The Top Ten Record Shop

By Bill Drenas

Let me tell you about a truly unique place.

The Top Ten Record Shop is located at 338 West Jefferson Blvd. Dallas, Texas.

For those of you who have been to the Texas Theatre, the Top Ten is approximately one and a half blocks west of the theatre on the opposite side of the street near the corner of West Jefferson and South Bishop Ave.

If the Top Ten were not somehow connected to the Kennedy Assassination it would still be very unique for other reasons that we will discuss in this article.

Some of the locations that are connected to the events of the Kennedy Assassination have been demolished, other locations still exist but have been refurbished into something other than what they were in 1963, but very few locations have remained the same as they were on November 22,1963 as the Top Ten has.

I had been in the Top Ten on a few occasions, but I was always short on time and running late. I could not take the time to appreciate it for the treasure that it is.

On my November 1997 trip to Dallas to give a presentation at the JFK Lancer conference I met up with Ian Griggs and his group of friends. We proceeded on a tour of all the usual assassination locations. When we stopped at the Tippit Murder Scene, Ian asked me to show and talk about some of the pertinent locations. We eventually made our way down to the Texas Theatre. From that point I took a few members of Ian’s group to the Top Ten Record Shop. Everybody was amazed at how short of a distance this is.

As we entered and looked around the store a very warm and friendly gentleman sitting at the counter struck up a conversation with me. First we talked about music, he told me he was the owner of the shop and I complemented him on all the original and vintage decorations he had in the store. He started to relate some of the history of the store, as he was doing this he told us that the phone that is mounted in-between his counters was the same telephone that J.D. Tippit had used just minutes before he was shot.

Ian and I then told this kind gentleman that we were students of the Kennedy Assassination, the owner then introduced himself as Mike Polk and told us that he would gladly answer any questions that we had about the Shop. Since this meeting it has been my pleasure to speak and correspond with Mike on several occasions and I consider myself very fortunate to be friends with him. When we were in the shop he could not do enough for us. He was very generous with his time and told me that he would like copy of my “Car 10” article.
Mike Polk behind the counter at the Top Ten Record Shop

I have been a professional musician for 22 years and in that time I have met literally thousands of people in the music industry. I can honestly say that after getting to know Mike Polk that he is one of the most helpful, sincere, honest, humble, respectful and generous person I have ever met.

In our many conversations that we have had since our meeting he has related some very interesting facts about the Top Ten. The arrangement of the counters and the telephone that J.D. Tippit used in the front part of the shop is exactly as it was on November 22, 1963 (see photograph at right, below).

The nostalgic store decorations such as the RCA Victor clock, dog statues and broadcast microphone are all original and kept in excellent condition.

Many famous recording artists have visited the Top Ten and Mike has many autographed pictures in his possession. Most of the photographs that are being displayed presently are of local performers.

One of Mike’s favorite stories to tell is that legendary Blues guitarist and vocalist Stevie Ray Vaughn would go to the Top Ten regularly on Saturdays in his youth to check out the shop’s Blues recordings. As a note of interest Stevie Ray Vaughn is buried in Laurel Land Cemetery not too far from the grave of J.D. Tippit.

To me the most wonderful thing about the Top Ten is that this is how neighborhood record shops existed when I was buying records back in the mid 1960’s.

From what I have observed on my visits to the Top Ten is that Mike and his staff know almost everybody that comes in by name, and they have a good idea of what they are looking for. In this day and age of corporate owned superstores and chain stores, it is great that a small businessman like Mike can provide personalized service that these other record stores can’t offer.
The Top Ten Record Shop still has the phone used by Officer Tippit on the day he was killed.

I urge anybody that visits Dallas to stop in at the Top Ten and visit Mike, I know you will not be disappointed.

Some of you are asking how the Top Ten is connected to the Kennedy Assassination, based on the original eyewitness interviews here are the events that occurred.

A few minutes before Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit was murdered at 10th and Patton he was sighted 6/10’s of a mile away at the Top Ten Record Shop by it’s owner in 1963 J.W. “Dub” Stark and a young clerk that worked in the shop named Louis Cortinas. They basically said that Tippit came into the shop in a hurry, asked to use the telephone, Tippit made a call, did not get an answer. Then Tippit quickly left the shop and drove his squad car away at a fast speed in the direction of the street that he was murdered.

