Music wholesaling pioneer Hutch Carlock died Tuesday (April 20) from heart failure in Nashville, Tenn. He was 86.

Carlock, who founded Music City Record Distributors in 1953, was an independent distributor during the formative years of the record industry and distributed such labels as Mercury, Atlantic and Decca Records. When the major label distribution companies started to come into their own beginning in the early 1970s, his company evolved into a one-stop and opened up a record-store chain, beginning with the first Cat’s store in 1974.

Carlock was also a big supporter of the Country Music Assn., says his son Bruce, and he was a charter board member of the organization, according to Billboard magazine articles throughout the 1970s into the early 1980s.

Carlock also was an exhibitor at the first annual Fan Fair, where he sold $5,000 worth of country albums, according to the Aug. 29, 1972 issue of Billboard. Also, he “helped pioneer the growth of the music industry here in Nashville,” says Bruce Carlock. “Nashville grew to what it is is today through people like him.”

Hutch Carlock “was one of the most dependable independent distributors in his day,” says John Sippel, who in addition to his 24 years at Billlboard—20 as a reporter— was also a record label executive with Mercury Records and Monument. “In those days, when payments were slow and far in between, you could always depend on Hutch for payments.”

Moreover, Sippel adds that as a distributor Carlock “did his job by the
book, never engaging in trans-shipping [the act of shipping record to
accounts outside an assigned area], which troubled the music industry
greatly from 1962-1975.”

Carlock began his music industry career right after World War II, working in sales for Jim Bulliet, who owned Bullet Records and his own pressing plant.

He then went on to work for various record distributors, eventually opening his own distribution company, Music City Record Distributors, in partnership with Jimmy Green, whom he bought out in 1964.

When indie distribution hit upon hard times, Carlock branched out into record retail, and the Cat’s chain grew to about 30 stores at its pinnacle.

Hutch stopped being actively involved in the day-to-day running of the operation around 1990, and his sons Bruce and Hayes took over that responsibility. Along the way, Carlock’s two daughters, Jeana and Karen, also worked for the company. The chain continued to prosper through the 1990s, but when the music industry began its decline in the 2000s, so too did the fortune of the chain. Last fall, the chain filed Chapter 11 and was mostly liquidated, with three stores remaining open.

Carlock is survived by his four children, three grandchildren, one great-grandchild and his dog Grace. Visitation will be held Thursday, April 22 at the Spring Hill Funeral Home at 5110 Gallatin Road, Nashville 37216; 615/865-1101; and again on Friday from noon-1pm with the funeral service to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to Alive Hospice, the Arthritis Foundation, or the Boy Scouts of America.