Tuesday, March 22, 2011


As I was growing up it seemed my family really liked music a lot.  We had a huge mono record player with an automatic changer on it and dad would play records sometimes.  His record collection was not huge but it was carefully selected.  He had some Eddie Arnold, Jim Nabors, and Jim Reeves albums.  He tended to go for the contemporary country music.  As a family we would watch music based television shows every week.  I knew all of the Lennon sisters from watching Lawrence Welk and I could Sing along with Mitch every week not to mention a peek in at the Grand Ol Opry.

Mom had played the accordion when she was growing up but I never heard her play.  I am not sure why that is.  They thought enough about music to give all of us kids piano lessons and encouraged us to join in the school band or orchestra.  I think I was the only one that took them up on the school band when I took to playing the french horn my fifth grade year.  My sister Elaine sang in the school choir.  Music was enjoyed in our family except for my piano playing.  I think it was my selection of music I chose to play on the piano and the volume that I played it at.

Anyway, Dad had his record collection and mom had a smaller collection.  The only record I remember my mother listening to and enjoying was a Frankie Avalon album the included songs like "Venus, Bobbysocks to Stocking and songs like that.  It was good music and I enjoyed listening to it.  My sister bought a piano book of Frankie Avalon songs that I stole from her and still have in my piano bench.  They are fun songs to play.

My uncle Dan gave us a membership to the American Music Club for Christmas one year.  It was the kind of club where you were suppose to buy so many albums in a year.  We ended up with a Peter Paul and Mary album,  A Tennessee Ernie Ford Record and a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Album.

When Elaine became a teenager she joined the Columbia Record Club.  This was my first introduction to top forty music.  Her collection grew and soon she had recording artists such as Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin, James Taylor and Chicago sitting in her room.  I would go in to her room when she wasn't home and listen to some of these great albums.  She wasn't one to take proper care of her records and most of them ended up unplayable by the time she moved from home.  She left them at the house for me but when I went to check them out I discovered that the protective inner paper sleeve was absent on every one of her records leaving the cardboard cover to dig and scratch the record into an unplayable disc of plastic.

I then began my own record collection.  Elaine had left me her little stereo when she had moved out and so I had a decent piece of equipment to play my records on.    I began by getting some Three Dog Night and some 5th Dimension along with a Bobby Sherman album.  The purchase of the Bobby Sherman record was not a proud moment in my life of being an audiophile when I look back on it, still the album was not too bad.

I began replacing some of the records my sister had left me with new copies that would be taken proper care of.  Soon my collection began to grow as I put most of my spare money into the buying of records.  First I had ten and then twenty and thirty records.  The collection would end up with about 300 records before the music began to deteriorate and there wasn't any good music to buy anymore.  Not as much good music as there use to be anyway.

My collection was at about 25 records or so when my Aunt Sue bought an album by a group called Bread.  The title was Baby I'mA Want You and it was a stunning record.  The combination of David Gates and James Griffin  songwriting gave the album a diversion of styles and sound.  The songs were beautiful and the lyrics were wonderful.  I fell in love with this album and would listen to it with Sue when ever I went over to visit.  I made my decision that I wanted a Bread album as well.

I was going to take my time choosing an album by Bread.  I wanted to be sure to get the best one even though I knew that the best Bread album out there was the one in the possession of my Aunt Sue.  I held back though thinking they may come out with something new and excising   They did do that.  I remember looking in a copy of Rolling Stone and seeing a review of "The Best Of Bread".  This was what I had been waiting for.  It carried on it several songs from Baby I'ma Want You plus some of their older music as well as a few newer songs.  I decided this would be the record I would get.

I began saving my money to buy the record.  After about three weeks I had the funds to purchase the record and headed up to the local dime store to purchase it.  You don't see many five and ten stores anymore but they were kind of like Walgreens or CVS only without the pharmacy.  The day I bought that album was just before school was letting out for the summer.  I took it home and immediately played it and fell in love with it.  I cut the review of the record out of the Rolling Stone and taped it to the inside cover of the album.  This reacord and this group would became one of my all time favorites.  Bread's sound has held up over the years and I can still listen to them and their music still sounds fresh and new.  Another snubbed group from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I won't go down that road.  It would only make me angry to think of some of the groups the HOF has snubbed while lesser groups seem to gt inducted.  Okay, steering away from the RRHOF.

I had a habit of never using the record changer on the stereo that my sister gave me.  I felt that the act of dropping records hard onto records rotating after just been played was not a very wise thing to do as far as record maintenance was concerned.   I was the kind of person who took extreme care in the handling of my recordings.  The records were always cleaned before playing and before being put back into it cover.  The paper sleeves were re introduced into the house as a protective measure for the records.  The paper sleeve had to be used in a very singular manner.  First you would put the record into the sleeve then slide the sleeve gently into the cardboard cover so that the opening of the paper sleeve was not exposed allowing a record to accidentally fall out of the cover and crash onto the floor.  This was one way in which I was able to detect when someone had been playing my records.

One day my niece Kelly was visiting at the house with my sister.  Kelly was not very old, I am guessing that she was probably around three years old.  I love Kelly and did not mind if she hung around with me when she wanted to.  On this particular day she was up in my bedroom with me while I was doing a chore of some kind.  She was sitting on the floor talking to herself while I went about what I was doing.  My room was fairly small and I kept my stereo on the floor next to the bed for easy access to it during the day or night.

I had been listening to my Bread album and when it finished I went to the restroom, leaving Kelly there for just a few seconds.  When I came back I heard a sound that sent chills down my spine.  I still get those chills when I think of that day.  It was a horrid scratching noise and it was coming from the stereo.  Kelly was balancing herself on two knees and her left hand while her right hand had a firm grip on the tonearm of the stereo.  She was sliding the tonearm with that diamond stylus on it back and forth across my Bread album.  She kept going as I stood there numb and in shock.  A white streak had already become visible on the record indicating the path that she was running the needle back and forth across the vinyl.   The scratch went from the label on the inside all the way to the outer reaches of the disc.  I call it a scratch but in reality it looked like a gouge.

It was one of the few times I got seriously angry with Kelly, but she was too young to understand why I would be angry.  She was just playing a record as far as she knew.  I yelled at her and pulled her away from the stereo and her little eyes began to water up.  You can't stay mad at a little girl like Kelly when she is looking at you like that.  My heart softened and I took her downstairs to her mother.  My face was still red I guess and I still wasn't breathing quite right but I held my temper.

Eventually I got up the nerve to try to play the record with the thick white line going in the wrong direction on it.  It played.  It didn't play as well as it had before mind you.  There were some new pops and clicks here and there but the record did not skip.  It was in much better shape than the records Elaine had left to me as when I was young as this record was still playable.

Kelly wasn't allowed to play or touch any of my records for a very long time after that but I eventually learned to trust her again as she grew up and learned the proper way to play a record and the proper way to maintain a record, something her Aunt Elaine never did learn.

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