Counter Intelligence

Criminal Records

60 minsFirst aired 21 Apr 2017
Next Counter Intelligence Tomorrow at 11:00am EDT
Maxwell Schiano

A haven for Atlanta’s diverse music scene with a cofounding role in Record Store Day, Criminal Records details 25 years of twists and turns.

When Eric Levin first opened his record shop some 25 years ago, he naively christened the newborn business Secret Service Music. But when an unexpected visit to the store by the actual Secret Service necessitated an abrupt name change, Criminal Records was born. Fortunately for music lovers of varied stripes, Criminal has stayed on the right side of the law in the years since, becoming a beloved institution within Atlanta’s melting pot Bohemian district, Little Five Points. Drop in on its expansive 7,000-square foot environs and there’s the strong likelihood of running into any number of artists and musicians from ATL’s bustling music scene, or coming upon one of the in-store performances that have become Criminal’s trademark. Fittingly, some of the most memorable of these in-stores have taken place on Record Store Day – the annual celebration of independent music retailers that Levin co-founded in 2007 that’s gone on to become a global phenomenon. Here, Eric shares some emotional recollections from Criminal’s past and present, celebrating the music of ATL mainstays like the Black Lips, Donald Glover, the Coathangers and Janelle Monae, and saluting the memory of dearly departed friends Gregory Dean Smalley and Benjamin Smoke.


Drive-By Truckers celebrate the tenacity of their deceased friend, the singer-songwriter and former Criminal Records employee Gregory Dean Smalley in this track.


Smoke frontman and former Criminal Records customer Benjamin Smoke starred in Jim Cohen and Peter Sillen’s 2000 documentary Benjamin Smoke, which premiered only months after the singer-songwriters untimely death.


Watch the late soul singer Sharon Jones give one of her legendarily exuberant performances during an in-store appearance at Criminal Records.


Interview by Jordan Rothlein
Produced by Jeff Mao & Jordan Rothlein
Audio editing by Denis Hürter

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