At 57 years old, Top Ten Records in Oak Cliff is Dallas’ oldest record store. It's also steeped in local history: It was at Top Ten, on November 22, 1963, that police officer J.D. Tippit was last seen before Lee Harvey Oswald murdered him. He left his car parked outside the store, and the phone Tippit used still hangs from the counter in the shop.
The store also has thousands upon thousands of old records, and they've recently been organized for a massive sale that will benefit both Top Ten and its longtime kindred spirit, volunteer-run radio station KNON 89.3 FM. “We’ve had a working relationship for 18 or 20 years,” says KNON station manager, Dave Chaos. He and his team have been working in conjunction with Top Ten owner Mike Polk to make the sale happen, the proceeds of which will be split between the two parties. “[Polk] mentioned that he had all this stuff in the garage and we hatched this plan,” Chaos says.
Decades of music memorabilia cover the walls and hang from the ceiling. But, sitting on West Jefferson Boulevard in an area that is rapidly changing, Polk could have his rent substantially increased at any time. Top Ten has been a Dallas institution for fans of hip-hop and Hispanic genres of music for decades. If the store shutdown, it would be a tremendous loss to the community and have a negative impact on KNON.
Polk cleared his vinyl record collection out of his store several years ago to make room for CDs and cassettes, but the collection has been brought back. DJs from KNON worked for a week to organize thousands of records in Polk’s garage. Everything must go. Nobody bothered to count just how many records there are, but there are boxes on tables and all over the floor. KNON DJs are also volunteering their time at Top Ten to help with the sale.
“We keep finding gold records made out to Top Ten and Mike didn’t put any of those up,” says Chaos.
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Polk also has countless pictures of him with rock stars he chose not to display. “This is me and my girlfriend,” Polk jokes, as he presents a signed black and white photo of him with Dolly Parton taken decades ago.
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The sale started Friday and the boxes of old records are well worth digging through. There are so many records that some are still in the back until there is room to bring them out. There are a variety of genres and many promotional copies. Some of the records are sealed.
There are a surprising amount of North Texas music gems in this collection. A very quick glance uncovered sealed copies of early DFW hip-hop EPs by K-Cold & D.J. Roc D, Left and Right Shoe M.C.’s and Fila Fresh Crew. There are also countless posters and other memorabilia that are newly available. “It used to be that you went to the record store to find likeminded people and socialize,” Chaos says. “It’s something that is very dynamic and slipping away right in front of us.” After KNON added a substantial amount of Hispanic and hip-hop music to its programming, Top Ten provided a place for listeners to buy physical copies of the music they hear.
Polk admits that the funds from this record sale will help him be prepared for any surprises, but he takes it all in stride. “The best moment of my life is right now,” Polk says, with a shrug. He has been running the shop for 37 years. “I don’t live in the past and I don’t know about the future. There’s no negatives in my brain, I won’t let them in there.”