Brendan Gill told the story in his book HERE AT THE NEW YORKER of handing a Roman coin to his fellow writer William Maxwell, whose response I have taken as my title. The objects I’m referring to are also round and ancient, with a different pedigree.
This most recent manifestation of The Quest began in June 2013 in a Novato, California antiques shop. The Beloved had noted that they had 78s and even checked one to see — it was a Ray Noble Victor — that the pile might have some interest to me.
After assuming the traditional position — somewhere between all-fours and an unsteady squatting balance — I found this one, and walked away with it after offering the natives two dollars and eighteen cents for it:
Ten days later, we visited the Goodwill in Petaluma, where I’d once found — magically — WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, thanks to Mr. Crosby and some collection of Hidden Powers (a story we treasure).
No such revelations awaited us, but on the floor were four cartons of 78s, most in paper sleeves — more than a few from a Berkeley record store — and some in brown paper albums. Someone had admired or collected Bing, for two of the cartons held Deccas, from the sunburst 1937 LET’S CALL A HEART A HEART to the early-Fifties duet with son Gary, SAM’S SONG.
I went through them quickly, out of respect for Bing, but my attention was drawn by the scraps of someone’s record collection — the ones I collected for myself reached from the Twenties to the late Forties. I bypassed any number of sweet bands — Tom Coakley for one — but went for many varieties of Hot and Sweet. Each was ninety-nine cents plus tax.
The most recent, circa 1946, is a West Coast big band led by reedman Cates — including trumpeter Clyde Hurley:
Going back nearly a quarter-century earlier, a label that makes collectors’ hearts race:
January 1924, with Phil Napoleon, Miff Mole, Jimmy Lytell, Frank Signorelli, Tony Colucci or John Cali, Jack Roth.
Aptly named — from 1940 — conducted and arranged by someone we admire, before he became Paul Weston.
The way we feel about Miss Wiley.
Another sweet star — asking a meteorological question.
Miss Helen Rowland — a singer memorable but not sufficiently well-known.
This record isn’t listed in Lord’s discography, but “Comedienne” suggests a certain amount of energy; having heard Miss Walker sing, I wouldn’t expect her to “get hot,” but she’s never a disappointment.
The other side of this disc appeared first to my eyes: I GOT RHYTHM by the Bud Freeman Trio, with Jess Stacy and George Wettling. I find it nearly impossible to pass up a Commodore 78 — holy relics of devotion to the Hot Grail! — but this one comes with its own story.
I couldn’t find out anything about William H. Procter, but I do not doubt that he was a swing fan in the late Thirties and mid-Forties. The two brown paper albums of 78s — mostly Goodman — all had his stickers on the label. And it took me back to a time before my birth when a proud swing fan would have bought those stickers as a point of pride: “These are my records!” so that when he brought a new group of precious acquisitions to a friend’s house for a listening party, there was never any discussion that his new Bluebird or Blue Note was his.
Where is William H. Procter now? I hope he is with us — just having decided that he could have the music of his elated youth on his iPod rather than those bulky black discs. I send him gratitude for his good taste.
And let us consider — at our collective leisure — that these apparently fragile objects (and others) prove to be so durable that they may outlive their first owners. The Beloved, who is wise, says, “Human beings cannot be stored in closets and attics, which is what happens to records.”
May your happiness increase!