The Music Men: Fourth-generation owner retiring with many memories

The Music Men: Fourth-generation owner retiring with many memories

CHAMPAIGN — C.V. Lloyde is a little worried about retirement.

"This business is all I've ever done," said the fourth-generation music store owner. "I have no hobbies. I'm a little concerned, a little afraid. I plan to move where it's warm all the time and play golf."

Lloyde, 71, has worked in the music store business since he was 12 years old. But he plans to retire June 30, a month after the business closes its retail music store in downtown Champaign and moves to Urbana to concentrate on audio and video system installations.

"I'm looking at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and both coasts of Florida" as possible places to retire, he said.

C.V. Lloyde's great-grandfather, D.H. Lloyde, established the business in 1867 as a co-founder of the Lloyde and Peterson music and books store at 7 Main St. in downtown Champaign. D.H. Lloyde later bought out his partner.

C.V.'s grandfather, Clifford L. Lloyde, continued the tradition in the 100 block of North Neil Street — across from today's Champaign City Building. After his death, his widow, Lillian, sold the book side of the business to Frank Garland.

Garland operated the book business downstairs, while Lillian's son, Clifford V. Lloyde, operated the music business upstairs.

C.V. Lloyde — Clifford's son — said his earliest memory of the business was when it operated at 313 N. Neil St., C — about where the breezeway of today's M2 on Neil building is located.

"Dad's church (a forerunner of the Stratford Park Bible Chapel) was on the second floor of the building," Lloyde recalled. "We had air conditioning in the store, but not at home. So on Sunday afternoon, Dad and I would come down to the store and take a nap on the floor in the cool."

Clifford V. Lloyde was a trumpeter, but could play the piano well enough to demonstrate the instrument to customers.

"Dad worked a great deal. I heard him interact with customers so often (that) I was immune to his charm," C.V. said. "But many people came to me and said what a great guy he was. He was 100 percent committed to the business."

C.V. said in that respect, he is very much like his dad.

He said it was always expected he would carry on the family tradition in the music business. For the most part, that sat well with him.

"I remember only one time when that was a disappointment," he said. "I wanted to go out for cross-country. But Dad reminded me I had duties after school here. Otherwise, (being in the music business) was the most natural thing for me."

C.V.'s first job at the store was accordion repair. When he was 12 years old, his father took him to Chicago, where he spent a day with a repairman for the accordion supplier. C.V. continued to service the instruments "until we didn't sell accordions any more."

As a teenager, he got into piano hauling, sometimes with a friend.

"There was one time I had to deliver a piano on Christmas Eve by myself to a mobile home. There were no steps up to the door, but I tricked it into going in the trailer," he said.

When C.V. was in his midteens, the business moved a few spaces north to 321 N. Neil St. — the southwest corner of Hill and Neil streets.

He started the store's guitar department, just as rock 'n' roll was gaining traction.

"A good guitar like Gibson sold for as much money as an accordion. So we carried one less accordion for every guitar I wanted to buy," Lloyde said. "Elvis, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino all helped me a great deal."

The business then moved into electric guitars and soon after into amplifiers — whatever local performers needed.

"I liked selling things. It wasn't hard to do with the people I was dealing with. It was not a broad cross-section of the population, but musicians — people who loved music," he said. "That made it pleasant for me."

The store moved to its current location — 102 S. Neil St., C — at the southeast corner of Neil and University Avenue in 1964.

By that time, it was beginning to concentrate on pianos, organs, drums, guitars and sheet music.

By the 1960s, local bands were eager to get "anything that had an amplifier and a speaker with it," and Lloyde soon learned what systems worked and what didn't. He came to understand what really good systems were.

By the early 1970s, C.V. Lloyde was providing sound systems for touring bands. Initially, promoters for the bands made arrangements for the systems, but eventually bands came to recognize who the best sound crews were.

Usually, C.V. Lloyde provided crews for regional tours, but in the mid-1980s, the rock group Boston hired Lloyde's crew for its national tour. Sammy Hagar was a support act for Boston, and Lloyde's crew eventually went on tour for him too.

By the late 1980s, demand for sound systems was coming from a new quarter — houses of worship. So C.V. Lloyde began turning more attention to audio installations for schools and churches.

When Market Place Shopping Center opened in the mid-1970s, Lloyde Music had a piano and organ store there, too. After a decade, rent at the mall tripled, and the Market Place store moved to a stand-alone location outside the mall.

But Lloyde said the amount of advertising needed to make up for the loss of walk-in traffic at the mall would have exceeded the rent increase. The store on the outskirts of the mall soon closed.

Surviving in the music business all those years was more "a matter of endurance" than adaptation, Lloyde said.

"At times, there were way too many music stores, and the pie was cut too thin," he said. Plus, there were economic downturns to overcome.

Lloyde said there was little thought of the music business passing to a fifth generation of Lloydes. He has two daughters — Amanda and Heather, both in their 40s, and living in Florida and Texas, respectively.

In retrospect, Lloyde said it was easy for him to devote 60 hours a week to work.

"I was doing something I enjoyed so much," he said. "I can't think of anything I didn't like about the business."

C.V.'S curriculum vitae

What's the C.V. stand for?

Clifford Villard Lloyde — the same name as his father. But while his father went by Clifford V. Lloyde, the son was called "C.V." by his parents from a very early age.

What kind of music does he like?

C.V. said he acquired a taste for classical music, but he likes rock 'n' roll too. His biggest interest in music is finding good songs with which he can demonstrate sound systems.

How many locations has the Lloyde music business had downtown?

C.V.'s great-grandfather's original store was at 7 Main St., C. His grandfather had a store in the 100 block of North Neil Street, and his father had stores at 313 N. Neil St. and 321-323 N. Neil St. before moving the business to its current location at 102 S. Neil St., C, in 1964.

C.V.'s first job at the store was repairing accordions. How popular were those in the 1950s?

Hard to imagine, but in 1956, a spring accordion recital by students of the Clifford V. Lloyde Teaching Studios featured more than 100 students. In addition to dozens of soloists, there were eight accordion bands, and even a white-robed "accordion choir" that included a young C.V. Lloyde.

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