I have seen this event written about several times in print and sometimes the story varies from one account to another. Most of the information that researchers have used to describe this event are their interpretation of an interview done by former Dallas Morning News reporter Earl Golz of Louis Cortinas.

It has been my pleasure to correspond and speak with Earl on several occasions and it is with Earl’s permission that his transcript of the interview is published here for the first time and I thank him for his generosity.

Earl would interview people to get background information for his many Kennedy assassination articles. He would tape record the interview and then would make transcripts of some of these interviews. The following interview was done on December 2, 1981

Cortinas said he “was behind the counter at the Top Ten Record Shop, 338 W. Jefferson Blvd., on Nov. 22, 1963. Police officer J.D. Tippit parked his car on Bishop Street, apparently heading north, and came into the shop in a hurry and asked Cortinas if he could use the phone at the counter.” Cortinas said he recalls “ Tippit being in such a hurry that he had to ask people in the narrow aisle to step aside.”

“Tippit said nothing over the phone, apparently not getting an answer. Cortinas said he stood there long enough for it to ring about 7 or 8 times. Tippit hung up the phone and walked off fast he was worried or upset about something” Cortinas said.

“Tippit sped away in his squad car across Jefferson down Bishop to Sunset, where he ran a stopsign and turned right down Sunset.” Cortinas “could not determine whether he had anyone else in his car.”

“Maybe 10, no more than 10 minutes Tippit had left when I heard he had been shot on the radio.” Cortinas said. Cortinas then “Drove off in Dub Stark’s new car down Sunset, across Zang and up Tenth. He noticed the commotion around Texas Theatre and got out of the car in time to see police taking Oswald out of theatre. People were trying to strike Oswald and spit at him but contrary to some stories he didn’t say a thing as police escorted him to a squad car and literally threw him in, bumping his head hard on the door.”

Cortinas “then drove on to Parkland and stood with other people looking.

Cortinas said “Tippit would come into the record shop occasionally to use the phone while on duty.” Cortinas who was 36 years old this past October would have been 18 in 1963. He “knew Tippit to talk to from other experience, having been ticketed many times for drag racing near Austin’s Barbecue.” Cortinas also knew Tippit from seeing him at Austin’s, where he knew the waitress he thought Tippit was having an affair with.”

He also “saw Tippit as a security guard or bouncer at Ship’s, a private club in the 2100 block of Fort Worth Avenue and at the Theatre Lounge strip joint run by Barney L. Weinstein at 1326 Jackson.”

Cortinas recalls “trying to get into Ship’s under age early in 1960’s when he spotted Tippit sitting in a raised portion of the entranceway to check people coming in. He and other boys climbed onto the roof of the Theatre Lounge to watch the girls through a skylight, also in the early 1960’s” He remembered “Chris Colt’s 45 from there”

“Tippit was an odd guy,” Cortinas said “Some times I would come into Austin’s with my girlfriend and tap him on the shoulder and he would turn around and shake hands and act like a good friend. Other times when I did that, he turned around and gave me a look like he didn’t know me and didn’t want to know me.”

That is the end of the original Earl Golz transcript.

At this point I wish to thank Earl Golz, the original source of these interviews for all the time and additional information he has provided me. In my conversations with Earl, he informed me that these interviews were part of his research for an article that was published in the December 1982 issue of Gallery magazine.

Earl also informed me that he had to go and seek out Cortinas and Stark and as far as he could tell “they were not wanting publicity nor were they prone to exaggerate.”

Both Cortinas and Stark were interviewed individually and were conducted in person. These men had gone their separate ways and had not seen each other for years at the time of these interviews.

Cortinas and Stark told Earl basically the same story as we can see by the interview notes. I respect Earl Golz’s experience in writing dozens of articles for the Dallas Morning News and interviewing hundreds of people in order to obtain the information used in them, so I asked Earl about the feeling he got from the Cortinas interview. Earl related that Louis Cortinas “was very relaxed and forthcoming in talking with him about this incident.” Cortinas was hard to locate and Earl wished to go to Cortinas’ house for the interview because he “thought he could obtain a more complete description of the event.” Earl mentioned to Cortinas that he was interested in information about Tippit making a hurried phone call at the Top Ten Record Shop and in Earl’s words “the story flowed out of him much in the same way as Stark had told him previously”

In the past few years I have been contacted by several researchers who have come across this information in one form or another and have questioned the accuracy of these statements and the veracity of the witnesses.

