Years before LeRoi Johnson became my boss, I bought records from him at Pennylane in Westport. He was far from my favorite guy at the store at the time- my taste in music aligned much more closely with LeRoi's more cordial colleagues including Dwight Frizzell and Saul Tucker. Although I later learned how sweet he was beneath his gruff exterior, LeRoi could sometimes be a real drag.
He taught me many valuable lessons when I went to work for him in the late '80s. LeRoi once overheard me mocking then-popular New Age music. In a stern lecture that left me a little rattled, he explained that the guy who'd just purchased the latest Windham Hill product might derive as much pleasure from a George Winston album as I received from Public Enemy. That's stuck with me. Some of the lessons he taught me were unintentional. Witnessing LeRoi's self-destructive tendencies reminded me that I didn't want to venture too far down that path.
I hadn't been much of a friend to him lately. I visited him at his home a few times and once at Saint Luke's Hospital last year. It's my loss. He had a lot more to teach me.
(LeRoi died yesterday. Scott Wilson's remembrance includes a couple of excellent links.)