Music Store: A & Z Music from Pierre, SD
John Askew was raised in Sioux Falls in a musical family. His father, Milt, owned Askew Music, so it was natural that John would follow his dad into music. John was a keyboardist known for playing the trumpet at the same time. In 1970 he joined Bluez Berie Jam which toured the U.S. and the Caribbean.
John accepted a job offer at The Music Center in Huron where Hank Ziegler was assistant manager. The two were brainstorming about how to improve the store when they considered opening their own music store in Pierre. John recalls being fired in Huron because the owners thought he was “stealing Hank.” While they were waiting for the right time to open a store in Pierre, John played organ for the Hubert Castle Circus – a job his dad found.
Hank was raised in Highmore and studied accounting in vocational school. He worked for the ASC office in Faulkton before deciding to attend a two-week instrument repair workshop in Battle Creek, MI. Then it was off to work in the music store business. Their first two years in Pierre with A & Z Music meant working with no salary taken. Hank did the instrument repair while John sold instruments and tuned pianos. John played music at the Days of ’81 Saloon, later named the Flame Room, and Hank tended bar there.
In 1976 John and Hank moved to a new building on West Sioux Avenue and acquired rights to sell Yamaha, Roland, Hammond, Fender, Gibson, and Peavey lines of equipment. John called on schools and churches within 150 miles of the store. Longtime Pierre Riggs band director Larry Johnson said, “They gave the best doggone deals on school instruments. Nobody could compete with A & Z.” Touring bands loved stopping at the store. Merle Haggard’s sax player bought a tenor sax there. Many other Nashville musicians knew John and Hank featured unbeatable prices and traveled out of their way to visit Pierre.
A & Z Music sold off their inventory throughout 2004. John plays music from his home base in Wichita, KS. Hank still lives in Pierre.
The South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association is proud to induct A & Z Music into its Hall of Fame.