Riff On This: Former bassist, music store owner talks heyday of live music in Florida

Jim Ownby owned Coastal Discount Music Store in Daytona Beach from 1974 to 1981

ORLANDO, Fla. – Back on Dec. 26, 1963, the Beatles had their first U.S. release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and it skyrocketed to No. 1 on U.S. charts just 5 weeks later.

“I like, so many people, were inspired by the Beatles” said Jim Ownby who at the time was a teen with a passion for music. “I heard that song and started growing my hair.”

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It even got him into a little trouble.

“My physical education coach made me wear a ponytail in the front of my head because my hair was too long”, Ownby said. “It didn’t bother me. In fact, I think it bothered him more than it bothered me.”

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Ownby started his first band at 14 years old with some friends in Ft. Pierce with Ownby playing bass and singing. The band eventually got their first gig at a teen night at a club. It was their first time performing on a stage in front of an audience.

At the age of 15, the band found themselves on the road headed to Coconut Grove for an even bigger opportunity. The Hunn’s were going to open for John Sebastian’s band, before he founded Lovin’ Spoonful, in front of 2,000 people.

“I got a dose of the ‘real scared.’ You think it’s nothing until you go all out there and see all those people,” Ownby said.

It wasn’t performing with his band that made him nervous, though.

“My knees were wobbly and I thought I was going to fall introducing John Sebastian’s band to the crowd,” Ownby said with a chuckle.

Bass guitarist Jim Ownby in the 70s (wkmg)

From there Ownby went on to play in a few road bands — moving around from Daytona Beach to Orlando, playing Rock and Roll and Blues hits. It was then he found a new calling.

“My goal was to be a rock star, but that didn’t pan out”, Ownby said. “The reason I considered opening a music store was because I knew so many musicians in the local area that had to go to Orlando to buy anything at all almost, there were just no music stores locally.”

In 1974, Ownby opened Coastal Discount Music Store on the south end of Beach Street in Daytona Beach. He and his wife at the time ran the store during the day and Ownby would still play in bands at night. The store was the spot to go to for some guitar work and equipment rentals.

Jim Ownby opened Coastal Discount Music in 1974 in Daytona Beach, Fl. (wkmg)

Spring Break was a big time in Daytona Beach in the 70s and early 80s. Every bar on Main Street had live bands performing and if they needed something Coastal Discount Music was there to provide it.

“Daytona Beach was a nucleus for music in the 70s and bands from all over the country would come to perform and would often come through the store since it was one of the only ones in the area,” Ownby said.

Local newspaper article written about Coastal Discount Music and it's owner Jim Ownby aka Jimmy Ownby in the late 70s. (wkmg)

Meeting groups like Lynard Skynard, Molly Hatchet and the Allman Brothers when they would come in for little stuff here and there. Ownby even became friends with Neil Giraldo, an amazing guitarist who later married Pat Benatar.

One of Ownby’s fondest memories of playing music was the night Niel Geraldo and drummer Jeff Servera took him to go play bass in a jam session.

“We played for 45 minutes and Neil blew them away,” Ownby said. “Talk about feeding off the audience. People heard him from the beach and came off the beach to hear him play and he just took the house down. It was truly the highlight of my musical career.”

Coastal Discount Music moved to the west end of Main Street in Daytona Beach and thrived until 1981 when the disco era took a lot of live music out of clubs and bars and replaced it with vinyl.

Deejay groups were being booked more than bands and that’s when the necessity of Ownby’s music store became less relevant.

“I was really sad to see that change happen. Not just for my business, but the feeling you had walking down Main Street Daytona Beach just changed,” Ownby said. “The way someone feels when they hear live music and the interaction you get from the band and audience isn’t something you get as much when listening to recorded music. It’s good, but there’s nothing like the feeling live music gives you.”

About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.