A short walk from the honky-tonks of downtown Nashville and tucked next to a Mercedes-Benz repair shop on a non-descript street is Jack White’s baby: Third Man Records. The name is spelled out in art deco letters underneath a sculpture of an old-fashioned microphone on the roof.
Operating under the motto “Your turntable’s not dead,” Third Man is a combination record label, record store and 150-person performance venue that allows Jack to release the kind of music that he personally likes. The building also includes a recording studio, a rehearsal space and a complete photo studio. It also serves as the global HQ for everything White Stripes.
Although the record label has been running for almost 10 years, Third Man’s outlet in Nashville only opened its doors after Jack relocated to the city. It’s been in business for almost two years and has become a must-visit for any music geek who happens to end up in Nashville.
Out front, the record store takes up maybe 150 square feet. There’s a tidy rack of carefully displayed 7-inch singles and 12-inch releases. But it’s the walls and the glass display counter where things get really interesting. There are all kinds of rare White Stripes and other Third Man releases, all marked “NFS” (Not for Sale) that contribute to the museum-like atmosphere.
The glass case features NFS Jack and Meg White Russian nesting dolls, the Lego set that inspired the Fell in Love with a Girl video and the ultra-limited edition White Stripes turntables (which would be for sale if they hadn’t sold all available stock in just two hours at $499 each).
I asked the woman behind the counter if they had anything weird and unusual for sale that day—like maybe the very weird “triple decker record” by the Dead Weather, the glow-in-the-dark 7-inch singles or maybe the peach-scented release from Jack’s wife, Karen Elsen.
“No,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “When we announce something like that, we have a line-up around the block and the online orders come in by the thousands. You have to be really quick.”
Just as well. By the time I was done (five 7-inch singles, a t-shirt, a 7-inch record case and some special Third Man headphones), I was down $400 in 15 minutes. It’s a good thing I don’t live in Nashville.