A benefit is planned for the family of a Bel Air record store owner and Dagger music columnist missing since last week, with the local music community rallying in his memory.
A two-day musical benefit to support the family of Scott R. Hammer, 57, of Havre de Grace is set for Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 at Longshots Bar & Grill on Route 7 in Abingdon, featuring more than 40 local band and artists. Details are available at the event’s official Facebook page.
Hammer was the owner of CODA Records in downtown Bel Air, the music columnist for The Dagger since last summer, and a longtime supporter of the local music scene.
Hammer was identified Monday morning by Havre de Grace police spokesman PFC Jeff Gilpin as missing from his home since the night of Jan. 2. Gilpin said Hammer’s family reported him missing at approximately 6 p.m. that night.
Separately, the Maryland State Police are investigating an abandoned car found on the roadway above the Conowingo Dam that same night. State Police are investigating the case as a possible suicide, and a release from the agency last week said the vehicle’s owner was a Havre de Grace man who, when troopers contacted his home that night, was reported missing by local police.
However, both agencies declined to specifically identify Hammer as the individual in question in both cases, citing the nature of the incident. Hammer’s family said that he died Jan. 2, but did not specify the circumstances of his death.
The benefit concert was organized by Shane McCarthy, a friend of the Hammer family and a local musician who hopes to pay tribute to his friend and help keep CODA Records open.
“The idea came about to do a benefit show,” said McCarthy. “As I brainstormed, I was bombarded with a flood of messages from all of the people that have played at either CODA, Longshots, or have just been musically connected to Scott. I didn’t say no to anyone, just like Scott didn’t say no to musical expression in general.”
CODA Records opened in the 100 block of South Main Street in Bel Air in October 2011, and quickly became a hot spot for local music. In addition to offering music on CD and vinyl, the store regularly hosted live shows and stocked materials from local bands.
McCarthy was among those who found Hammer’s literally underground store, initially looking for old movie soundtracks on vinyl to sample for his own work.
“As time went on, I was in there up to four times a week talking music; I could feel my audio palate transforming,” he said. “My main thought was that this dude knew his [stuff]. I loved to listen and share music and thoughts with Scott.”
“After a few times being late to work because he would never let me go in conversation with an ‘Okay dude, talk to you later, I gotta go, I’m late to work,’” he added. “It was always ‘Do you know this guy?’ or ‘Have you heard of this?’ I could never get out the door so I started going to CODA earlier. Not having parents, I felt like I was walking into the front door of my own house when I walked down the stairs and opened that door. Always with a smile and ‘What’s up Man!’ I was greeted. I knew Scott was something else. He was supportive of all music old and young.”
Hammer’s love of music and local creative projects led him to The Dagger, where he wrote 11 feature stories for the site in a span of six months last year, including album reviews for several Harford County artists, “A Condensed History of Black Rock,” and a sprawling, two-part “Best of 2012” review, which would become his final piece.
His complete writings for the site can be viewed here.
“I met Scott almost exactly a year ago. Our mutual interest in underground music, counterculture journalism, insider politics, and downtown Bel Air made us fast friends,” Dagger executive editor Brian Goodman said. “Within a matter of a few months, after some bargaining over how much I’d let him get away with, Scott joined The Dagger as our music columnist.”
“We are truly saddened by the loss of his unique voice, unbridled spirit, and the friendship we shared.”
When I was growing up in Forest Hill, my Dad’s den was like a library. Instead of books, his shelves were filled with CDs and records. Dozens of magazines, like Rolling Stone, Jazziz and Arthur piled up on his coffee table. I remember walking in his room to see him sitting in his chair, smoking a cigarette while listening to the Beatles and Miles Davis on his headphones. I remember late night games of chess against him while he introduced me to bands like the Clash and Ramones. Music was my Dad’s passion.
A few years ago, after many years of working behind a desk, he decided it was time for a change. He didn’t want to spend his life making a living doing something he hated. He wanted to open a record store. He was aware of the risks but the reward of working at doing something he loved was far greater. He reunited with a childhood friend named Gary and the two of them got the ball rolling. My Dad asked me if I would be interested in helping while I was in between jobs and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. Gary’s wife ran the Musicians Institute of Baltimore and had an open room to rent at their Parkville location. It was on the 2nd floor of a building that didn’t have much visibility from the road. CODA Records opened in 2010 and after about a year of struggles and discouragement, my Dad was made aware of a spot on Main St. in Bel Air that was for rent. The price seemed right and the location was perfect.
On October 1, 2011, we opened the doors to our new store in downtown Bel Air. Within the first month, my Dad began networking with local musicians and talks began about in-store performances. My Dad wasn’t doing this for personal gain though. He did it for no other reason than to give the local musicians a place to express themselves in an intimate setting among a small crowd. In November of 2011, we held our first show and we were completely blown away by the local talent. As our store grew and word got out, more and more musicians would pop into our store to ask my Dad about playing. He never turned anyone down. We went from having in-store performances once a month to having two in the same weekend trying to fit in all of the acts. People would pack in to the small store to see their friends play and to check out other local bands that they were unaware of.
In between sets, my dad would stand outside and talk with the musicians and fans about their favorite bands or sports or politics or whatever else was on anyone’s mind at the time. He gained relationships with many people through the live shows that he put together. He created a community of people that shared the same passion for music and live art.
My Dad passed away on January 2 of this year. While family members and friends of the family gathered at our house, another family was gathering at CODA Records. The same community that my Dad helped build came together in a way that completely blew my family away. They began organizing a tribute show for my father. Dozens of bands wanted to play. Enough that not only would it have to be a two day event but multiple stages would have to be set up to fit in all of the bands.
It’s amazing to see how many lives my Dad had touched. The outpour has been tremendous and truly heartwarming. My entire family is overwhelmed with the support and love. Since his passing, I’ve seen my Dad referred to as the “Music Pope of Bel Air” and CODA Records was the church. This benefit concert is not only paying tribute to my late, great father, but it also collecting proceeds to benefit the record store that was his dream come true. I feel blessed to know everyone involved and cannot thank everyone enough.
– Nick Hammer
Photograph by Alyna Rushing
Flyer by Kevin Niemann