Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Celebrating 50 Years of Music at Local Record Store Hot Poop

Photo by Chloe Collins

Hot Poop, Washington’s oldest independent record store, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The store originally opened in San Diego in 1972 and moved to Walla Walla in the fall of 1973. In the time since, it has served as a vibrant location for Walla Walla locals and visitors alike, attracting customers with its eclectic atmosphere.  

When walking in, customers are greeted with vinyl records and CDs from a wide variety of artists, Hot Poop merchandise, magazines and instruments. More indiscriminate items and trinkets decorate Hot Poop revealing the wide range of products and memorabilia one can discover. 

Jim McGuinn, owner and founder of Hot Poop, discussed his inspiration for opening the store 50 years ago. 

“I had a natural aversion to real work,” McGuinn said. “I wanted to do something fun. And music was my hobby … I thought that would be a perfect job, right? You know, talking about what you like, and, ‘Hey, look what just came out’?” 

The unconventional name Hot Poop presents an intriguing history behind the moniker that McGuinn discussed in more detail.

“Well, I tell people it’s a pun … I tell them two stories. If your mom came in and said, ‘Why do you call it hot poop?’ I go, ‘Oh, it’s my mother’s maiden name. She was French.’ And then they get embarrassed. It’s not pronounced, no, it’s Poopé. Poopé. And then they get real embarrassed,” McGuinn said. “I also say, I tell them it’s a pun on pop music. Pop turns to poop.”

In its 50-year history, Hot Poop has had the opportunity to host musicians and local bands from various backgrounds and genres. From those many performances, there have been a few standouts that highlight that the store can be universally appreciated.

McGuinn recounts a unique event where a group of Amish adolescents performed at the store during their rumspringa, a period when young Amish individuals temporarily leave their community to experience life outside before deciding to commit to their faith, playing original music and attracting an audience of curious individuals. 

“When they were playing here, though, they brought in bales of hay, and then they brought in butter churners. And there was a couple of girlfriends, with them, and they did the churning of the butter. And then they also had, they had dolls with no faces. And so they brought all that in here,” McGuinn said. “And then they performed and a lot of people were kind of nervous to bring their teenage kid into my store to hear an Amish band. So moms came with them. And some of the lyrics, they didn’t know what they were talking about. But I cringed at times. But they were a nice band. I just never have had a band that was on sabbatical from religion for a year.”

Local musician and Walla Walla resident Glenn Morrison has performed at Hot Poop multiple times. Morrison described his relationship with McGuinn and his support for local Walla Walla musical performers.

“Jim and I go way back to his early days in Walla Walla. I was a co-founder of the RyeGrass String Band (1976-present) and we did many promotions over the years with Jim. We played on the Walla Walla Homegrown vinyl record Jim pressed up years ago and have played at many of his Record Store Days concerts in one form or another. Jim has been a mentor and friend to many of the young talented musicians that started out in the area, (including my two sons),” said Morrison in an email to The Wire.

With the advent of streaming services and digital music, record stores have had to navigate their place in a new musical landscape. Although vinyl records have increased in popularity in the past few years, sales are still far from what they once were. McGuinn discussed his attitude toward streaming and its effects on the store. 

“I think streaming is good enough for most people. It’s kind of like AM radio,” McGuinn said. “[But] it’s gonna sound better on vinyl or CD … And I can’t say everybody needs to buy a $300 turntable and, you know, $18 CDs. So I’m not against streaming. It’s kind of like saying I’m not against McDonald’s, but your mom’s cooking is better and more nutritious and more satisfying.”

Morrison discussed how McGuinn was able to maintain and cultivate committed customers in light of changing customer attitudes toward record stores and larger corporations.

“How did he survive against the big discount stores and malls? He built a deep rapport with kids, teens, adults and seniors, many who consider a hometown return visit only complete after they’ve dropped by to check in with the ‘Principal Poop,’” Morrison said.

In an email to The Wire, KWCW Promotions and Community Director Lucky Eden discussed the role that independent music stores like Hot Poop play in the current musical landscape.

“I think they’re hugely important. For our generation, records have become more of a collector’s item or a representation of how much you care about and want to support a band. Indie stores are the best places to find good records and cool people,” said Eden.

In its 50th year, Hot Poop stands as a testament to the value physical music and record stores provide even with an ever-evolving musical landscape. It is a haven for music lovers and supports local and aspiring artists, fostering a community in and outside the store. 

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