People lined up, crowds coming in surges, as word got out: Legendary Chicago record store owner George Daniels and some celebrities were giving away turkeys.
Daniels, the longtime proprietor of George’s Music Room, a staple in North Lawndale for more than 40 years, had been off the scene for awhile after losing his 18-year lease at Midway Airport last year. Right after that, a Navy Pier lease fell through.
But here he was, launching his newest venture, George’s Beverage Depot in Washington Park, by giving away 300 turkeys.
“I spent a lot of money building out my Navy Pier space only to lose it. I didn’t know what to do after being a merchant all these years,” Daniels said.
He’s stayed in the merchant business, trading records for spirits, starting his own vodka line and opening the cozy spirits shop, where walls are covered with photos of him with music industry legends that had passed through his store — Tupac, Biggy Smalls, Jay-Z, Beyonce, TLC and on and on.
“That’s Janet [Jackson], Ice Cube. That’s B.B. King,” he said, sharing memories of each.
None other than Bushwick Bill of the rap group Geto Boys helped him hand out the turkeys from a U-Haul out front. Individuals who’d been passing by thanked him for the blessing, and churches like Rain or Shine Baptist Church, at 704 E. 43rd St., and Chicago City Life Center, at 5501 S. LaSalle St., sent their members.
“I had to support George,” said Bushwick Bill. “I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for the love this man has for music, and his support of local artists. I still remember midnight sales he’d have at George’s Music Room, to create buzz for us, and signing autographs the very first time at his store.”
The spirits biz seems to be a draw for many. Fellow Chicagoan and R&B artist Gene “The Duke of Earl” Chandler launched his own wine line last year. And retired NBA player Mark Anthony Aguirre was on hand on Tuesday to promote the champagne line of his fellow Detroit Pistons icon Isiah Thomas.
“This December, I’ll be 72, and with parents who owned 10 restaurants by the time I was five, their work ethic is in my DNA. I won’t be retiring anytime soon,” Daniels said.