By Doug Hanners
I personally think it’s because of the same reasons vinyl was popular in the first place: a good sound and the ceremony of slipping a disc on the turntable, plus a cover you can hold and read.
There’s even an article in the new issue of Archeology Magazine (July/August 2009) about excavating a California hippie commune of the ’60s. There’s a photo that shows the boxes of relics they uncovered, and on top of one box are some vinyl LPs! Sure they are a bit worse for wear after being buried for 40 years, but wow … I knew history would catch up with records. I just didn’t think it’d happen so soon.
Even though vinyl LPs are not being manufactured in the numbers they once were, their popularity is still on a steady rise. The efforts of the new turntable DJs, like superstar DJ Shadow, have helped reintroduce records to the new generation, as well. Shadow told me at the last Austin show that he was glad to see vinyl rebounding in popularity, and he downplays his responsibility for the rebound.
But I still think he and the other turntable DJs have done a great job in reviving vinyl interest. It was reflected at the past Austin show with a full house of dealers and customers.
I was also on a panel at the last South By Southwest festival that dealt with the vinyl resurgence phenomenon as it relates to record stores. Of course, stores are happy with any new market that gives them a leg up on the downloading iPod fans. But new LPs, as nice as they are, still don’t relate totally to older LPs and the collectors that covet the oldies.
Do collectors buy new LPs or just the older variety? Hmmm … I’m not sure, though I think there’s been some mixing going on. But in general they are two completely different markets. Still I’m glad for any boost that record stores can get as it’s been a rough ride for them in the past decade or two.
As the older warehouses, record shops, radio stations and jukebox operators that have been supplying current record shops and collectors are getting thinned out, an odd phenomenon is occurring. The new suppliers of vintage records are, strangely enough, older gentlemen in the 70- to 90-age bracket. These older pack rats have had the foresight or inclination to accumulate things for the past 50 years, and the stuff they have been gathering up includes records. In the past few years, I have seen several of these older folk with houses, garages, barns and basements packed with stuff, including many thousands of records.
Why they do this is unknown. Perhaps this need to accumulate these things is something left over from the Great Depression of the ’30s.
Bob Nash was the owner of the record stash pictured here; when asked why he accumulated so many records and other “stuff,” he said it was for something to enjoy in his old age, but at 86 he’d run out of time! Whatever the reason, at some point, the families are forced to clear out the home storage areas because either the vintage folk have died or the families need the room, as in Nash’s case.
The record numbers vary from a few thousand to maybe 30 thousand and even more. The older folk don’t buy with any specific music format in mind, and you might think their vintage musical taste would run more towards MOR and Big Bands, in keeping with their age, but not so. Usually they bought everything, including jazz, funk, soul, hard rock and esoteric records of every variety.
Lately we’ve been involved in several of these record clean-outs and depending on the size of the stash, it’s quite a job. This job pictured here was a big one, with more than 25,000 LPs and many thousands of 45s involved. Nash had made the circuit of flea markets and garage sales for more than 20 years during the ’70s and ’80s, which was obviously a good time to be hunting vinyl and other goodies. So for him, as it is for us regulars, the thrill of the hunt is the name of the game.
For a job with this many records we needed a large truck, plus several helpers. And we had to make a couple trips. You forget how much this many records will weigh; even spreading things out, the tires on the truck were looking a little squashed!
Loading and unloading reminded us how heavy LPs are, while in comparison 45s are a lightweight treat to be savored! As for 78s, there were some there but luckily only a few, as it was a constant game to avoid being the one who got stuck with picking up the heavy 78s. This type of work in the hot and humid Texas summer turned us all into sweat-soaked slave laborers guzzling ice water by the gallon.
Once we got the truck unloaded the sorting began, as well as a good education in the history of American record buying. I never saw so many “Sing Along With Mitch” albums, Lawrence Welk beauties or how popular Herb Alpert and Frank Sinatra really were! The musical tastes of middle-class America during the last 40 years were spread out all over our warehouse floor.
It was an interesting look at all the types of music that titillated popular tastes during the last several decades. The youthquake revolution dominated, of course. Among the offerings: Shadows Of Knight; Paul Revere; MC5; The Beatles; Neil Young bootlegs; Bubble Puppy; rare psych; obscure soul; Family Circle on Sky Disc; soundtracks of all types; Zabresky Point; Chet Baker on various labels; the Shep & The Limelights Hull LP; Anita O’Day; Lou Donaldson; Fred Wesley & JBs; Stu Gardner on Revue; Bobby Timmons on Riverside; Lightnin’ Hopkins on Candid; Jazz Rock Symposium on Anvil; T. Monk on Riverside; Truman Capote Reading From “In Cold Blood”; Bridgette Bardot Sings and on and on. Several thousand interesting LP treats of all types, all varieties and all eras.
All of the best records will be available at the next Austin show, Oct 9-11, 2009, with a photo stream up at www.AustinRecords.com very soon.
A record hunt is always fun no matter what shape or form it comes in, but be glad for the oldtimer pack rats. They have been saving America’s musical heritage one garage sale at a time!