A Day in the Life: A Beatle comes to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

It’s not every day that a bona fide music icon comes to visit your shop, but for one Bay Ridge store owner, it was the surprise of a lifetime.

Even though it was a year ago, it seems like only “Yesterday” that Rocky Schiano, owner of Street Sounds at 9206 Third Avenue, received a phone call regarding an amplifier he had recently sold.

Schiano is the world’s largest distributor of Gretsch guitars and his shop is a showcase of various models of the historic Gretsch guitar brand.

“I remember it was a freezing cold day and the temperature was about nine degrees,” Schiano said.  “I just went to work thinking it was going to be a regular day. I received a phone call at 9 a.m. from a woman asking about an amplifier she had purchased for her husband. She said it was the wrong amplifier and she wanted to return it.”

Schiano asked her when she bought it and how much she spent but she couldn’t remember all the details. He wanted to help her but said he needed more information. She told him she would have her secretary email him the receipt. But before she hung up she said, “By the way, I’m Paul McCartney’s wife.”

At first Schiano thought that he was being pranked. Especially since he has been a Beatles, Wings and Paul McCartney fan his entire life.

“Of course, I’ve been behind the counter for over 30 years in Brooklyn and I’ve heard some crazy stories and I figured that this was some kind of lulu situation so I said to her, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it,’ not thinking anything of it,” Schiano told this paper.

But within five minutes he received a detailed email from the secretary and realized that clearly this was not just anybody. The receipt had Nancy Shevell’s name on it. Shevell is McCartney’s wife.

“So I called her back and told her we’d take care of it all for her,” Schiano recounted. “I asked her some questions about what Paul wanted to use the amplifier for and she said he wanted something small, not for touring, just for their Manhattan apartment.”

About 10 minutes into the conversation, Schiano heard another voice say, “Rocky, this is Paul.” McCartney and Schiano had a brief, light-hearted conversation.

“I tried to break the tension because I was a little nervous talking to Paul,” Schiano recalled. “I made a comment about the cold weather and he said, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad. I’m used to the Liverpool weather.’ I asked him what he was looking for and we narrowed it down to two amplifiers and ultimately the one he wanted.”

Shevell told Schiano that they were going to send a car and switch amplifiers.

Within two hours, a black SUV pulled up in front of his shop. Schiano had the new amp ready and figured the driver was going to make the switch.

“But to my surprise I saw the driver get out and someone in the passenger seat wearing a big fluffy jacket and a hat get out as well,” Schiano said. “I figured this must be the helper and then I saw another door open and that was Nancy. I thought, how exciting that Nancy would personally come with the driver and the helper to pick up the amp. So the guy opens the trunk, grabs this big amplifier and carries it through the snow and ice up to my front door. The guy comes in backwards trying to squeeze through the door and to my shock, it’s Paul McCartney carrying the big amp.”

McCartney asked Schiano where he wanted the amp and Schiano told him just to put it down. “He looked at me and said, ‘Hi Ricky.’ I thought for second, should I correct him or just let him call me Ricky? I said, ‘Hey Paul, it’s Rocky and get that straight.’ It broke the ice and he just burst out laughing.”

McCartney spent the afternoon trying out different amps and playing some of the many guitars Schiano had hanging on the walls of his shop.

McCartney eventually selected the amplifier he wanted. He told Schiano that he liked his shop and that he would be back.

When Schiano’s young assistant commented about how expensive guitars are nowadays, McCartney responded, “It’s not the money you spend on the instrument, it’s the musician that makes the sound.”

McCartney recalled how before he became successful, all he could afford was a low-end Hofner guitar. “He said he only had 30 bits but that’s all he could afford,” Schiano said. “And then he added, “And you know what, I’m still playing that Hofner today.”

Before leaving, Schiano recalled McCartney walking around the store and telling him, “It’s a lovely shop you have, Rocky. It must be a pleasure to come to work here every day.”

Schiano asked McCartney if he was currently touring, to which he replied, “I’m not presently touring but I need to play every day.”

The day after the visit, Schiano received an email from McCartney thanking him for letting him visit his shop along with an attached photo of McCartney playing guitar with the new amplifier. It hangs proudly in a glass case in Street Sounds, daily reminding Schiano of a day he will never forget.

Along with the picture was a request from McCartney that Schiano work on one of his guitars. Schiano gladly did and said it was one of the highlights of his career.

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