Bobby Dee’s in Pembroke keeps memories flowing with oldies music
Bobby Dee's store in Suncook on Main Street with a photo of Danny and the Juniors.
Bobby Dachowski, age 75, aka Bobby Dee sits in his store on Main Street in Suncook. Asked if it was usual chair, Dachowski said, "nah, just being lazy," he said with a laugh.
Bobby Dachowski, age 75, aka Bobby Dee holds up an original first recording of "That's All Right" by Elvis Presley that he made at Sun Records in 1954.
Bobby Dee's record store in Suncook as albums packed in throughout.
Bob Dachowski first got in front of a microphone when he was practically still a teenager in the 1950s – music’s golden age, if you ask him. Somehow, he’s managed to stick around ever since.
He might be better known by his broadcast personality, “Bobby Dee,” also the namesake for the record and repair shop he opened four years ago in the Suncook Village business district.
He’s been on the air long enough to see the transition from 78s and 45s to eight-tracks and then cassettes – all the way up through digital methods of distributing music.
So after all that time, Dachowski has lots of stories to tell.
There’s the one about Feb. 3, 1959, the day a plane crash killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. What does he remember most from The Day the Music Died? “Crying.”
Another is about what it was like to hang out with Johnny Cash, one of a handful of big-name stars Dachowski met during his stint manag-
ing rock shows. “Such a nice person,” he said.
Yet another about the nights he spent as an emcee at New Hampshire’s first-ever Twisting Lounge in Dearborn Hall. He’s still got the sign to prove it. “Every SAT NITE – 8:00 to 11:00,” it says in faded script.
It’s easy to make the mistake, then, of assuming that Dachowski thinks of himself as a guy who’s made it in the music business. Really, he says, “it’s the memory business.”
That’s why his store in Pembroke feels more like an old friend’s basement than the kind of place you might find in the mall. That’s also what’s helped the 75-year-old keep rocking, even as the rest of the music industry seems like it has moved on from the days of sifting through stacks of vinyl to find a favorite tune.
“When you flick through the records,” he explains, “all of a sudden you say to yourself, ‘Oh my God, I feel like I’m 17 years old again.’ ”
Inside the store, at 132 Main St. in Pembroke, his eyes light up as he gestures toward the relics around the room.
Albums line the walls, of course, and then there’s the jukebox that he’s fixing up to sell, the record players and radios piled up in several corners, the bunch of neckties from the 50s ($1 each, advertised as a “GREAT FAD + DANCE ITEM”) hanging on another wall. Look around some more, and you’ll spy a drum, a few American flags, a bunch of cardboard boxes, some more radios, a couple of coffee mugs and a cutout of a pinup girl dangling like a mobile from the center of the ceiling.
“The store is designed to make you feel young again,” Dachowski said last week, in an armchair sandwiched between shelves upon shelves of songs.
By his estimate, he has about 15,000 albums on file – all alphabetical, he says, and about half of them are from his personal collection.
The shop started out, actually, as a storage location. (That explains all of the boxes.) When Dachowski and his wife moved to the area from Manchester a few years ago, he started renting the then-empty storefront with the intention of using it as a holding space until he found somewhere else to put his collection. One day, he left the doors open, and a few curious passers-by started trickling in.
“Before you know it, they’re buying records,” he said.
Now, the store is open from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 2 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday.
It still has no front desk, no other employees, and he still prefers to keep the place looking a little unpolished.
His handmade signs won’t win any awards for penmanship, but Dachowski says even that’s part of his overall strategy.
“I can afford to do good signs, but it won’t bring in any more people,” he said.
By his rationale, you’re probably more likely to do a double-take at posters that don’t look as pristine as everyone else’s, anyway.
Giving back, on air and off
Dachowski grew up listening to late-night broadcasts of 50,000-watt radio stations with his brother. When he finally got a chance to channel the personalities he’d worshipped as a teen – the Hound, Dick Biondi and the like – he knew he’d found his calling.
Today, you can catch “Bobby Dee’s Rock and Roll Caravan Show” every Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m. on WNHN 94.7.
Most of all, he said, he loves knowing he can make someone’s day just by playing a song to celebrate an anniversary, something that reminds them of their first dance or the soundtrack from a night spent driving around in a car packed with high school friends.
He can’t carry a tune himself, but he said much of his success stems from knowing how to present music in a way that makes people want to sing.
“You learn how to say things that affect people,” he said. “You learn how to say things that are well-meaning with a lot of respect for people, and you have to realize that these people’s songs that you’re playing are their favorite songs. . . . You don’t denigrate them. You have to build them up – because it goes right through their memory bank.”
If Dachowski made his earlier career by knowing how to have a conversation with his audience, he’s stayed in business in Suncook Village by knowing how to keep talking to the people who stop into his store.
“Bobby Dee! How you doing?” Bob Laverdie of Allenstown exclaimed as he walked through the door one afternoon last week.
Laverdie got to know Dachowski because of a shared interest in vintage recordings.
On this visit, he wanted to know whether Dachowski would like an old radio he acquired from his in-laws. No one else in the family wanted it, Laverdie said, and he figured that maybe Dachowski could use it for extra repair parts.
“Yeah, bring it over,” Dachowski replied.
A little later on, Chris Henderson – who sits on the Pembroke Recreation Commission – came in.
Henderson runs a summer concert series in town. He’s new to that kind of work, so a few months ago he approached Dachowski for some advice on how to liven up the event.
In turn, Dachowski referred Henderson to an internship at a local radio station, and he also offered some pointers for the concerts: Keep the crowd going between songs, and call himself a “producer” so that people more clearly recognize the work he’s putting in. That advice paid off.
“He taught me to become an entertainer,” Henderson said.
So when he stopped into Bobby Dee’s on Wednesday, he wasn’t looking to buy anything from the store or take up too much of Dachowski’s time. This time, he just wanted to say thanks.
(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or email@example.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)