These are articles written for the Orillia Packet & Times newspaper by Lorne VanSinclair, former promoter of the Toronto Musical Collectables Record & CD Sale and this site's administrator.
These articles began in 2004 as a monthly series designed to be a primer on record collecting for the uninitiated. It was supposed to last just a few weeks but it kept going until the end of 2016.
The series expanded to include articles on other aspects of collecting and they can be seen on our sister web site www.carouselcollectables.com.
Some time ago I was listening to a CBC Radio show hosted by Colin James, a great blues-based musician, who flatly declared that Stardust was the best song ever written. He did this just after playing a Howlin’ Wolf record which puts him in the Music Appreciation Hall of Fame as far as I’m concerned.
Every generation has its own unique fashion in clothes that is not liked by the previous generation. Lately there has been a tendency to “dress down”; the grunge look of the 1980s, or the torn blue jeans of the hippies in the 1960s, but in the 1930s the ultimate in-your-face fashion statement was a suit. It was called a zoot suit and surprisingly, it generated the strongest reaction ever seen about any form of clothing in the modern era.
In music, as in other entertainment arts, there are some performers who come to represent more than just their music. They become symbols and catalysts for a whole range of social dynamics in their particular generation. Cab Calloway is a perfect example.
The so-called British Invasion of the 1960s transformed the music industry, our culture and Britain itself. It has often been pointed out as a supreme paradox that the ammunition in this invasion of America was mostly American made. What most of us didn’t know back then was then even what we thought were original songs from Britain, were also American.
There are many myths and legends about blues and folk performers but nobody is more mythic and legendary than the great country blues man, Robert Johnson. Recently broadcaster Jad Abumrad did some serious digging into the myth and legend of Robert Johnson and made some startling discoveries.
Booker T. Jones, one of the most influential musicians alive in the blues and soul genres literally laid the tracks for southern soul.
Modern folk music started with Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. It appeard to die out in the 80s but folk music is back, bigger, better and stronger than ever. The current revival is the latest of many. The first began in the mid-1800s, during the Industrial Revolution.
All collectors are a bit obsessive, it comes with the territory. Those who collect vinyl records are among the most obsessive.
Think of a technology that profoundly changed the way we interact with each other. You know the first one that allowed us to share music with almost anyone anywhere in the world and gave amateur musicians a chance to record their songs without having to be signed to a record label.
Stanley Dance, one of the pre-eminent jazz critics of the swing era called her “America’s greatest singer”. Years later music historian Dave McGee wrote in the Rolling Stone Album Guide "One will come away from her recordings believing that she was nothing less than the greatest singer ever".
What makes some artists’ records more collectable than others? Even though some artists are (or were) very popular, there’s no interest in their old records. At the same time there’s a select few whose records just keep increasing in value.
People who collect records also collect books, graphic art, vintage electronics or just bits of tin ... as long as it has something to do with music
Our story begins some time in 1955 in Los Angeles. A singer and songwriter named Richard Berry is backstage between sets hurriedly scrawling something on a napkin. He never imagined the song he wrote that night would become one of the biggest hits in music history.
Collectors will often focus on certain stellar brands - Royal Dolton china or Zippo lighters for instance. For record collectors there are a very few brands - or labels - that warrant building a collection around them but of the ones that do, Sun Records of Memphis Tennessee is the cream of the crop.
If you’re not a devotee you might wonder, just what the heck is folk music anyway? The stock answer is that this is music made by just plain folks. The songs and styles are passed on through an oral tradition, not through formal education. The ideal folk musicians are just carrying on a culture, not trying to be stars making gazoolas of money.
The record business mostly involves producing mass quantities of popular music. In many ways records have defined our popular music culture but the industry got its start - and a lot of its technological innovation - from classical music.
The Dumbells may sound like a silly name but this group of actors and musicians played a crucial role in boosting morale among Canadian soldiers in the muddy, blood-soaked trenches of World War I. They then built on that success to become international stars.
This holiday season has many layers of significance. It is a time of lights and festivities to ward off the darkest days of the year, a time of religious observance, a time when we gather together and cherish our families. Christmas music reflects all this.
We hear a lot about soul in music. Last month we looked at the phenomenon of Northern Soul, but sometimes it seems soul is everywhere. Alicia Keys, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks are all well-known exponents of soul singing. Most country and pop singers use soul techniques.
Music collectors can sometimes be like a cult. They have their own language, sacred rituals and idols to worship. Most outsiders can only scratch their heads and wonder what it’s all about. No group is as rabid, enthusiastic or baffling to outsiders as Northern Soul collectors.
Music commentators and journalists like to use hip jargon. You’ll often hear them use the terms “cover” or “cover version” when referring to a new recording of a song that has been recorded before by someone else. The word cover is over used and usually applied incorrectly.
Everyone loves a good laugh, and record companies have exploited that for years. Some of the very first recordings Thomas Edison made were comic monologues or recitations, some by Mark Twain. Novelty records have been a staple of the industry ever since.
When buying music, most people look for a favourite song or artist, they don’t usually consider the label, that’s something collectors do. Some labels do manage to develop an audience for their own distinct “sound” but none did it as successfully as Motown Records.
The word jazz has many different meanings. When you jazz something up, you make it more exciting or colourful. When you talk jazz, that’s nonsense.
Jazz music is just as hard to define. It can be dance and party music, smooth and soothing, or weird and dissonant. Fans say it doesn’t matter, as long as it swings.
All mass manufacturers strive to find ways to make their products stand out from the ordinary, and record manufactures are no different. One of the most obvious ways was to make records of different colours to attract attention.
So why are most records black?
Bootleg records are a hot topic in the news these days.
Bootlegs are unauthorized and illegal issues, often recordings of concerts or unreleased material stolen from record company vaults or even reproductions of legitimate releases. Bottom line is, the person or company selling the record does not own the copyright and they don’t pay royalties