Editor’s Note: Jon Haber, Owner of Alto Music, sent along this reminiscence following the recent death of Sid Weitzner, who founded the original Alto Music. We present it unedited.
Sid Weitzner, who founded the original Alto Music In 1966, passed away Wednesday July 23, 2014. Sid built a small music shop into a Rockland County NY legend. It was where I bought my first full sized guitar, a Yamaha acoustic in 3rd grade, my Fender Vibrochamp in 4th grade, my first real electric guitar, a Fender Strat (they were all made in the U.S. then) in 7th grade, my Peavey Pacer in 8th grade, and on and on.
Sid was emblematic of “the greatest generation.” At just 17 years old, when today most kids are still in high school, he was flying missions over Germany during World War Two, and participating in the Bombing of Dresden. He fought for our freedoms and came back to live the American dream. He and his family had a long relationship with the Ash family (of Sam Ash fame) and they were a big help in getting Sid started. He once told me that Jerry Ash called the important manufacturers on his behalf, saying “this Sid is a good guy. Work with him” . They were right. I had just turned 16 when upon entering the original Alto store front for a classical guitar lesson, Harvey (Sid’s son and my future partner at Alto) said “Hey kid you still need a job?” Thus began my journey in the musical instrument retail industry. I am still here 33 years later. I worked alongside Sid for 6 years and what I learned from him far exceeded anything I had ever learned in school. I remember after being on the job for about 2 weeks, I was in the back of the store rearranging guitar cases (this was a daily task due to space constraints) he came to me and said, “You know my son really likes you. He’s not gay or anything—he just thinks you’re a good worker.” I just nodded. I once asked him why the store was called Alto. He said simply, “So we can be first in the phonebook.” Over the years Sid and I would discuss school, my girlfriends and various other topics. I remember showing him the famous Penthouse magazine with Vanessa Williams.
I looked at him as not just being my boss but also as my friend. He taught me how they used to get rid of cigarettes in the army. He once got mad at me for how I came dressed to work. He was pissed. I still maintain to this day I was dressed fine. I went in the back of the store and changed into all of his clothes (for some reason he always kept extra clothes back there). I looked ridiculous as he was half my size. I came out and said “better?” His anger immediately turned into a smile and the altercation was over.
I have always said that the original Alto Music in Monsey back in the 1980s would have made a great sitcom. The cast of characters that worked there were awesome. As I look back on it now, we were all family and we all loved each other (mostly 🙂 It was Sid who made it happen and he brought us all together. As I took over the business and expanded it, Sid would pop in from time to time. He always loved being shown around and he would just shake his head and smile. He couldn’t believe what the business he had started turned into. He seemed real proud. As I am writing this, thinking of Sid I am smiling as all these great memories are coming back to me.
We will miss you Sid. We all loved you.