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Unknown Stories of WNY: Metallica's helping hand

A legendary music store gave the future rock stars a hand up when they were recording their debut album in Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It is a busy concert week in Western New York and one of rock's biggest names will come to Highmark Stadium on Thursday. That band is Metallica.

But what you may not know, their relationship with Western New York, and a Rochester-area guitar store that gave them a big helping hand, dates back to their very start.

In 1983 the future superstars travelled coast-to-coast, from the Bay Area of California to a studio on East Avenue in Rochester to record their debut album Kill 'Em All.

Armand and Bruce Schoubroeck remember they just wandered through their doors, a legendary spot in it's own right, the self-proclaimed world's largest music store, The House of Guitars. Bruce recalls, "Metallica wasn't Metallica then, they were just a band on the road working hard."  Armand added, "There was no washing machine in the house they were at, so they did their laundry down the street from House of Guitars and they used to hang in the House of Guitars while their laundry was being washed each week."

This is not just any music store. It is a regular stop for the who's who of music.

Armand and Bruce broke the mold of how guitar stores operated when they opened in their mother's basement in 1964. At the time, teenagers had to be with their parents when they visited a music store and there was typically a strict "look but don't touch policy" at most. 

The Schoubroeck brothers encouraged kids of all ages to plug in and play. Armand says Metallica was no different. "You wanna try that guitar? We'd say we want you to play it and they'd go 'no man, I don't got no money, I don't want to waste your time, you know?' and they talk to him in the play and we were real nice to them." Bruce says the help didn't end there. "They would occasionally ask for a free House of Guitars t-shirts so they didn't have to do the laundry down the street and then if we had coffee on, we'd offer them coffee, or donuts, or pizza, or whatever was around."

And when you look around, this place is part instrument store, part record and CD playground and part museum. It is just plastered with pictures and autographs of the musical royalty that have made the pilgrimage to the H.O.G. as locals call it. Chet Atkins, Dolly Parton, The Goo Goo Dolls, Aerosmith, Run DMC. You name it, they've been here. Look up, and you'll even find pants worn by Jimmy Hendrix, John Lennon's jacket and the suede pants Elvis would wear while riding his motorcycle.

So the struggling band's 1983 visit could have been just one in a line of many, but Metallica never forgot the hospitality they found at the H.O.G. They made sure they returned the favor. After a 1993 Darien Lake show, they called to ask if they would mind opening up for them after the show. Armand, of course, said sure. "They said they want to stop here and they're hoping they could make it in time and that they'd bring the beers. They brought a couple cases of ice cold Canadian beer and then they bought $70,000 worth of vintage guitars." Quite the thank you from one of the biggest groups in rock. 

Armand wrapped it up by saying "I'm glad I was nice to them in the early days."

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