At this record store, don't ask for the Spice Girls. Or Metallica. Or Mozart. Or Placido Domingo.

You won't find them.But there are 12 different cassettes of Jimmie Rodgers, who died in 1933.

Such is the merchandise at the six Ernest Tubb record shops, which specialize in old, hard-to-find country music albums.

"You go to Tower Records and ask for a Spade Cooley record, and the guy behind the counter with an earring doesn't know what you're talking about," said Dave Liston, manager of the original Ernest Tubb shop in Nashville.

For the uninitiated, Cooley was a fiddle-playing country singer in the 1940s. The CD "Spadella - Essential Spade Cooley" may be purchased for $12.98.

Ernest Tubb isn't all about oldies. Garth Brooks and Reba Mc-En-tire CDs are available. But the big sellers are artists like Rodgers, known as "The Father of Country Music"; Hank Williams Sr., who died in 1953; and Webb Pierce, whose heyday was the mid-1950s.

This typifies the mission of the store, which was opened in 1947 by Tubb, an angular baritone best known for his country weeper "Walkin' the Floor Over You." He died in 1984.

"You can go to any Wal-Mart and get the latest Garth Brooks' CD," said owner David McCormick, who bought out Justin Tubb, Ernest's son, three years ago. "But you won't find an obscure Lefty Frizzell record there."

Ernest Tubb, a Grand Ole Opry star from 1942 until his death, pioneered the honky-tonk style of country music that originated in the beer halls of his native Texas. He sold at least 30 million records during his lifetime and helped Loretta Lynn early in her career by singing duets and doing concerts with her. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965.

Tubb opened his store at a time when it was hard to find country music. It has survived against mega-stores that sell all types of music by being one of the few places specializing in traditional country.

Besides the original location, there are two more stores in Nashville and one each in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Branson, Mo.; and Fort Worth, Texas.

On a recent morning, the original Ernest Tubb store was playing Merle Haggard's "Fightin' Side of Me" as a half-dozen customers browsed through CDs, cassettes and videos displayed in unpretentious square wooden compartments.

Parked outside the three-story brick building was a green pickup truck with this message in the rear window: "Bad Girls Fear Nothing." Three doors down is a honky-tonk called The World Famous Turf.

Inside the store, five record bins are devoted to Rodgers. Brooks has just two. Patsy Cline, dead for 35 years, has four bins. Teen star LeAnn Rimes just one.

As for the Spice Girls . . .

"We don't get a lot of calls for them, but we'll be glad to order for you," Liston said diplomatically.

And Metallica?

"I doubt that we've ever had a request for them," he said.

Also missing is Rolling Stone magazine, but a copy of Bluegrass Unlimited is available.

If the clerks aren't too busy, they'll even play country music trivia with customers. A favorite: "What was Hank Williams' No. 1 record when he died?" Answer: "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

And it's not just ardent country music fans who flock to Ernest Tubb. Elton John has stopped by several times when he was in Nashville to perform. ZZ Top and Tom Petty also have visited.

The walls at the original store are lined with publicity photos of veteran performers like Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens and Johnny Cash. Against one wall are shelves of books, including "Goober in a Nutshell" by George "Goober" Lindsey.

There is no alarm at the door to halt shoplifters. A bronze sculpture of Tubb, "The Texas Troubadour," sits just inside the entrance.

"A woman kissed it the other day," Liston said.

The stock is not entirely country. There's a Lawrence Welk CD, "Big-gest Hits," for $7.98. And plenty of Elvis music. "You can argue if he's country, but Elvis sells," Liston said.

The stores get 30 percent of their $4 million yearly revenue from mail orders as far away as Russia, Japan and Italy.

"A lot of our business is word-of-mouth," McCormick said in his Dixie drawl. He began sweeping floors at the store 30 years ago, advanced to manager, partner and, finally, sole owner.

The record shop gets its rare records from various sources, mostly obscure independent record labels. There are some 1,900 selections available through mail order.

Jerry Stalkup of Lindsay, Calif., has ordered some 400 CDs and cassettes in the past three years.

"They are the best anywhere," said Stalkup, a collector whose album collection numbers around 6,000. "They have hard-to-find records. They are just fantastic."


Elsewhere in country music . . .

WE LIKE DWIGHT: Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakam's longtime producer, is working on a Yoakam tribute album. David Ball, Tim O'Brien and Mandy Barnett have recorded Yoakam songs for the collection, due out in May on Anderson's Little Dog Records.

WE LIKE STEVE: Capitol Nashville has signed Steve Wariner, who co-wrote and plays on Garth Brooks' hit, "Longneck Bottle." Bryan White has long cited Wariner as his musical role model.