For more than five decades, Village Music was one of Mill Valley’s signature institutions, and the legend of John Goddard’s record shop is deeply ingrained in the community of longtime local residents and Bay Area musicians.
But in the months before Goddard closed the store in September 2007, two of its longtime patrons seized the moment to spread that legend beyond the diehards. Gillian and Monroe Grisman, the children of mandolinist David Grisman and entertainment industry vets in their own right, jumped at the chance to make a documentary about Goddard and Village Music.
They did just that, creating the film Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores, which features appearances by Elvis Costello, DJ Shadow, B.B. King, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia, John Sebastian and Maria Muldaur. Now the Grismans are reaching out to the community to take this four-year project across the finish line. They’ve launched an online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter to raise at least $50,000 and complete the film.
“This was about a musical institution and the passing of an era, especially with the Sweetwater closing that same week,” Gillian Grisman said. “And personally, we were losing a major part of my musical identity that I grew up in. That story had to be told.”
The siblings were thrust into the store’s frenetic closing weeks, which saw a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s worth of renowned musicians make their final pilgrimage to Village Music to dig through the crates one final time and, in many cases perform at the store.
The Grismans were there for all of it, from Elvis Costello’s set to DJ Shadow’s month-long residency of spinning records there every day. There were also tribute concerts at the Great American Music Hall and .
“We were there with him until the bitter end,” said Gillian Grisman, whose past film projects include Grateful Dawg, about the musical friendship between the late Jerry Garcia and her father, as well as Press On, featuring pedal-steel phenomenon Robert Randolph, among others.
The Grismans also recorded interviews with those guests to chronicle their feelings about Village Music and Goddard, who bought the shop in 1968 after working there as a teenager. They nabbed a bevy of tributes, including:
- “John Goddard is like the gatekeeper of everything that produced what was best about America in the last 50 years.” –Tam Valley resident Peter Coyote
- “My music has been more influenced by music from John’s store than any other thing.” –Mill Valley resident Sammy Hagar
- “You get the feeling that you’re walking around in somebody’s life work. It united a community globally. There’s always people from all around the world combing the stacks (of records).” –Bonnie Raitt
Because the Grismans found out about Village's closing late – Gillian had been living in New York City at the time – they had no chance to prepare for the film both financially and creatively. As a result, it was largely self-funded.
“We scraped it together shoot by shoot,” Gillian Grisman said. “But now we’ve taken it as far as we can with our own money.”
The money they hope to raise through Kickstarter is slated to pay for editing and licensing an assortment of archival footage that Grisman said is essential to the film. Many of the interviews features musicians talking about obscure artists like Memphis Minnie or Sugar Pie DeSanto or old records they found at Village Music that inspired them.
“You need to see those people, see those performances and hear the specific music that John turned them onto that changed the way they wrote music,” she said.
The Grismans plan to canvas downtown Mill Valley to get the word out about the fundraising campaign and have set a Jan. 1, 2012 deadline to raise at least $50,000.
Grisman said she’s excited to finish, though the project has already had its rewards. After her unexpected move back to Marin in 2007, she reconnected with her former high school sweetheart Justin Barton. The pair “fell in love on the spot for the second time and got married eight months later and now we have two sons,” she said.
“This film was really life changing and it’s already been a rewarding journey,” Grisman continued. “I became a wife and a mom and I am surrounded by my family and old friends. But now we’ve got to finish this film.”
The 411: For more information about Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores and the campaign to raise enough money to finish it, go to its page on Kickstarter.