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Remembering Murmur: College Park’s former music hub | The Way We Were

black and white 1980s inside record store with two people

Murmur Records owner Don Gilliland inside the shop in 1990 with Joey Ramone of the legendary Ramones. (COURTESY OF ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER, PHOTO BY JIM LEATHERMAN)

It is a sad fact of life that many of our favorite hangouts don’t last forever. For local music fans who came of age in the 1980s and ’90s, one bygone spot in particular is remembered with exceptional fondness and revered as a sorely missed Orlando institution — Murmur Records.

In September 1983, music enthusiast Don Gilliland took a walk around his College Park neighborhood and discovered a “For Rent” sign in the window of a small building located at 2812 Edgewater Drive.

“I had worked at other record stores in town … but always wanted to open my own shop at some point,” Gilliland shared with the Orange County Regional History Center.

After calling the phone number listed on the sign, he began to seriously contemplate the possibility. Just one month later, Murmur Records welcomed its first customers. Gilliland was just 24 years old.

“Murmur,” the massively influential debut album of R.E.M., inspired the name of the business.

Shelves were stocked with new and used records as well as tapes, and soon, CDs. Other offerings, like band T-shirts and buttons, also proved popular. Though many varieties of music were available, punk, indie and alternative rock would be what Murmur became best known for carrying.

The store functioned as an important hub for those looking to talk music, get turned on to new records, meet fellow musicians and perhaps most importantly, make friends.

Early print ads featured a warning that Murmur was the store “where parking is a problem.” The operation would eventually outgrow its original location, moving to a larger storefront at 709 W. Smith St. in 1986.

Most of the local creative community would pass through Murmur’s aisles at one point or another, as customers or, in many cases, as employees. Staff alumni include the late Eddie Foeller, guitarist of The Belltowers (among other bands); and Jim Leatherman, a musician and photographer who has tirelessly documented the scene for decades.

All parties involved, including Gilliland himself, shared a passion for music that strengthened not only the business but also the relationships shared by those who made the store such a significant part of their lives. This collective enthusiasm is part of what Gilliland remembers most about Murmur.

“It may be a cliche, but we lived and breathed music,” Gilliland said.

By 1992, Gilliland changed the name of the shop to Alobar Books & Music, downsizing the music selection and offering new and used books for sale. Though he maintained his loyal customer base for several additional years, Gilliland’s time in Orlando came to an end in 1996, when he relocated to Thailand.

Murmur staffer Quan Nguyen purchased the business and reinstated the original name, but unfortunately, the revival was short-lived.

Today, Gilliland owns a store in Bangkok called Dasa Books, which, like his former endeavor, carries both secondhand books and music.

Almost 40 years have passed since Murmur first opened its doors, but the memories of the once vibrant shop still linger.

“I’m still amazed that so many people remember it,” Gilliland said. “It really was a magical time and I’m thankful that I met so many nice people during those years.”
Jeremy Hileman is the assistant curator of collections at the Orange County Regional History Center.

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