Let us look at some of the statements that Cortinas made that some researchers have questioned.

1: Cortinas could not have seen if Tippit’s squad car was parked on Bishop Ave.

This is true, the record shop is one store east of Bishop Ave. (see photograph) and you can not see south on Bishop Ave. from the inside of the record shop. A possible explanation is that when Tippit left the record shop Cortinas saw him walk out the door and immediately walk in the direction of Bishop, then seconds later he observed Tippit’s squad car speed across Jefferson Blvd. going North on Bishop Ave.. Cortinas could have assumed that Tippit’s squad car was parked pointing north on Bishop Ave.. The reason being that Cortinas’ observation of the short amount of time in which Tippit was able to get to the car and get across the intersection of West Jefferson Blvd. traveling north meant that Tippit’s squad car was close by and pointing in the direction he drove in seconds later.

2: Cortinas could not have seen Tippit run a stop sign and go right on Sunset from behind the counter at the record shop.
View out the front window of the record shop from behind the counter.

I have taken photographs of the view out the front window of the record shop from behind the counter (thank you Mike Polk!) and one of those photographs is reproduced at right. Directly across West Jefferson Blvd. from the Top Ten there is parking along the East Side of Bishop Ave.. The first impression is that the cars parked there would block the view of the intersection of Bishop Ave and Sunset Ave. from behind the counter. When I was behind the counter taking the photographs I was able to see if a car was making a right turn on Sunset Ave. in the gap between the windshield of the cars and the outside wall of the building, even if there were several cars parked along the east side of Bishop Ave. Also from behind the counter you can clearly observe if a car would go straight or take a left at the corner of Sunset Ave. and Bishop Ave.

3:Tippit had to have left the record shop more than 10 minutes before it was announced on the radio that a police officer had been shot in Oak Cliff.

We will probably never know the exact time that Tippit left the Top Ten Record Shop or the exact moment that he was killed. Every person’s perception of time is different, to some 10 minutes could seem like an hour and to others it could feel like less than a few minutes. Correctly estimating time is a skill that many people do not have.

One of the first reports of a policeman being shot in Oak Cliff was on Dallas radio station KLIF at 1:33 P.M. (National Archives) Cortinas then drove off in Stark’s new car around the neighborhood and then noticed a commotion at the Texas Theatre and watched as the police brought out Oswald and threw him into the police car, these activities at the theatre were at about 1:50 P.M. (Channel One Transcript-Kimbrough/Shearer)

If we go back 10 minutes from the first radio report of the shooting at 1:33 that would mean Tippit was in the record shop at 1:23 P.M. which is an impossibility since this was the approximate time that Tippit’s body arrived at Methodist Hospital by ambulance. (HSCA interview of ambulance driver Clayton Butler, RIF 180-10107-10180). The timeframes here suggest the possibility that Cortinas could have heard the news on the radio at 1:33P.M. or later and then drove around until he saw the activity at the Texas Theatre. Cortinas’ estimate that he heard the radio broadcast 10 minutes after Tippit left could be an honest mistake explained by Cortinas’ perception of 10 minutes as compared with the actual amount of time that had gone by.

4: Some researchers point out that the record shop is too far from Tippit’s District #78 for Tippit to use the phone occasionally while he was on duty.

This is true; district #78 is about 4.5 miles east of the record shop, at it’s closest point. According to Sergeant Calvin Bud Owens “Tippit had been assigned to District 78 for about 6 months to a year and had previously been assigned to patrol Districts 83 and 84 for three years” CE 2985 pg.8. In Warren Commission Exhibit #2645 Assistant Chief of Police Batchelor states in regards to patrol district assignments that “as many as two or three districts are frequently patrolled by one squad car. The northern part of District 83 is about 1.5 miles from the record shop.

