Speaking to doo-wop royalty

Rich Rosen's "Stormy Weather" acetate

By Pat Prince

 

Rich Rosen, owner of Wax Trax Records in Nevada, was once called “the white god of rock ‘n’ roll music” by a record collector in Japan. Others have simply known him as “The King of Doo-wop.” Neither nickname is surprising for a man who has spent his entire life searching for the rarest records in the doo-wop genre.

Rosen has owned Wax Trax Records for over forty years, starting the business from his home in Brooklyn, New York. From Brooklyn he moved to Pennsylvania before eventually settling in Las Vegas. But his interest in record collecting goes back to his childhood. “One time I was home sick with a cold,” Rosen explains, “and I sent my father out with a list of 45s that I was looking for. Out of a list of 25, he got me four records. My father was the best and if he didn’t get it for me, something was wrong. So I said, ‘You know something? Records are going to become scarce (one day). Certain records are not going to be found.’ That’s when I decided to start collecting records, and searching for them.”

Rosen had a good ear for music, seeking out artists that many had overlooked; this is where the tag “King of Doo-wop” began to stick. “They all knew I was digging up records that nobody had picked before,” explains Rosen. “In other words, the other dealers were passing up things because they didn’t know what they were. What I would do is sit and listen.”

Rich Rosen with “Stormy Weather”

Collecting doo-wop would soon become the way Rosen earned his living. His main way of collecting would be “buying out” music publishers in New York City. He would contact music publishers in New York City and ask them if they had any old records to sell. At times, the publishers would sell Rosen all the existing “old” vinyl they had in storage. His search, of course, eventually expanded to record stores. One such search in the 1970s brought him to a record store he remembers as “Branfords” in New Jersey. It was there where he would purchase what he calls the holy grail of doo-wop, a Stormy Weather acetate disc — an item that Rosen feels can earn him over twenty-thousand dollars one day.

“I walked into this record store in New Jersey that was in a burned-out area,” says Rosen. “I asked if they had any old records. The person behind the counter said that they had a basement with a lot of old records, and no one had been down there in a long time. So they give me a miner’s cap — one with a light on it — and I climbed down. It was like a bomb shelter of sorts with a ladder going down. And I’m looking all over the place. I’m finding great jazz and Blue notes and stuff like that and then there was this stove but it was not against the wall. I wondered why and saw records were holding the stove back.”

Lo and behold, the vinyl slueth would pick up the record of his dreams. “I put my hand down there expecting to be bitten by a rat,” Rosen continues, “and I picked up a handful of records. And the top record was a 78 of “I Live True To You” by the Larks on Apollo and right underneath was the acetate of “Stormy Weather” by the Five Sharps. I was so nervous that I wet my pants because I’m saying to myself ‘How do I get out of this store with this record?’ I didn’t know what to do, so I just threw it into a box with some other albums and 45s and walked up (to the counter) and they said ‘Give me twenty bucks for the box’ and I just said ‘You got it.’”

When the crowned “King of Doo-wop” moved to Vegas about twelve years ago, he immediately became involved in the music community. He convinced the radio station KLAV 1230 AM to take him on as a doo-wop disc jockey, and ever since he has been producing a doo-wop show at 7 to 9pm every Monday night called the Street Harmony Revue. “I felt like my love for doo-wop should be shared by everybody” says Rosen, “and my radio show is considered to be one of the best doo-wop shows on the airwaves. What I do is single out the better songs, and I have a lot of unreleased stuff, from when I used to buy out the publishers in New York.” Tune in and you will get a chance to hear doo-wop’s most beloved and most obscure. Top requests on the show have been “Summertime Angel” by Intentions on Jamie Records, “Heavenly Bliss” by Classic IV on Twist Records, and “What a Night For Love” by the Notations on Wonder.

As far as still finding rare records, Rich Rosen has never given up hope that people will keep unearthing them in basements and attics everywhere. “One man recently walked in to Wax Trax with a pile of records,” Rosen says. “It contained “It’s Too Soon To Know” by the Orioles on Jubilee, “Please Remember My Heart” by the Solitaires on Old Town and about 50-60 records of that caliber. Most were not mint but there was one record that was,worth $4,000: The Encores on Checker.”

He adds, “So, you never know what’s going to walk in off the street.”

 

Rich Rosen’s List of The 20 Rarest Doo-Wop Records
In alphabetical order by label
• Admiral 913 / “Please Be My Love” / The Spirals
• Cameron 1 / “I’m Looking Over” / Tony Evans & Group
• Chelton Ham 1001 / “Remember Me Baby” / Billy & The Essentials
• Club 1011 / “Darling Come Back” / Patty Cordell & The Crescenets
• Comet 2147 / “Wonderful” / Stan Vincent & The Del-Satins
• Delsey 301 / “Sugar Girl” / Lenny Rocco
• Guyden 2087 / “Only Girl For Me” / Bobby Young
• Hawk 153 / “I Still Love You” / Joey & The Ovations
• Herald 569 / “Betty My Own” / Tony Maresca & The Dynamics
• Jamie 1252 / “Summertime Angel” / The Intentions
• Little 813 / “Lorraine” / Joey Dee
• Little Star 112 / “Baby” / The Quarter-Notes
• Orange East / “My Girl” / Tony Dell
• Planet 1048 / “The Wonderful Years” / Barry & The High Lights
• Stasi 1002 / “Every Road” / Anastasia
• Tropelco 1007 / “Lover’s Bells” / The Royal Boys
• UWR 900 / “Rain” / The Demolyrs
• Valley 302 / “Yo Yo Girl” / Dickie & The Debonairs
• Wonder 100 / “Chapel Doors” / The Notations
• Zooma 101 / “My Dream” / The Clee-Shays

Rich Rosen’s 20 Most Wanted Records*
• Aladdin 3449 / “Two Lovers” / The Blenders
• Bardo 529 / “Please Come Back” / The Fi-Dels
• Brooks 2000 / “Baby” / The Carribeans
• CeeBee 1062 / “Oh Why” / The Softones
• Central 2605 / “Blue & Lonely” / The Pretenders
• Chase 1600 / “Write Me” / The Remarkables
• Cyclone 5012 / “If I Could Hold Your Hand” / The Calendars
• De Besth 1124 / “I Want You” / The Five Crowns
• Gee 10 / “Blue” / The Coins
• Gone 5010 (Black) / “Lamp Light” / The Deltas
• Lessie 99 / “That’s My Girl” / De Jan & The Elgins
• Mark 146 / “Tell Me A Lie” / The Charm Kings
• Markay 108 / “Pardon Me” / The Cezannes
• Marlin 803 / “Frankie My Eyes Are On You” / Little Iris Culmer
• Moon 109 / “Crying” / The Endorsers
• Planet X 9621 / “I Want” / Henry Sawyer & The Jupiters
• Play 1002 / “I Thank Heaven” / The Tone Blenders
• Rama 215 / “My Foolish Heart” / The Joytones
• Teen 121 / “What Is Your Name Dear” / The Ebb Tides
• Tops / “Heaven Sent You” / The Concepts

*Listed in alphabetical order by label. Rosen started off collecting Doo-Wop and Ihen ventured into R&B. He still collects Doo-Wop, but it seems that most of his want list, below, is R&B, or you could say R&B oddities – things that have eluded him during his 45 years of collecting records.

Wax Trax Records is located in the Westside neighborhood of Las Vegas, Nevada. 2909 S Decatur Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89102. Owner Rich Rosen,“The King of Doo-wop,” can be contacted at (702) 362-4300 or waxtraxinc@aol.com

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