Sunday, July 15, 2012

Collecting Records ...The early days of collecting recordings before anyone know too much of anything. How the hobby has changed.

I acquired my first old record in 1969. It came my way in school. It had been found in the waters of Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale  Florida . It was a home made job from the 1940's of a rather bad barbershop quartet singing. I have a feeling that there was drinking involved in this recording. But I was delighted and hooked.

 I started in 1970 collecting records. Anything old I would take. I used to go to houses of older folks and ask if they had any old 78 records to get rid of. Amazingly I did find quite a few. Many were odd and unusual. Being that I did not know a lot yet I let many a treasure go away.

 Also I was totally confused as to the value and rarity of some of the records. In 1971 I traded a Philco cathedral radio for a Caruso record!

I was sure I did better in the deal...I had a lot to learn.

I was living in New Jersey by 1971 and before long I had a rare collection of Kate Smith records. Well I thought they were rare.

I found my first old phonograph in 1971. It was a Victor Victrola VI. It was not working had problems and I mowed a lawn to get it.  Since I had no idea what I was doing I broke the much of the original mechanism. Well by doing so I learned. I would in time fix it all with of all things Crazy Glue!  But this was my starting machine and I was very proud of it.  I signed the inside and put a 1972 penny inside to mark this very historic machine.  I was using sewing needles to play records..This was not the most successful way to play them.

So in my naive sense I called RCA Victor. It was still their logo on the side of the Victrola. It was a million to one chance that the person who answered the phone at RCA was a record collector named Don Donahue. I asked if they made needles for their Victor machines and he answered "Of course we do"  That evening I was to receive a pack of needles, as I walked to the RCA company in Rockaway, New Jersey.    I was soon to get mono and was sick beyond belief. One day while I was in and out of a very restless sleep there was a man at the foot of my bed with a big box. This was Don, and he brought me a get well present. A box of old records!

Once I was strong enough to, I went through that box and was amazed at all the treasures it contained. I would spend my evenings just playing some of these records ( I still have a few of them these 40 years later)

It was at this time I would discover Henry Burr, Billy Murray, Ada Jones, The Peerless, American, and Hayden Quartets and many more. I would in 1974 go and by chance walk into a store that would change my life. It was called the Player Piano Headquarters of Boonton, New Jersey. I was there with a friend and heard a piano playing one of the songs I had on my old records called Old pal why don't you answer me?

I walked in and said to the young fellow playing or I should say pumping the old piano, " I have a recording of Henry Burr singing that"..... Suddenly I heard a voice in the back louder than I could imagine say "Henry Burr!" Out came Ted Spangenberg the restorer of the pianos. He was about six feet tall, wearing a white tee shirt, bright green shorts, orange socks, and a smile. He grabbed me and took to the back of the shop and loaded me up in about 40 seconds with about 30 records of Henry Burr.  After getting over my shock of the records, his outfit, and this unique experience I found my home and people who loved what I did.

922 Main Street became my home away from home as Ted would restore phonographs, teach me about reproducers, and introduce me to many who were 15 to 90 in the field.  Saturdays would be the day we would all get together at Ted's place.  Through this association I would meet people who had worked for the Victor Company, recording artists, and some really fascinating collectors.

When I graduated from High School, Ted who always drove a limo, even though he was in the front made sure I arrived in style. Afterwards He would bring me a Victor Victrola as a present.   It was at this time I said goodbye to that first machine I had and had learned from. I sold it for $25.00 in 1976. What was amazing was I would get it back through another person who had it in 1992. I would get rid of it again in 1993 and it has not returned yet.  But who knows?

By 1980 I was well on my way to collecting a vast amount of early discs. It was good to start then as many of those records I found at this time you cannot find at all easy today. By 1982 I had a nice collection of Zonophones, Pre Dog Victors, Columbias and Climax records. I also had a good grouping of Edison records. Although I was never as fascinated by the Edison's as much as the early pre 1905 discs.

So now I have been at this for well over 40 years and I am not looking much for records, although I would be delighted to find some early ones, which happens now and then. But my collection is basically disc records from the 1895 to 1910 period. I find this period the most fun and also just about anything would be put on record.. So there is a lot of fun to many of these early records and their amateurish nature has a sense of fun in it. As we worked into the 20th century the fun went out of the recording and it became a serious business.

Now after all of this time and talking to so many people I have learned so much and know the histories of these recordings and artists. No longer do I have my Kate Smith records...

Although I am willing to trade a Caruso record for a Philco Cathedral radio!