I dunno how many of y'all Slog Out folks seriously and obsessively collect vinyls, or double vinyls and triple vinyls, perhaps even seven inches records, but if you DO, y'all might find this interesting: On His Way Down: Williamsburg and the Birth of Record Collecting. It's a cool feature from the author, Amanda Petrusich, who has written Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records (due out in July). In this short blog post, feature she shares a telling snippet about The Jazz Record Center and the cast of freaks collectors and random weirdos who routinely turned up to hang around.
In the 1940s, the Jazz Record Center became the default clubhouse for a cabal of distinctive gentlemen: exiles, recluses, characters so outsize in their eccentricities that they felt invented, except better. Here there was not a sense—as with the archetypal Outsider—that a choice had been made. Here, the earliest collectors of 78 rpm records found each other.
Turns out, since 1940, not much has changed till teh internet killed brick and mortar retail. For most, the record shop was church, a gathering spot for record freaks/misanthropes, myself included. Oh, and also there is this: the discovery of Charlie Patton's “Some These Days I’ll Be Gone” via collector James McKune.
McKune wasn’t the first 78 collector, but he was one of the earliest to single out rural blues records as worthy of preservation, and is arguably the field’s most archetypal figure. What’s important is that McKune’s discovery of Patton set off an avalanche of cultural events, a revolution that’s still in progress: blues records became coveted by collectors, who then fought to preserve and disseminate them. After McKune, collectors became invested in rural blues. They sought those records with fury, the music was preserved and reissued, and the entire trajectory of popular music shifted to reflect the genre’s influence. A guy from no place, saving music from the same.
Pretty amazing, too: McKune is said to have nearly flipped past the beat-up 78; it was in a box labeled “Miscellany.”