After eight years of trading in Essex, Honky-Tonk seems to have established itself as the sort of competent all-round music store which supports the huge 'silent majority' of amateur and semi-professional musicians in the UK. Founder Pete Brewer entered the business after abandoning his ambitions as a professional drummer, and started to cater for the semi-pro market by stocking large amounts of second-hand equipment.
Ludwig drums were one early line which, like many other imports, have become more expensive recently. Tama, Pearl and other Japanese makes are now heavily stocked instead, along with a large amount of Roland equipment of all kinds. Honky-Tonk were one of the first Roland dealers, starting with the preset synthesisers and rhythm boxes around 1975 and expanding the range while other local music shops were contracting and closing down. Fender guitars and amps were heavily featured in the early days, but now there's a much wider choice in both areas.
Recently Honky-Tonk have gone into manufacturing with the electronic Klone Kit, now halfway through an initial production run of 120. Modifications are constantly being made - such as the use of two or three pickups in each pad to give more even response - and a radically different followup is planned. The basic model has been very successful however, with mail orders coming from as far afield as Norway.
As a drummer, Pete Brewer appreciates the necessity for a good range of spares, and so over 1,000 heads are kept in stock, together with stands, accessories, and an increasing number of the Latin American percussion instruments which seem to be coming into fashion. Drums are kept in a separate department upstairs and any kit can be set up for demonstration as required.
Larger PA equipment isn't stocked in great quantities at present, since the trend seems to be for a band to own a small PA for rehearsal and hire a larger setup for performance. Carlsbro, HH, Traynor and Bose are represented in the PA room, together with the original British designs of McGregor. Their MOSFET amps, spotted by Honky-Tonk at Frankfurt, include a model specially intended for duos or soloists using tape or electronic accompaniment. There's also a 100W wedge monitor with 5-band EQ for a very reasonable £256.
Downstairs the shop is divided into keyboard, home recording, guitar and amp sections. The semi-professional market goes mainly for the Juno 6 and 60, SH-101 and the very inexpensive Jen SX 1000, an excellent beginner's synth at £159. However, professional keyboards such as the Memorymoog and Korg Trident 2 are in stock, together with secondhand goodies such as Yamaha CS60, Clavinets and so on. New products are well represented; the Korg Poly 61 is gaining a good degree of acceptance nowadays, and the Yamaha CE20 is there for fans of the FM synthesis sound. Casios, Korg pianos and a wide variety of string synths are also available.
The home recording section occasionally looks bare because even the demo models have had to be sold! The huge demand for TEAC Portastudios, Cutec mixers and rack-mounting effects, TC Electronic signal processors and even more for exotic items like the Roland Dimension D keeps the staff on their toes. Luckily the compact nature of rack-mounting equipment keeps the shop reasonably tidy and business-like.
Guitars stocked include about 30 Tokai models, Hondo, a wide selection of less expensive copies and a good cross-section of professional instruments. Some tasty Gibsons are to be seen on the secondhand rack, and Aria's new models are likely to be seen in the near future. Westone guitars and basses are still selling in very large numbers, and all the models including the eye-catching Paduak are represented.
A wide range of effects pedals both new and secondhand, and a good choice of accessories are on sale. Occasional special offers, such as one on the Roland GR100 guitar synthesiser and its associated guitar controller, help to keep sales patterns varied and imaginative. One hope is that the move towards a more dynamic and visual style of drumming - with the Simmons kit, transparent polyester designs and the Klone - will rub off on keyboard players, who will take to the guitar-like possibilities of the SH-101 and CS-01.
Honky-Tonk don't deal in quantity with acoustic guitars or brass instruments because they recognise a lack of expertise in that area. Determined to be good at what they do however, they employ their own technical staff and are able to give guarantees on secondhand equipment. Engineer Dick Straker was one of the first employees to be taken on when the shop opened, a good sign of the degree of technical backup provided.
Honky-Tonk is all about giving an allround service, and with equal attention to guitars, acoustic and electronic percussion, amplification and keyboards, this is what they've succeeded in doing. They are a happy example of a venture which has succeeded by avoiding over-specialisation.
Honky-Tonk Music, (Contact Details).