Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christmas in July

Yesterday and today have seemed like Christmas in July to me.

A friend of mine, Jim, gave me a nice present yesterday. Fifty-nine 78 r.p.m. records. Today, he came back with more to give me. I counted 121 records. Thanks, Jim!

I started collecting 78's a few years ago, after I was given a 1918 Edison Disc Phonograph that used to belong to my grandfather, Elmer Boles. There were 30 Edison Records with it. The records only play on an Edison Phonograph.

For my last birthday, my aunt Donna gave me a Philco record player/radio. Just like my Edison, it is in mint condition. She also gave me eighty-eight 78's.

So now, the number of 78 r.p.m. records in my collection has grown to 250.

I love listening to them. Many are 90+ years old and those artists are among the very first recording artists ever. What an exciting time that must have been.

Edison would put his phonographs in a big music hall and invite the masses to come listen to his invention. He believed that people would rather listen to a record than hear the singer perform live. Naturally, that was years before Elvis came on the scene. LOL!

I would have loved to have been a member of those audiences. You know how we reacted to the internet, the iPod and text messaging. The fax machine blew me away when it came out. Imagine what people thought about the phonograph when it first came out.

The photographs of singers like Billy Murray, Elizabeth Spencer, The Edison Quartet, Henry Burr and countless others recording the very first records are amazing. Backed by full orchestras, you can tell they are enjoying what they are doing. Why wouldn't they? It was all brand new to them.

Edison, Victor, then RCA Victor and Columbia were among the biggest record companies at the beginning of the 20th century. I have many of those labels in my collection, along with great labels like Decca. I enjoy studying each record, tracing down the history of the song and/or the artist, and sometimes being able to learn some amazing facts about both.

It's a great hobby and I love it.

Most kids today don't even know what a record is. As a child, I could not wait to go to the local store that sold records and see the latest releases. I used to always try to purchase as least one or two records whenever I went there. Three Dog Night, The Beatles, Elton John and on and on.

I remember the day dad brought home 'Green Eyed Lady' by Jerry Corbetta & Sugarloaf. The organ solo in the middle of that record had a huge impact on me. So did The Five Americans 1967 album, Progressions, which includes great songs like Con Man, Black is White, (But Not) Today, Zip Code, Evol Not Love and more. A few years ago I had the great opportunity to talk to lead singer Mike Rabon a few times. Last I heard, he was teaching at a high school in Oklahoma. Two summers ago, I met Jerry Corbetta. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me. I shook his hand and told him he had a big impact on my life. He sort of looked at me funny, but later we exhanged a few e-mails. He said his biggest influence was Elvis.

Having records and phonographs lets me remain a kid. It's a great escape.

One other thought. Every time Edison had an idea for an invention, he took a nap and when he woke up, he would know how to proceed with his idea. I wish I had a job like that. Not that I have an urge to invent something, but the taking a nap part during work. That's kind of a neat idea.

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