When filmmaker Gillian Grisman returned to Mill Valley in 2007 for a family visit, she was shocked to read the note on her dad’s living room table.
The note was from Village Music’s John Goddard, owner of the town’s famous record store, informing loyal customers that the shop would be closing its doors for good on September 30. “My brother Monroe and I grew up in that store, he worked there,” Gillian said. “Our musical childhood was at Village Music.”
Gillian and Monroe — the children of well-known mandolinist David Grisman — immediately sprang into action. Gillian dropped all the film projects she was working on in New York and made plans to come back to Marin. The siblings assembled a talented crew and started raising funds and filming simultaneously.
Ry Cooder was coming in one week and Elvis Costello the next, so the Grismans had just six months to capture the story of one of America’s most influential record stores and its shepherd, musical historian Goddard, who not only ran it for some 40 years but also managed to inspire the musical tastes of its customers, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Sammy Hagar, Jerry Garcia, Huey Lewis and more. He even revived music careers for Bettye LaVette and “Little” Jimmy Scott.
After filming was complete, the project languished until news of the reopening of the Sweetwater Music Hall came in 2011 — coincidentally, the old Sweetwater closed on the same day as the record store, driving a temporary death nail into the Mill Valley Music scene — and breathed new life into the film. The Grismans launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in December, raising more than $50,000, and were able to bring the film to the almost-done stage — they say they will be editing up until the last minute.
And that minute is almost upon them. The film, Village Music: Last of the Great Music Stores, makes its debut at the Mill Valley Film Festival this month, showing just blocks away from the shop that inspired it and the Sweetwater. According to the filmmaker, the movie features narrative and performances that will make you applaud after each song.
“The making of Village Music was a labor of love for Monroe and me, it had to be done,” Gillian says. “We did it to honor this man and this store that was such a huge part of our lives.” World premiere: 6:30 p.m., October 5, CinéArts Sequoia, Mill Valley, followed by a live show at the Sweetwater Music Hall.