Here are three other views of the Top Ten Record shop:

In the event of manpower shortages, Dallas police squads might have to take on the responsibility of a bordering district that could not be covered because of a lack of personnel (testimony of Sergeant Calvin Bud Owens W.C.Volume 7 pg. 80). If this happened Tippit would have to cover his regular districts 83 and 84 and possibly the bordering district 92. If this situation occasionally existed it would have put him in the district that the record shop was in (Putnam Exhibit #1).

Also a review of the Texas Attorney General’s file on J.D. Tippit shows that during Tippit’s police career he had worked the majority of the time in different Oak Cliff patrol districts. I tracked the documented calls that Tippit responded to in this file and learned that in his 11 years on the police force he was at various locations many times on official police business in Oak Cliff. These locations ranged from .4 miles to 7 miles away from the record shop in his career. These locations only represent the documented calls and by the close proximity to the Top Ten of some of these calls, the opportunity did exist for Tippit to stop into the record shop. My friend and one of the top Tippit researchers in the world Professor Bill Pulte interviewed one of Tippit’s superior officers Lieutenant JW Finley several times. During one of these interviews Finley explained to Bill that “J.D. Tippit was an officer who tended to leave his assigned patrol district rather often”. These could be some explanations for Tippit being in close proximity to the record shop and using the phone there on occasion.

5: J.D. Tippit never worked at the Ship’s Grill or the Theatre Lounge.

In my conversations with Earl Golz we talked at length about his efforts in 1982 to corroborate this part of the story. Earl told me that he “worked very hard at locating the people that owned or were working at the Ship’s Grill in 1963” and was unable to do so in 1982. It is interesting to note that the Ship’s Grill was located at 2138 Fort Worth Ave and that J.D. Tippit worked security as a deterrent to trouble on Sunday afternoons at the Steven’s Park Theatre which was located at 2007 Fort Worth Ave. Earl contacted some of Tippit’s fellow police officers who knew him well to try and corroborate these stories about the Ship’s Grill and Theatre Lounge. Bill Anglin, Tippit’s neighbor and close friend told Earl “No sir he never worked at the Theater Lounge” “As far as I know there’s not any truth to that at all, the reason I say that is that it was a violation with our code of conduct for us to be employed by such places where alcoholic beverages were served” “As a personal friend I never heard him mention anything about a job up there like that” Morris Brumley was also a long time friend of Tippit’s, he told Earl “ He never did work those joints, he (Tippit) worked that district when he was a young patrolman, but as far as working there off duty they didn’t even permit officers back then to work around anyplace that served alcoholic beverages” Brumley went on to say “We checked all that out (Tippit working at the Theater Lounge) that they had seen him in there, that there was a connection and there wasn’t.” “I worked Intelligence and Vice and we shook that Theater Lounge down a lot and J.D. Tippit never did work there at any of those places.” In a conversation with Earl he told me that recently he had talked to someone who surprised him by saying very nonchalantly that Tippit certainly was a doorman or bouncer at the Ship’s Grill. Earl said this source is “someone who would have been pretty knowledgeable.” This is all the information that I was able to gather on the Ship’s Grill and Theater Lounge allegations. As the reader can see by the conflicting stories that it is unclear as to the exact circumstances surrounding this issue. What do you think?

Some of the statements that Louis Cortinas made that can be confirmed are,

  1. J.D. Tippit worked at Austin’s Barbecue. Source Warren Commission Exhibit # 2985 pg. 6, also HSCA interviews of Austin Cook, (HSCA RIF 180-10087-10363) and Marie Tippit, (HSCA RIF 180-10120-10047)
  2. Cortinas worked at the Top Ten Record Shop and observed Tippit’s hurried phone call minutes before he was killed. Source: Earl Golz interview of W.R. Dub Stark
  3. He thought that Tippit was having an affair with a waitress at Austin’s Source: HSCA RIF 180-10107-10004
Earl Golz interviewed Dub Stark shortly before he interviewed Louis Cortinas on December 2,1981. The notes from Dub Stark’s interview are not as extensive and orderly as the Cortinas interview but there is much information given. The first part of Earl’s notes are random rough notes that are as follows.
J.W. Stark (Dub)

Oswald and kids and Marina in there shopping.

Oh yes he thought Oswald and Tippit knew each other.

Ruby traded in there all of the time.

Stripper too who was close to Ruby, she is now dead probably could relate much.

