More delightful memories and stories from Dan Morgenstern.  I’d asked him, “What was it like to buy records in the Forties?” — a scene that few people reading this post have experienced.

First-hand narrative: there’s nothing to compare with it.

Here’s another part of the story of Big Joe Clauberg, as excerpted from Amanda Petrusich’s excellent book, DO NOT SELL AT ANY PRICE.

I took my title for this post from Dan’s recollections of his first phonograph, a wind-up acoustic one, but it has larger meaning for me.

There is still something wondrous about going in to a shop that happens to have a pile of records — an antique store or something else — getting one’s hands dirty, going through a pile of mail-order classical records, red-label Columbias of Dorothy Shay, incomplete sets, and the like — to find a 1938 Brunswick Ellington, Teddy Wilson, or Red Norvo.

Later, the pleasure of going in to an actual record store and looking through the bins — name your dozen favorite artists — and finding something that you didn’t know existed — in my case, recordings of the Eddie Condon Floor Show on Queen-Disc.  More recently, the same experience with compact discs at now vanished chain record stores.

All gone.  The alternative?  Stream forty hours of your cherished jive through one of the services that doesn’t pay the musicians.  Oh, there are happy exceptions: the Blessed Mosaic Records.  But nothing replaces finding treasure on your own.

And, in case the thought hasn’t yet occurred to you, Dan Morgenstern is one of those treasures.

Here’s one of the sides from Dan’s birthday present:

May your happiness increase!


  1. Great interview with Dan. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Dan has wonderful observations on jazz and culture. I don’t think that I am alone in saying that the majority of my early jazz education and information was gleaned from the liner notes from LPs, often written by Dan. Spending time in the record store, weighing your options, keeping in mind your available funds, then carrying something home gave a sense of ownership that seems missing now.

  3. So very nice to hear Dan talk of those years. He knows a lot about jazz, but more importantly, he is also a sweet, lovely guy.
    All of your Dan Morgenstern items have been wonderful, but I particularly liked this one on record collecting in NYC. His discussion of Joe at the Jazz Record Center (called Indian Joe in my day) brought back fond memories. I love New Orleans jazz and have collected it since I was a teenager in the 1960’s. In doing so, I spent many Saturdays of those early years at the Jazz Record Center on 47th St. Indian Joe was pretty old by then, and much of the work was done by a guy named Jay Vaughan. But Joe kept a close watch on the place and he had an uncanny ear for what you liked. Once you had bought 6-8 LP’s, he would pick something from the bins that you might not select on your own, and say “listen to this.” Quite often you walked out with it. That’s how I bought the classic 1962 Queen City JB (Cincy not Denver) LP on Toad Records. Toad was sued for its logo—a large toad listening to a Victrola.

    When I shopped there (probably 1965-70), the big battles were between the modernists and the trad jazz fans like me. I weighed quite a bit in those days, and one of the modern fans—Carl, a black guy from New Orleans—christened me “the Big Fig.” It was a bit like Cheers—I would walk in and Carl would bellow, “Hey, the Big Fig is here!.” Carl was into the music and little else. He worked as much as possible as a messenger and seemed to put all his money into sushi and LP’s (Ornette, Horace Silver, etc.) (and probably his SRO rent).

    Dayton’s was also a favorite haunt. Actually there were two—one on 12th and Broadway and one on 8th Street. It was a great source for out-of-print LPs and also foreign LP’s. I got my first LP’s of the great Portena JB (Argentina) at Dayton’s.
    Those were the days!!!!

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