Murray Gershenz, the record collector turned character actor, has died. The 91-year-old died of a heart attack Wednesday, a source close to Gershenz confirmed.
Better known as “Music Man Murray,” Gershenz spent nearly three-quarters of a century collecting the more than 300,000 records that filled the dusty wooden shelves of his two-story West Adams record shop.
From opera classics to big band, country western, jazz, R&B and rock and original Edison cylinder recordings, Gershenz always lived up to his business credo, “You name it, we find it.”
The massive collection, and Gershenz’s years-long plight to sell it, was the subject of a documentary film, “Music Man Murray,” which premiered last year.
A former opera singer and synagogue cantor, Gershenz amassed a record collection valued at more than $1.5 million. But he also found a second career: acting.
He landed bit parts as a character actor on TV shows like “Modern Family,” “Mad Men,” “Raising Hope,” “House,” and “Parks and Recreation.” And he logged plenty of time on the big screen with roles in films including “I Love You, Man,” “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” and “The Hangover” -- yes, he’s the elderly man who fully disrobes in one memorable scene.
Early last year, Gershenz gave me a tour of his West Adams record shop for a feature tied to the documentary.
“I brought a record when I was 16 years old, and then another, and then another,” he said with a laugh when I asked how he started his collection. “I fell in love with music -- and I was a compulsive collector.”
Gershenz didn’t mind me asking about him dropping trou in a film seen by millions, and even laughed about the attention the scene got him. But he preferred joking about the time Paul Rudd was lifted onto him to film a human pyramid scene alongside Andy Samberg and Lou Ferrigno for 2009’s ““I Love You, Man.”
His record store was stuffed with rich history, and anytime I touched an item he flashed a smile, ready to tell me how he scored the record. There were autographs from Mae West and Tiny Tim neatly perched on an otherwise cluttered desk; stories of his time with Elvis; and when he really felt like showing off, he pulled out a handwritten note from Louis Armstrong on Satchmo letterhead.
“The store was bigger than I realized. So I started buying other people’s collections. I started primarily with classical, then people asked me for jazz, and people asked me for country western and various things that I had never been interested in,” he said. “That’s why on the card it says, ‘You name it, we find it.’ I have Chinese music, African music, opera, you name it. And you never stop buying because you never know what someone is going to want.”
At one point he interrupted our tour to take a call from someone he assumed to be potential buyer. Instead, it was a casting agent inquiring about his availability for a Doritos commercial.
The acting gigs were coming in steady, and he wanted to devote his time to it, which he did. His goal was to sell the collection by the time he was 90.
Gershenz sold the collection earlier this year to a buyer from New York. It took a fleet of 52-foot-long trucks to load up the collection, which was housed in the store and three adjacent warehouses and contained enough records to refill the shop a few times over.
Watch “Music Man Murray” below: