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Roy Clark is still alive

BY TILLY GOKBUDAK

Roy Clark is still alive. At CFBG, a co-op record store in close proximity to the UNCG campus, Harley Lyles, one of the four record collectors who contributes inventory to the store, is putting a “$1” label on a record entitled Roy Clark’s Greatest Hits. Another record in the stash of some 40 records, includes a similar greatest hits collection from the late country singer Johnny Paycheck.

Lyles is a bit unsure of Clark’s alive or dead status as he smiles while rummaging through the record stack. As it turns out, Clark, a Virginia native who made a name for himself on the 1970s rural audience variety show “Hee Haw” is still breathing at age 79.

In Winston-Salem, at Earshot Records, one of three stores in the Greenville, SC-based chain, manager Phred Rainey states that he recently sold a novelty record at the store. It was Big Bambu (1972), the second comedy recording by the duo Cheech and Chong, who are best-known for their marijuana-themed humor.

Just across town in a slightly different zip code, Jim Blachura, a tall man wearing a New York Yankees hat, is the owner/manager of Mighty Quinn Records. As he is listening to a major league baseball game on satellite radio, he sits with his guitar in a store which has photographs of mostly prematurely deceased rock stars on the wall.

The fallen icons include Jeff Buckley, who is perhaps best-known for his cover of Leonard Cohen’s haunting ballad “Hallelujah,” drowned in Memphis in 1997 at age 30, as is indicated on the store’s “Wall of Death.” His father Tim Buckley died of a drug overdose at age 28 in 1975, but he is not featured on the wall.

Blachura specializes in rare records. One of his most valuable ones is the album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) from the Rolling Stones. The record features the famous song “She’s a Rainbow,” the first song on side two. Since this particular vinyl copy at the store is one of the few copies of the recording with a 3-D cover on it, Blachura is retailing the record for $175.

Back in Greensboro, at Remember When Records, John Hiatt, the store’s owner/manager, who is not related to the singer of the same name, has many unusual records among the 100,000 or so in the store.

These include the Johnny Cash concept gospel album The Holy Land (1969), slight departure for the legend ary late country singer. Hiatt is selling one of the limited editions of that record with a 3-D cover on it, along with virtually the entire Cash catalog, which would include 45 albums.

Other records at Remember When which are likely to sought out by collectors, include the very rare Buckingham Nicks (1973), which Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks made before joining Fleetwood Mac. Despite considerable demand, Wikipedia states that the 10-track recording was never made available on compact disc.

One can also find the gospel album Who Are We? (1974) from the Dixie Hummingbirds, a group from Greenville, SC which performed background vocals on Paul Simon’s hit single “Love Me Like a Rock” (1973) at Hiatt’s store near the Greensboro Coliseum.

CFBG came together as a collaboration between record collectors, Max Benbassat, Jack Bonney, Rob Hamrick and Harley Lyles.

Benbassat said there are more than 12,000 records in the store, which range in genre from funk to electronic and hip hop to rock and roll.

One of the nuanced differences between the four record stores is that CFBG and Earshot Records sell new vinyl prints, which can be reissues from established, household-name bands like Pink Floyd or new releases from up-and-coming bands, such as Boys and Girls, the April 2012 release from Alabama Shakes, an Athens, Ala.-based punk-blues band.

These two stores also participate in Record Store Day, which fell on Saturday, April 21, this year. It’s an event which started relatively recently in 2007 as a way for independent record stores to bring in potential new customers, in similar fashion to Free Comic Book Day, started in 2002.

At Earshot, Record Store Day, which is now a global phenomenon, is an event which brings in considerable business.

“Our primary focus is very much the same primary focus for our customers,” Rainey says, explaining further that it is a day when the retailer needs to make sure each given customer is satisfied as special Record Store Day items, which this year included (at a national level) limited-edition vinyl pressings from artists ranging from current pop-singing sensation Katy Perry to the Sex Pistols, a popular ’70s punk band. “Thus, we don’t put an emphasis on things like juggling clowns.”

