Des Moines Music House

2002 - Music Store

Johnny Cash’s sound system just blew a tube, the lead guitarist for Cream broke a string or the Lettermen needed to replace a microphone.

George and Mary Wilkinson were awakened in the middle of the night often to deal with some kind of emergency in much the same manner as doctors, lawyers and law enforcement officers. They owned Des Moines Music House at 814 Walnut in Des Moines for 27 years beginning in 1958. The Wilkinsons saw to it Des Moines Music House came to the rescue to save a gig or a performer’s latest nightmare.

In addition to owning and operating the store, the Wilkinsons handled some bookings over the years. They brought Stan Kenton’s band to the city and got Cream into Veterans Memorial Auditorium in 1968 in addition to booking Vanilla Fudge, Herb Alpert’s Baja Marimba Band and many others.

An East High School classmate of one of Iowa’s most well known female singers, Marilyn Maye, George had a great love for music and enthusiastic respect for musicians.

Over the years, he had seen everything from big band jazz to bebop to disco to rock and roll and then some. He vehemently disagreed with those who regarded rock musicians as “hippie no-goods.” “A whole bunch of rock ‘n roll groups from the Beatles on down had class,” George said. He quickly pointed out the some of them have written music that symphony orchestras are playing today.

Mary and George Wilkinson retired in 1985 and moved to Tuscon, Arizona where they later passed away. Des Moines Music House, although no longer in business, will always be remembered as the place were nice, friendly people were not afraid to lose a little sleep to rescue a musician or musical event from becoming a disaster for both the performer and the audience.


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