What I’ve learned from foraging for vinyl in second hand stores.

25 12 2012

I’ve certainly learned nothing important, nothing that will help me improve my life or the lives around me.  But I think I learned a lot about what the two generations before me liked in music.   The “Greatest Generation,” and to a lesser extent the “Baby Boomers,” listened to a lot of stuff that you never hear anymore.  Artists that I’ve heard of all my life, but who really meant nothing to me, were wildly popular 35-55 years ago.

When vinyl died its first death in the late 80’s and early 90’s, a lot of people replaced their favorite vinyl albums with cassettes and CD’s.  I know because I worked at Musicland at our local mall.  What I also know is that 95% of the stuff that fills vinyl bins at second-hand stores, flea markets and even record stores that specialize in vinyl, weren’t replaced.  When grandma and grandpa died their kids gave away their collections.

You know that these old records sat around for years, maybe decades.  A lot of ’em smell like mothballs and the mustiness of a mid-century home’s basement (you know those places, asbestos tiles and wood paneled walls.)  But I digress (as usual.)

Here’s the stuff that you are guaranteed to find at your local Salvation Army, Goodwill or _____ second hand store:

*  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

*  Perry Como

*  Andy Williams

*  Multiple disk classical, hymns and Christmas songs packages

*  Barbara Streisand’s 70’s stuff

*  Barry Manilow

*  Bobby Vinton

*  Any number of classical works

*  Acker Bilk — Who the feck is that guy?

*  Johnny Mathis

* Roger Whittaker

*  Lou Rawls

*  Marches of all types

*  Al Hirt

*  Lawrence Welk — a favorite of my grandmother

*  Mitch Miller

*  Polkas, polkas, polkas and more polkas; polka records by the dozen — There were and are a lot of Polish folks around Detroit so that explains a bit of that.

There are cooler (to Generation X-er’s and hip Baby Boomers) things to be found, but they finding real gems is like hitting the Daily 3 or 4 lottery.   Aretha Franklin — I’m not a fan but … — is not too hard to find.  The Detroit second hand shops, meaning those right in the city, always have some  Motown platters.  Sadly, most of those records are pretty beat up.  But they are there to be found.  Of course, Detroit is a rock town so you’ll find Foghat, Nazareth, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent and Bob Seger. Elvis is easy to be found, but usually it’s some lousy compilation album that has been beaten to death.  What you’ll never find in those stores are the giants of the vinyl era: The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, good Elvis stuff, Chuck Berry, Neil Young… the core of the early rock and classic rock periods.  You gotta go to a record store for that stuff and you’ll find it there for a few bucks more than what you’d pay at Salvation Army.

The great thing about the few records stores that are out there is that they only buy old records with an eye toward re-selling them.  They might buy a beat up Zeppelin album, but you won’t pay more than a $1 for it.  The bulk of what they take in for sale at $5, $7, $10 to $20 has to be in great shape and/or really hard to find.  The real gems are in the records stores.

Maybe I didn’t really learn anything about anyone.  Maybe what I really learned is that Herb Alpert and Mitch Miller sold a shitload of records in their day and probably retired and/or died billionaires.  Their albums are as common and easy to find as squirrels on a tree-lined street.


Hello Records in Corktown, Detroit — a hidden gem for audiophiles

3 11 2012

Sometimes the best is small, well-worn and unassuming.  Sometimes the coolest places to hang and the best stores to patronize are hidden in the dark recesses of urban and suburban areas.

In the heart of Corktown, Detroit, Michigan’s “oldest neighborhood,” is Hello Records.  It’s a vinyl lovers dream!  It’s located at Bagley and Trumbull (two blocks from the former Tiger Stadium.)

Hello Records is a small cozy space.  A really cool, easygoing guy — with a ton of music knowledge — Wade, owns and operates the place.  He has jam-packed the small store full of records.  I don’t think there is much that he doesn’t have (at least at one time or another.)  In Hello Records you’ll an amazing selection of rock, soul/R&B, funk, country and jazz records.  Not surprisingly, Motown works are plentiful.  I, personally, have loved the selection of 45’s of classic and lesser-known Marvin Gaye albums, compilations and 45’s.

This is a very no-frills store. You won’t find CD’s, DVD’s and cheap music merchandise.  You’ll just find LP’s and 45’s at great prices.  Since I’ve been buying vinyl the last month or more, I’ve gotten used to checking out antiques malls, digging through boxes of moth-ball-scented records at (various) Salvation Army and other thrift stores.  Records in antique stores can be reasonably priced; mostly they’re a tad over-priced.  The best you can hope for in a second-hand store is to find maybe two albums out hundreds, that you really like.  Not so with Hello Records.  The selection is so good — probably due to constant rotation (no pun intended) — I can’t help but walk out of there at least $10 lighter in the wallet.  That doesn’t sound like much unless you consider I’m popping in there 3-4 times per week.