Record Store Day is also an event which is recognized at CFBG. Benbassat said that on that day customers were lined up at the store’s doors and many of these specialty items sold quite quickly.

But, at Remember When, the event is not recognized because the store only sells records which have been previously printed, as Hiatt does not bring in new releases from distributors: “We didn’t even knowwhat Record Store Day was.” Since Mighty Quinn Music does not sell new releases either, the third Saturday in April is a typical work day for Blachura too.

With each customer base at each of the four Triad record stores, all four of which sell other items, such as the vinyl artwork by local artists at Earshot or films on VHS at Remember When, there are some very particular wants and needs.

At CFBG, Lyles says that he has one customer/collector who particularly likes Christian ventriloquist records, many of which date back to when the nation was watching “I Love Lucy.” According to a 2009 article in the online version of the Los Angeles Times about a display of Christian records from the Cold War-era in a Los Angeles art gallery, one of the most popular performers in this genre was Marcy Tigner whose novelty records include Marcy Goes to Nashville and Marcy Sings to Children, which retailed for $1.98 at the time of their release.

While many of this records were aimed to promote Christian beliefs to children, quite a number of them actually proved to be amusing to secular listeners who found some of these records, one of which included preacher AA Allen’s I Am Lucifer, which is described as a recording made from the audio testimony of a woman who claimed to possessed by Satan, to be over the top.

Rainey said there were also a number of trends regarding the types of customers who come into Earshot and the particular records they request. Additionally, some collectors may be specific to a particular band, such as the Grateful Dead, while others may go for a given genre or record label.

And, there has been a revival of interest in vinyl copies as opposed to compact discs:

“Old records from popular bands retailed for much less 15-20 year ago,” Rainey said. “But, now records are becoming more valuable because of supply is low and demand is high.”

Rainey added that records from a given era, such as a Yes or Steely Dan album from the 1970s, will have a higher retail value if it is in good condition.

Hiatt also places a major emphasis on a record’s conditions and he stated that approximately one out of 10 records from his vast warehouse actually make it to shelves of Remember When because they are not up to the high standards he sets. Hiatt added that all the records at his store, which also includes a significant selection of 45s including a song recorded by late television icon Jackie Gleason, are cleaned and graded. Hiatt said this is very crucial because an unclean or ungraded record can potentially damage the needle of a record player.

Benbassat said that the given age of a customer can fluctuate as he has seen teenagers come into CFBG as well as senior citizens. Demands for a particular artist, such as Jimmi Hendrix, Frank Zappa or the Doors, can alter as can the requests for an exact recording. Benbassat said that in recent weeks many customers have sought out Led Zeppelin III (1970) which features “Immigrant Song.”

At Mighty Quinn Music, Blachura said he once sold $500 worth of records from the Beatles to a collector, and that one customer travels two-and-a-half hours from Roanoke, Va. to buy 10 or 15 records at a time.

Rick Flynn, a customer/collector at Earshot from Lewisville, said that Rainey’s advice has helped him discover new artists, or ones he was previously unfamilair with. Among Flynn’s favorite artists are Joe Bonamassa, a blues rock guitarist, and Erin Bibb, an acoustic folk, blues artist.

Flynn added that his tastes have changed since he was a teenager in the 1970s as he now listens to more blues and bluegrass than he did when he was younger, but he still clings to some music from yesteryear:

“Over a 35-year period, my tastes have changed,” Flynn said. “”But, I still like the Doobie Brothers as much as ever.”

Blachura says that he is not completely surprised by the fact that people in their twenties have taken up a rather sudden interest in vinyl records in recent years:

“It helps people to slow down because things move so quickly,” Blachura says. “[By listening to a record] a person allows themselves to grasp the crackles and pops.”

Hiatt said that most customers at Remember When seem to gravitate towards the music that was popular when they were between 15 and 25 years old, and that he has had people in their 80s come into the store and ask if he has vinyl records from bing band music acts, such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Rainey says that it is rewarding to meet the eclectic musical tastes of his customers which gives him the most gratitude from his job:

“It’s very encouraging — not just from a music standpoint — to see the effect of personal satisfaction that people get from their collections.”

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