My title might make some readers think of the little boy or girl clutching a reluctant kitten or puppy: “Can we keep it, Ma? It followed me home!” But this posting isn’t about pet adoption, although that’s something I applaud — it’s about record collecting.
These days, the phenomenon known as “junking,” where a collector years ago might find treasured rarities in people’s attics, antique stores, or junkshops, seems dead. Record collectors go to shows; they bid on eBay. But I found three exciting jazz records in the past week.
The first occurrence was purely serendipitous. While my car was being repaired (meet me at the intersection of Tedium and Economic Ruin), I walked a few blocks to the St. Vincent de Paul store. The objects for sale there are often curious, sometimes sad: I LOVE GRANDPA coffee mugs, ornate furniture, homemade ceramics. I hadn’t remembered a bookshelf full of records, and although I was not optimistic, I began to find jazz discs I had never seen before, a Neal Hefti long-play SALUTE TO THE INSTRUMENTS (Coral), fairly tame (I haven’t found out anything about the personnel) and a 10″ Brunswick lp, MUSIC AFTER MIDNIGHT, with Tony Scott, Dick Katz, Milt Hinton, and Philly Joe Jones.
I was ready to take my treasures to the cashier, but I noticed a worn paper album of 78s — Forties pop. Except for this one. Yes, it has a crack, which makes for an audible, regular tick; two names were misspelled, but I didn’t care:
The other side, incidentally, featured Sarah Vaughan singing LOVER MAN.
When I brought my trove up to the counter, the cashier held court: everyone was “Sweetheart.” She looked at the Guild 78. “Dizzy Gillespie,” she said. “I kinda know that name. My mother used to listen to the radio.” I said, “You know, you could have seen him on television yourself: he lived on until fairly recently.” She agreed, so I ventured on, “If someone remembers you, you don’t die,” I said. “You’re so right, Sweetheart!” she said.
Last Saturday, the Beloved aimed us towards Columbia County (a good omen for a record collector?) where we had spent the past summer. I was happy: she could enjoy beautiful gardens, and I could go to my favorite store on Warren Street in Hudson, New York — Carousel Antique Center, supervised by the very gracious Dan.
I went into the back of the shop and spotted a box of 78s on the floor. I had bought Clara Smith and Buck Clayton records here last year. Initially, it offered only calypso records. Then I reached for the lone 12″ 78 — in a decaying paper sleeve, its sides taped together:
I’m not so vain as to think that the cosmos works to make me happy, but this record might have provoked that feeling, for this side and the reverse, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, were the soundtrack to my childhood Louis-reveries (after the Gordon Jenkins sessions).
But there was something else, a 10″ Harmony. Most of the late-Twenties Harmony discs (excepting a Dixie Stompers surprise) I’ve found are dance bands and singers. This one’s special:
I knew very well what I was holding — even though it looked as if someone had played it over and over. And then I turned it over:
“Best Bix.” it says at top. Someone not only loved this record, but knew who was on it, even if a devoted listener thought Frank Trumbauer was playing an alto saxophone instead of his C-melody. Here’s a close-up of that annotation:
I paid much less than “25.00” for this one, but I found a treasure. The music still sounds splendid but the worn grooves speak of love; the label does also. Do any Bix-scholars care to comment on the handwriting and on the pricing?
I once tried to be a spirited collector of jazz records; I’ve given that up. And I have more music within reach than I could possibly listen to if I lived a long time. But I am going to keep looking through piles and shelves of records if treasures like this are going to want to follow me home. Wouldn’t you?