Wade knows customer service.  His prices are reasonable and he seems inclined to reward customers buying a lot of material at once and repeat business.  The quality of most of the higher and mid-priced records is excellent.  The records are generally very clean and listenable.  If a record has snap, crackle and pop, but is still listenable, you’ll get it for a nice price.

For me, this is one of those places I could imagine myself loitering in for hours!  Places like this are all but dead.  Hopefully growing interest in vinyl will keep this great place going and other real record will spring up (again) in our cities and suburbs.

Hello Records in Corktown, Detroit, Michigan


This is an “album,” or a “long playing record,” kids.

23 07 2012

My personal feeling about vinyl records is that they are cumbersome, not particularly portable, sound awful when scratched, and generally inferior to compact discs. I know many audiophiles will disagree, but that’s where I stand. Still, there’s nothing like an LP for functional, 3 dimensional musical art. I’m glad vinyl is making a big comeback, for that reason alone. I found this Smokey Robinson & The Miracles album at a pawn shop in Hastings, Michigan, and just had to have it. One, the vinyl is pristine. Two, it’s a nice – though slightly campy – piece of Motown art. Three, you just can’t get albums like this on CD. It seems like all that can be found out there are bad “best ofs” and lousy compilations that have the same 5, 8 songs that always get radio play. I hope to soon give this a spin. I betcha it’s a solid album.

Happy birthday Martha Reeves

18 07 2012

She’s 71 today.


Nickelback to perform at Lions/Packers Thanksgiving Day game halftime show; Detroit Rock City fans in an uproar

3 11 2011

For as many albums as they have sold, it’s a bit surprising how much Nickelback is hated.  I personally find that band completely and utterly unlistenable.  I ignore them when I can.

We take music in the Motor City quite seriously.  That explains why Detroit Lions fans are irked that the NFL has selected Nickelback as the Thanksgiving Day game’s halftime entertainment.  I think more popular and maybe even more listenable choice would have been Chris Brown.  Nickelback is that bad.

Lions fans are demanding that Nickelback be pulled from the lineup.


The Alberta rockers are scheduled to perform Nov. 24 at Ford Field in Detroit, when the Lions face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the Lions’ traditional Thanksgiving Day game.

Backlash has been growing since the news was announced Wednesday, and it seems to to be more about pride in the city’s musical heritage than any testy U.S.-Canada relations.

In Detroit — the city that spawned the Motown sound, classic rock’s Bob Seger and alternative icons The White Stripes — it seems some people simply aren’t keen on Nickelback.

That was evident on change.org, where signers of an online petition did little to mask their distaste for the band. By Thursday morning, more than 1,500 people signed the petition demanding Nickelback be dropped from the halftime show.

“I’d rather drink bleach than listen to Nickelback and have them associated with Detroit,” wrote one petitioner.

I couldn’t agree more.

Another Motown legend, Esther Gordy Edwards, has passed

26 08 2011

Two days after Motown songwriting legend, Nick Ashford, passed, Esther Gordy Edwards, older sister of Berry Gordy, passed away.  Esther was 91 years old.

She wasn’t a performer.  She wasn’t really a composer. She didn’t found the company.   But Mrs. Edwards was, by all accounts, hugely instrumental in the success of the Motown label.  Mrs. Edwards provided the seed money, out of a Gordy family account, that helped her younger brother, Berry, start Motown records.  That $800 loan, excellent talent scouting and being in the right place at the right time, eventually helped Motown become a dominant force in the music business.  We all know how great the music was.

Mrs. Edwards is also credited for her skills at scouting talent and promoting the artists and label, both here and abroad.  She was a trusted confidant to her brother, and she kept the Detroit Motown offices running after major operations were shifted to Los Angeles in the early 1970’s.  Once Motown’s center of gravity settled in Southern California, Mrs. Edwards founded and ran the Motown Museum, a place that still attracts fans from around the globe.  I personally visited it last week (though I didn’t go inside.)  Paul McCartney stopped there during his Detroit tour stop earlier this summer.

She’ll be laid to rest on August 31.


Macca visits Motown

28 07 2011

While in town for his Detroit stop this past Sunday, Paul McCartney stopped by the Motown Museum, Hitsville USA.


It sounds like he had a blast going through the museum.  It is astonishing to me that, as much as McCartney has accomplished in his own 50-some year musical career, he’s still moved by the work of those that influenced him in his youth.  He still has his own heroes,  and some of them are from right here in the Motor City.