (the Nash to James’s Young), steps out from behind the bar and into after-hours practices for OHIO – “the only authorized Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tribute band,” James added.

The band

OHIO has been together for six years

Woody James – Neil Young

Jeff Fulkman – Graham Nash

Steve Sanders – David Crosby

Joe Vitale, Jr. – drums (father was the drummer for CSNY)

Ken Margolis – keys

Joe Morris – bass

But none of this matters today.

It’s Tuesday morning and the mail just came. James bends over a large package and cuts the face off with a box cutter.

Every eye in the store turned to the box like it was Christmas morning and Santa just delivered a gutted, water-damaged ‘57 Fender Bassman. Someone lets out a whistle that starts high and ends low, as if foreshadowing James’s next statement.

“This will sell for thirty grand when I’m finished with it,” he says, turning the tweed treasure over on its front and peering into it with a flashlight.

“You know it’s the real deal when you can read the tube chart,” James says, doing just that. He points out the serial number and says that Stephen Stills is going to “freak when he sees this.”

“Auerbach (of Black Keys fame) was using one on Austin City Limit’s the other night,” he tells Fulkman. “That’s another one to call.”

No one is playing games at the Ohio Music Shop. They know their business like car mechanics rather than car salesmen. They look for tube charts.

“It’s different here,” said local musician Travis Bert, 29, between distorted bursts of classic rock riffage via a Marshall half-stack at the far end of the store.

“I like the atmosphere, and competition is great in an area like this,” Bert said.

In preparation for their show on Friday at the Akron Civic Theatre, OHIO decided that Tuesday’s practice would be open to the public, “Because we really want to make this a community thing,” James said. “Get people in here and let them know who we are.”

Over the next year, Fulkman and James want to entice the community with more entertainment nights (about three to four nights per week) and offer a glimpse into what it takes to be in a working band by continuing to hold open practices before OHIO’s shows and hosting open jam nights. Also, the store is set to begin production of their all-tube Bulletproof line of guitar amplifiers, something that sets them apart from even the tallest of retail giants like Guitar Center.

Based on the number of musician-run instrument shop/bar/stage business models in the area, it is possible that some residents have already begun to figure out that Ohio Music Shop is no ordinary place, and OHIO is no ordinary tribute band.

Darius Carter, a senior business major at Kent State and hip-hop producer and artist, came to OHIO’s practice at the suggestion of a friend.

“Seeing them and how they each have their own unique part, but when they put it together it sounds huge…I want that,” said Carter, who just started learning to play guitar this year.

“Makes you realize the important element of dedication and time that goes into something beautiful,” Carter said.

Maybe the pursuit of that beauty is why a group of seven grown men started playing other musicians’s material for money and they’re still doing it six years and counting.

“Being in a working band is about surviving. We’ll be around until the gigs run out,” Fulkman said.

Maybe one day Darius Carter will be looking for that perfect sound, and first, he’ll check for a tube chart.

Contact Ryan Young at [email protected].