Tag Archives: junking

THEY FOLLOWED ME HOME

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?

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BIX, BING, and FRIENDS IN THE BERKSHIRES

The Beloved and I are fond of a certain kind of antique store — not too expensive, devoted to fine French furniture costing thousands, and not specializing in rusted tools and old newspapers.  She is currently entranced by certain kinds of McCoy pottery (planters, not the terrifying cookie jars); I, predictably, look for sheet music and old records.  I might gaze longingly at a Victrola but have no intention of making a commitment to one. 

Sheet music is often in terrible shape if it’s been stored in the barn, and if it’s been well-cared for, the prices rise.  Today we were in Sheffield and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and I was directed in one store to a fine small collection of music.  Someone had taste: there were Cole Porter songs I’d never heard of, a Swing Era-vintage STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, and a batch of early African-Americana: IF THE MAN IN THE MOON WAS A COON and BY THE WATERMELON VINE, MAH LINDY LOU.  But these nicely-preserved artifacts were out of my price range.

Records, too, are usually disappointing: the great days of junking for Paramounts and Gennetts are long, long gone.  More typically I face Bobby Vinton and Frankie Carle, Donna Summer and Christmas songs.  Now and then a popular Goodman or Glenn Miller collection emerges, or a Jazztone from the Fifties, but such appearances are not the rule. 

Today, which happened to be the first Monday in August, before we turned for our temporary country home, the Beloved said, “Let’s cross the street and go into that shop, the one advertising farm tables.”  The shop was somewhat disorderly, and the owner was surprised, he said, that he could direct me to some sheet music (which turned out to be in bad shape).  On the way there, my vigilant eye was caught by a pile of records — microgroove issues without cardboard jackets scraping against one another mingled with 78s. 

When looking through records, one tends to make judgments on what one finds most often: too many Sammy Kaye and Eddie Fisher records and I begin to droop.  78s from the Fifties, obviously, are newer and have had fewer chances to crack and break.  All was reasonably dull until I came to two records, almost adjacent to one another.  I asked the owner, as innocently as I could, what he was charging, and he said, “Oh, a dollar apiece.”

When I took my two finds to him, he said, “Oh!  These are more valuable.  I thought that pile was only Sinatra and Tony Bennett.”  I stood there quietly and said, “Yes, they are more valuable.  What do you want for them?”  And he smiled at me, rather resignedly, and said, “Oh, a dollar apiece,” which I happily paid him.  It was an odd moment: he knew they were worth more but was being generous and perhaps feeling relieved of the burden of two more objects that threatened to overwhelm him.  

Neither record is in splendid condition.  But they both have been played over and over again, which makes them more valuable emotionally even if some eagle-eyed grader would rate them somewhere between V- and G.  Who knew that Bix and Bing got to Massachusetts, and that they had been preceded by the Original Memphis Five?  Someone in the Twenties had, as they say, an ear.  And you can now see the results.

East Chatham Summer 2009 I 018East Chatham Summer 2009 I 017

East Chatham Summer 2009 I 019

East Chatham Summer 2009 I 020

 The photographs are slightly blurry, but my pleasure in these discoveries and the casual generosity of the shop owner is sharp and clear.  “From Monday on, we’ll be in clover . . . !”