Bob Shallit

Tower Records documentary hits high note with founder Russ Solomon

Russ Solomon, seen in January 1997, was the founder of Tower Records Inc.
Russ Solomon, seen in January 1997, was the founder of Tower Records Inc. Sacramento Bee file

It’s no easy task telling the story of Sacramento’s Tower Records – a wild seven-decade ride from startup to $1 billion company and then to bankruptcy. But the chain’s founder, music industry legend Russ Solomon, thinks the producers of “All Things Must Pass” got it exactly right.

“It’s a tour de force, to say the least,” Solomon says of the 94-minute documentary that debuted last month at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, and has its first Sacramento screenings later this month.

The film captures the creativity and enthusiasm of Tower employees, along with the “craziness” of the record business, says the man who started off in the 1940s selling used 78s in his father’s pharmacy on Broadway, then went on to build a global music industry powerhouse.

“With Tower, we got onto a wave in the 1960s and rode it until it came ashore,” says Solomon, who is now 89 and sharp as ever. “And we had a lot of fun doing it.”

The film uses interviews with Solomon, former employees and various celebrities – among them, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen – to tell Tower’s story.

Solomon enjoyed participating in the documentary, which was directed by actor and Sacramento native Colin Hanks. Maybe the best part for Solomon was traveling in August to shoot some scenes in Japan, where 88 Tower stores still function under the ownership of mobile-phone operator NTT DoCoMo Inc.

At one stop, the nine-story Tower building in the bustling Shibuya district of Tokyo, about 200 employees came out to greet the man who started it all. “It was a kick,” Solomon said.

“All Things Must Pass” will have its Sacramento debut April 25, launching the Sacramento International Film Festival at, appropriately, the Tower Theater. That first showing is sold out, but festival director Martin Anaya hopes to line up other screenings that weekend.

Seller’s market

Don’t be surprised if the last homes at West Sac’s Park Moderns community sell out immediately when they come on the market next month.

That’s the way it’s been at Fulcrum Property’s stylish, European-style development since its inception.

Indeed, the first 12 homes sold – at prices that started at $365,000 and quickly climbed – before construction had even begun.

After that, Fulcrum execs put a stop to any more presales, figuring prices would escalate even more if actual, completed homes were being offered.

They were right. Last September, five finished houses – at the project’s standard 1,450 square feet – were unveiled, starting at $420,000. All sold the first weekend for the asking price or above.

Eight more homes came on the market in November for $450,000. Same story: instant sales.

The appeal? These are striking three-story homes, built row-house style with a variety of different exterior finishes – brick, tile, steel, stucco and cedar planks – in what will be a walkable neighborhood a block from the Sacramento River.

“Right when you arrive, it’s apparent there’s nothing like it in Sacramento or even San Francisco,” said Mollie Nelson, the Park Moderns sales manager who was the first person to buy a home there. “I get a lot of ‘Oh my goshes, this is just what I’ve been looking for. I saw something like this in Prague or Amsterdam.’”

The project’s final seven homes will be available in May at prices ranging from the high $400,000s for standard-sized homes to the high $700,000s for larger, 2,000-square-foot models.

Money talk

Financial planners Scott Hanson and Pat McClain are taking their popular radio call-in show on the road. Figuratively, at least.

After nearly 20 years of having their weekly talk show air only in Sacramento, the two owners of Hanson McClain Advisors have inked a syndication deal that will add the show to KGO (810 AM) in San Francisco starting May 2.

The two will continue to do their “Money Matters” show live during their longtime 10 a.m. Saturday slot on Sacramento’s KFBK (1530 AM). A taped version will run the same day at 4 p.m. on KGO.

The timing is fortuitous. The partners have been planning an expansion of their financial advisory business into the Bay Area. Having a presence there on radio will bring an instant profile to the new satellite office, which will probably be in Concord or Walnut Creek.

Hanson said he and McClain have grown comfortable dispensing advice over the radio on investing, retirement and risk management. But it wasn’t always so.

Hanson recalls one of the first calls the duo received during their show’s debut in 1995.

“The caller said he’d never been on the radio before and was nervous,” Hanson said. “I remember thinking, ‘Buddy, if you’re nervous, imagine what it’s like to be behind the microphone.’ I was literally shaking.”

Call The Bee’s Bob Shallit, (916) 321-1017.

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