Column 114 — Dirt Cheap’s Terrence Moore…

Category: Blog — @ 1:12 pm February 15, 2007

I intended to run a huge introduction to this column, seeing as Terrence and I talked for a couple hours last Saturday, providing me with enough quotes for a 2,500-word feature let alone a slim, 900-word column, but I’ll let the following stand alone. The part you need to pay attention to is the date of the benefit: It’s a week from this Saturday, Feb. 24 from 4 to 11 p.m. at The Loft at the Mill on 8th and P St. in Lincoln. Be there.

Column 114: Cultural Attraction
Terrence Moore’s latest challenge.
I never actually stepped foot in Lincoln’s Dirt Cheap Records. Never even knew where it was until I talked to Terrence Moore last weekend. No, I spent my time at Omaha’s Dirt Cheap, flipping through bins of used vinyl records just like thousands of others who grew up going to one of Terrence’s records stores, looking for buried treasures among the stacks of black plastic.

People like Dirk Gillespie, who back in ’75 drove to Lincoln on Saturdays to have lunch at The Palms before digging through the store’s records and books. “It was one of the only places that you could find the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” Gillespie said, referring to a book of yoga philosophy. “And the records… You never knew what you’d find. I always came out of there happy with stuff I held onto for years.”

For local music legend and serious record collector Charlie Burton, Lincoln’s Dirt Cheap was “a fishing hole, and any fishing hole, to me, is great,” he said. “They also had a head shop, too. It was an important pitstop for many musicians.”

Yoga literature? Head shop? Sounds like some sort of hippie hang-out. “It was definitely looked upon as a hippie store,” Moore said, sounding upbeat and healthy on the phone. “We had parents stick their head into the store and not come inside or let their kids come in. It was a scary time to be a parent. Music brought people together, and they overcame their shyness to hippie stuff because they wanted to hear great music that you couldn’t hear on the radio.”
Moore remembers it was around September 1970 when he and his first wife, Linda, made the trip back to Lincoln from San Jose, California. At age 21, Terrence had reached a point where he didn’t need to be in school anymore — “my draft eligibility was done.” The original plan was to homestead with another couple in Bella Coola, British Columbia, but when that fell through the next logical idea was to open a record store in Lincoln.

“You could do things back then without a lot of capital if you were willing to live a Spartan lifestyle,” Moore said. “Three months later, we opened, and it just took off. It was great fun, and the music was exciting.”

Dirt Cheap in Lincoln had everything from rare British-import 45s to underground comix, alternative health books to handmade crafts and, yes, head shop gear. “It was a lot of fun back in those early days of the utopian marijuana culture,” Moore said, “back when it was simple, before it became something different six or seven years later.”

Twelve years after opening, Moore sold Dirt Cheap in 1982. It would be renamed Twisters, and eventually move from its original location at 217 No. 11th St. to 14th & O. The Dirt Cheap name, however lived on in Omaha, when Moore opened a new location at 10th and Jackson in 1986. That incarnation focused on music collectibles, with lots of posters, vinyl and eventually CDs. You could spend hours there, flipping through the bins while Moore or one of his friendly employees spun a variety of music — jazz, rock, Celtic, you name it. That’s where I got my vinyl copy of Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks along with a few hundred other albums.

Most people know Moore from those stores, but in Lincoln he’s also known as the guy who helped start community radio station KZUM 89.3 FM, providing $2,500 in seed money generated by setting aside a quarter or 50 cents from the sale of every bootleg record. Terrence sat on the station’s first board of directors, and was a DJ in the mid-’70s. Today, KZUM boasts 105 volunteer programmers and a staff of four, one of them being Moore, who returned to organize membership events. It’s through KZUM that he has health insurance “which is of great use now.”

“Now” refers to his recent diagnosis of an inoperable intestinal cancer. To help pay for costs not covered by his insurance, Terrence’s friends organized a fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 24, from 4 to 11 p.m. at The Loft at the Mill on 8th and P St. in Lincoln that will feature performances by The Cronin Brothers, Stringtown Castanets and Charlie Burton and the Dorothy Lynch Mob.

If just a fraction of the people who used to hang out at Dirt Cheap show up, it should be a helluva crowd. Not to mention all those who looked to Moore for business advice. Moore said that when Bruce Hoberman and his partners had the idea for Homer’s, he was happy to tell them how he did it.

“One of the things I’m proud of is that if anyone came to me for advice about starting a business, I would tell them what I knew. And my biggest piece of advice was always, ‘If you want to do it, go ahead and do it. Forget all the reasons you can’t do it, and just get started.'”

It was all about will power. Now with a battery of chemo facing him, Terrence will be relying on that will power more than ever, along with the support of an army of friends. “It’s tremendously gratifying, and something I hadn’t thought about until this happened,” Moore said. “The whole support system has been quite amazing.”

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