1963 owned Top 10 Records, about 1965 he sold it and right next door J.W. Stark Garden and Lawn.

Said Tippit parked patrol car outside, partner not with him on this occasion, asked permission to use the phone Before Texas Theatre commotion- minutes- had just enough time to get to the place where he was shot and certainly within the hour.

Stark had young employee 11/22/63 “curious story” that employee left store to go to theatre and said same guy earlier that morning purchased ticket to Dick Clark Show, cancelled after assassination.

The second page of notes are in the form of a paragraph summarizing certain parts of the interview and are as follows.

W.R. (Dub) Stark

Stark Lawn + Garden 336 West Jefferson Blvd.

On November 22,1963 he operated Top Ten Record Shop, 338 West Jefferson.

Stark claims that Tippit came into the record shop only minutes before he was shot. Made a phone call and left in a hurry. He was alone in his squad car, didn’t say anything. Stark says Tippit often came in store to buy records for his children. He also stopped by while on duty to use the phone, several times.

Stark claims he sold Oswald a ticket to Dick Clark Show at 7:30 A.M. November 22. Still had the stub after the assassination.

This is the end of Earl’s rough notes on the Dub Stark interview.
Ad from the Dallas Times Herald, Nov. 22, 1963. Notice that tickets are available from the Top Ten Record Shops.

I would like to examine the statements made by Dub Stark to Earl Golz. In some ways these notes create more questions than they answer. Many researchers have contacted me with questions and their own ideas about what might have actually happened. Some researchers have asked me why I have given so much attention to the Top Ten Record Shop and the events that took place there.

I believe that if we could find out more information about the last minutes of J.D. Tippit’s life it might help to unravel some of the still unknown events in this critical time. Recently I have updated my “Car 10 Where Are You?” article that first appeared on the internet in July 1997. The new information, much of which is being presented for the first time shows that Tippit’s actions in the last minutes of his life are consistent with someone who is frantically looking for someone. Please see the updated “Car 10” article. To the best of my knowledge neither Dub Stark nor Louis Cortinas have ever been questioned “officially” by any law enforcement agency. We only have the very hard work of Earl Golz and a few other researchers that have spoken to Stark and Cortinas about the events on November 22, 1963.

These interviews have taken place since the early 1980’s. I wanted to speak to someone who knew Dub at the time of the assassination, to see if he had told anybody about the events of that day. If this was the case it could help to corroborate what he had told independent investigators almost 20 years later.

Because of Dub’s poor health, I was unable to get an interview with him for this article. I told Mike Polk, the current owner of the Top Ten Record Shop about me trying to talk to someone who knew Dub in 1963 and then he recommended that I meet Dub’s niece Wanda Barnard.

Since my meeting and subsequent conversations with Wanda she has provided me with much valuable information and has corroborated certain statements. Wanda was able to provide these biographical notes on Dub Stark. Dub was born on February 28, 1910 in Wise County Texas. He was one of 9 children and is currently 88 years old. Dub was a prisoner of war in World War 2 and upon returning to the United States he lived in California for some time.

He moved back to Texas in the early 1950’s and bought the Top Ten Record Shop which he sold in 1965 and opened a Garden Shop next door to the record shop. Shortly after he sold the record shop things did not work out for the new owner and Dub regained ownership of the Top Ten until he sold it to Mike Polk in the early 1980’s.

Wanda relates that Dub has many friends and was very popular in the Jefferson Boulevard area of Oak Cliff. Dub is very honest and does not have a bad word to say about anybody, that is exactly what Mike Polk told me about Dub the first time that I met him. Dub is also an accomplished piano and organ player, is very artistic and enjoys painting.

On my first meeting with Wanda I asked her to tell me what Dub had told her about the Events of November 22, 1963 and when Dub had told her. Wanda was able to confirm many of the statements that Dub had made to Earl Golz and he had been telling this same story since the time of the assassination. Thank you very much Wanda for corroborating these important statements. Here are some of the statements that Dub made to Earl Golz and the supporting information.

