Tatum Music Company opened for business on August 15, 1948, on East Tyler Street in Longview, Texas.
The sole proprietor was Alto Tatum, former director of the award-winning Gladewater High School band. The General, as Tatum was called by his colleagues, began to call on school band programs in East Texas, determined to use his own experience as a band director to help him meet the needs of area music educators.
The original location of Tatum Music Company was the former site of West Melody Shop, which had been owned and operated by the former Longview High School band director, Wellborn West. Mr. West’s store sold records, record players, sheet music and a few band instrument accessories. Mr. Tatum changed the focus of the store to band instruments and repairs, and in January 1949, he hired G.A. Sailor to set up the repair department at Tatum Music Company. Prior to this, the nearest repair facilities were in Shreveport, Dallas or Houston. Tatum Music Company remained at the original West melody shop location for about seven years.
In 1955, Tatum Music Company moved to 2305 North Center Street in Longview and remained at that location for 26 years until 1981. On July 1, 1969, Tatum Music Company became Tatum Music Company, Inc. when Neil Grant, former award-winning band director at Troup, Nacogdoches, White Oak and Longview, joined the music store as a partner with Mr. Tatum. Alto Tatum served as the president, his wife, Margaret, as vice president, and Neil Grant as secretary/treasurer. The record and record player part of the business was discontinued in 1970 to focus more on the band instrument industry.
Mr. Tatum gained much of his knowledge and influence in the school band industry by owning interest in three other music companies at nine different locations. The numerous and diverse locations helped create the buying influence that Tatum Music Company enjoys today. In 1967, Alto Tatum purchased the former Brook May’s Music Company building for the Tyler, Texas branch of Tatum Music Company. The store was located at 305 West Erwin Street until December 1980, when it moved to its current location at 325 East Front Street in Tyler.
Tatum Music Company, Inc.’s main office moved to its current location at 301 North High Street in Longview, Texas on February 1, 1981. Alto Tatum retired from the store in January, 2000, and Neil Grant became the sole proprietor and president of the operation. Grant’s eldest son, Doice Grant, a former outstanding band director from Carthage and Center, joined the store in 1992, as a school road representative. In 2004, Doice became part owner and vice president of Tatum Music Company, Inc. Neil Grant retired in 2010, and Doice Grant became the sole owner and president of Tatum Music Company. The store continues to have a positive influence on the school band program business by offering top-quality band instruments, accessories and repair service as well as complimentary band clinics by the knowledgeable Tatum Music Company staff.