Iconic downtown Griffith business to close
By Michelle L. QUinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 14, 2012 11:24PM
Dan Smith of Dyer who has worked at Dynamite Music since he was 18 plays guitar in the shop Friday afternoon in downtown Griffith. Dynamite Music, a long time fixture of Griffith will be closing it's doors. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:32AM
GRIFFITH — Within days of announcing on his Facebook page that he’ll be closing iconic shop Dynamite Music, Jerry Clemons Jr. amassed more than 200 comments.
All wished Clemons well, but many also mourned the loss of their home, the place where they grew into skilled musicians and made lifelong friendships. While business continues indefinitely at the downtown guitar shop, the awareness that it will be closing hangs heavy among the regulars.
“(Ten) years ago I walked into Dynamite for the first time, and something set it apart,” wrote Dan “Luke Skyrocker” Smith, of Crown Point. “It wasn’t just a store, but a family. I feel blessed that I was accepted into this family and I’m having a hard time accepting that it will be gone.
“Without you guys I wouldn’t be the person/musician I am today.”
Clemons, of Crown Point, said he has threatened to close Dynamite — a store he opened with his dad, Jerry Clemons Sr., in March 1994 — for years. But his kids, twins Jessie and Jerry III, attending college at Texas State University-San Marcos seemed to solidify the idea for him.
“I need to step it up a notch,” said Clemons who, when not presiding over the eclectic shop at the corner of Broad and Main Streets, is the front man for popular band Nick Danger as well as a session musician for seemingly just about every band in Northwest Indiana. “And with the kids grown and gone, it just seems like the time I need to do something different. What that is, I don’t know yet, but it’s time.”
Clemons opened the store with his dad because the elder Clemons, a popular musician in his day who’d answer the phone with “You dialed that number right, because you’re talking to Mr. Dynamite,” really just wanted a place to jam with his friends. In the shop’s early days, Clemons Sr. would be giving lessons to students or noodling around on his guitar while his namesake would handle the business end of things.
“If he made a sale, he’d point at me and say, ‘He’ll take care of you,’ ” Clemons said. “He was always just playing.”
In between the playing around, however, was teaching, a tradition Clemons upholds to this day as youths and adults come come from all over to receive lessons from Clemons and his instructors, who’ve included at one time or another, Jeff Massey of The Steepwater Band; Chris Grove, who’s played keyboards with Survivor and now plays with Eddie Money; Eric Lambert; Zeke Rongers; Danny Giorgi; and his son, Jerry III. And the people who’ve taken lessons through Dynamite are just as impressive, counting among them Lake Central High School grad Lindsay Jurek and Highland High School grad Joe Baranowski, who each have toured all over the country, Clemons said.
Clemons’ presence in the town hasn’t diminished at all, said Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, R-3rd; he’s instrumental in the town’s Park Full of Music program that features different bands each Wednesday evening in Central Park, a skill friend that fellow musician Dave Doehring agrees is right up Clemons’ alley since he’s the master of pulling together a band at a moment’s notice.
Still, losing a long-time business is disappointing at best.
“Jerry Clemons and Dynamite Music have been a staple in Griffith for years and will be missed,” Ryfa said. “The good thing is that Jerry is not going away; he is just moving on to a different part of his life. We all wish him very well.”
Local musician Angelo Cicco bought the guitar he plays at just about every gig from Dynamite and has taught guitar at the shop. As the place to get great instruments at reasonable prices, the store and Clemons will be missed. But like everyone else, Dynamite’s closing means so much more to Cicco.
“I learned many things about playing music and being a musician (at Dynamite),” Cicco said. “Jerry helped create great times and greater memories for not just me, but countless musicians from all over.”