“Oswald and kids and Marina in there shopping”

The Oswalds lived at 604 Elsbeth Street Apartment 2 Oak Cliff from November 3, 1962 to March 2, 1963 and then moved around the corner to 214 West Neely Street and moved out on May 1, 1963. (Warren Commission Exhibit #1963). These locations are 8/10s of a mile from the Top Ten and it is possible that the Oswalds were in there shopping. The Oswald’s younger daughter Rachel was born on October 20, 1963 and could not have been there in this time frame, but their older daughter June was born February 15, 1962 in Russia before this time frame. If the Oswalds were in the Top Ten it would most likely have been with one child. Wanda related that Dub had seen Oswald in the Top Ten before the assassination on occasion.

“Ruby traded in there all the time”

Wanda’s statements and recollections confirm this.

The statement that “Tippit parked his patrol car outside, partner not with him on this occasion” has been questioned by some researchers. It is true that on November 22, 1963 Tippit was working District 78 alone, but a review of the Dallas Police personnel file for J.D. Tippit reveals that he had partners at several times in his 11 year career. Here are the names of Tippit’s partners and the documented dates that they worked together.

D.A. Byrd January 23, 1953
J.C. Wallace April 23, 1955
F. Willis October 14, 1955
D.H. Williams April 28, 1956
Grady H. Williams January 24, 1959
H. M. Ashcraft March 20, 1959
R.C. Wagner April 23, 1959

Also Owen C. Box and Murray Jackson were also partners with Tippit at different times. Source: interview of Murray Jackson. On September 2, 1956 Tippit and partner D. Hankins shot to death Leonard Garland in Club 80, 441 West Commerce Street, Dallas.

Since Dub had owned the Top Ten since the early 1950’s and Tippit had worked several Oak Cliff districts with partners it is possible that Dub had seen Tippit with other officers when he came by the Top Ten.

Wanda has corroborated that Dub had told her and other individuals the story of Tippit making a hurried phone call a few minutes before he was shot and letting Louis Cortinas go see what all the activity was on Jefferson Blvd. since the day that it happened.

“Tippit often came in store to buy records for his children” and “He also stopped by while on duty to use the phone, several times.”, are statements that Dub had also related to Wanda and other individuals since 1963. According to Tippit’s widow Marie, J.D. “liked to listen to country and popular music” source: Warren Commission Exhibit #2985 page 6.

According to Dub, Lee Harvey Oswald “bought a ticket to the Dick Clark show at 7:30 A.M. on November 22, 1963” It is a well established fact that at 7:30 that morning Oswald was riding to work with Buell Frazier (Warren Commission Exhibit # 2936) and had spent the previous night at the Paine home in Irving, Texas with Marina and his children.

Dub has told this same story to Wanda and others since the day that it happened. Wanda tells me that she is certain that Dub knew who Oswald was and that he is being honest in his identifying him, but she has no explanation for Oswald being in two places at the same time. Researcher John Armstrong has spoken to me several times about this incident. He believes that this is one of many occurrences providing strong evidence of the existence of two Oswalds (please see “Harvey and Lee” by John Armstrong for more information).

A final word about this incident. On December 3, 1963 a Mr. John Whitten telephoned the FBI that he had “heard” that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the Top Ten Record Shop on the Morning of November 22, 1963. Oswald bought a ticket of some kind and left. Then sometime later Oswald returned to the record shop and wanted to buy another ticket. At this time officer J.D. Tippit was in the store but it was apparently was a coincidence. (Please see reproduced document)

Upon seeing this document Wanda related that she did not know a John Whitten and she has never heard Dub mention his name and she does not think that Dub knows him. Wanda had never heard about Oswald returning at the same time that Tippit was in the store and that Dub had never told this story. Is it possible that as the story about Oswald being at the Top Ten was being circulated from person to person in Oak Cliff and that it picked up the embellishments of Oswald returning for another ticket by the time the story got to Whitten? Then at that point Whitten called the FBI with this information?

The notation made by the FBI at the bottom of the Whitten document says “No Action- Oswald was at work all morning 11/22/63” It is too bad that the FBI did not follow through on this occasion, they could have gotten vital information about Tippit’s final minutes from Dub Stark. Wanda assured me that if Dub said he sold Oswald a ticket that she is sure that this is what he believes happened. Once again we have another incident that could be explained but that the actual explanation might never be known.

© 1999 by William M. Drenas

I would like to thank Earl Golz, Mike Polk and special thanks to Wanda Barnard.

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