House music thumps on a record player. The lights are low. There are records everywhere. They are pasted to the ceiling. They line shelves by the thousands. They are piled on the staircase. They decorate hats and T-shirt available for sale.

Larry Jeter sits on a stool behind the counter greeting by first name most of the customers who saunter into “the record store on the corner.” Since opening Dimensions in Music, what may be Baltimore’s only Black-owned record store in 1992, Jeter has amassed a collection of well over 100,000 vinyl 45s and LPs and a loyal list of customers.

“God, Jesus, and a good customer base” are the keys to his shop’s success, he said.

Born and raised in West Baltimore, Jeter said he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything other than music. He was born into it. His father was a jazz musician who often loaned the family couch to celebrity musicians who could play to integrated audiences, but were barred from staying in then-segregated local hotels.

Jeter studied music at the Peabody Conservatory and started his own career as a musician, but his dream was always to own his own record store. In 1972, straight out of high school, he landed a job in the record department of E.J. Korvette’s Westside store. One year later, he moved to Music Liberated, then located on Saratoga Street. He worked there for a decade before being hand-picked to manage the now-defunct downtown Douglas’ record store.

“You really had to know your stuff,” said Jeter. “We were selling 1,000 records a day.”

When Douglas’ closed in 1990, Jeter knew it was time to strike out on his own.

“I was laying in the bed one morning thinking about a Lonnie Liston Smith song called ‘Expansions,’ and I said, ‘I always wanted to do a store that had a lot of different things going on,’” Jeter recalled. “I wanted dimensions. So I said, ‘Why not call it Dimensions in Music?’”

Dimensions in Music, or DM as it is known to loyal customers, located on Park Avenue, features untold numbers of musical genres. The catalog categories range from underground to mainstream hip hop, jazz to spoken word and soul to classical. The collection also includes R&B, reggae, rock and doo-wop.

What’s not inside the store is probably contained in a shed built next to Jeter’s home specifically for overflow. And what’s not there can be ordered.

Jeter’s wife, Donna Gaither, remembers the doubt some acquaintances voiced when they opened their original location on Charles Street, where the Tremont Grand Hotel now stands.

“People said ‘Businesses like this, small Black-owned businesses, never last five years,’” Gaither recalled. “I guess we broke the mold. Who would have thought we would last 20 years, given the record industry and the survival rate of small Black independent businesses?”

In the old store, Jeter held live jazz sessions that were televised on the local cable channel, bringing in celebrity artists and also providing a venue for some local musicians. Jeter is contemplating bringing back the jazz series and though he doesn’t encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to follow him into the unpredictable business, he said he expects to own the shop for years to come.

“Larry Jeter has been a huge supporter for up and coming talent from a city that historically produces great musicians and artists,” said Marc Evans, 41, a Baltimore singer and songwriter who said he sometimes caught the jazz show during his undergrad years at Morgan State University. “I remember buying Maysa’s first solo album…and collectable vinyl from various house and soul artists.”

Baltimore musician, singer, and songwriter Adrian Blu recalled stumbling into the shop 20 years ago.

“I had been hearing a lot about the store,” he said. “That day I purchased two records—El Debarge’s ‘Somebody Loves You’ and Dianne Reeves ‘Better Days.’”

Blu said he’s still a fan. “DM carries a vibration and an energy that preserves what music and the arts have always been about—community and diversity,” he said.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer