Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saving Vinyl

"This version of the world will not be here long, It is already gone It is already gone."
T-Bone Burnett, "Palestine, Texas"

Murray "Music Man" Gershenz has spent 72 years amassing his musical collection. He has century-old operatic performances captured on Edison cylinder tubes, 1930s-era Big Band crooners on fragile 78-rpm discs, early rockers on 45s, show tunes on LPs and pop artists on cassette tapes and CDs.  The collection is crammed into homemade shelves in a two-story cinderblock building, as well as two nearby warehouses.  Last summer, the 88-year-old Gershenz announced his intention to close his walk-in and mail-order record business in order to pursue his dreams of being an actor. He said he hoped to find a museum or college willing to acquire his $3-million trove.  That hasn't worked out, he said. So his next stop could be the dumpster.

Like "Murray the Music Man", I also had at one time accumulated a very large collection of vinyl. Not nearly as large as a warehouse full mind you, but impressive enough I suppose. Much of it included out of print items, imported U.K. vinyl, bootlegged material, a rare mono edition of Sgt. Peppers, and on and on.  Some very collectable material, and all of it holding sentimental value.  And it was an eclectic collection covering many different genres of music.  It was not a hobby perhaps as much as an obsession in my teenage years.

At the beginning of my first marriage, which for me was at a very early age and at the beginning of my broadcast career, I needed cash to fund my future plans. I sold that collection, lock, stock and barrel to a well known music store in downtown St. Louis for a little cash on hand to get a bit of a start and some deposit money for rent on a place. That marriage lasted ten years, and resulted in three great kids and a grandchild, so a stunning success by a number of qualifiers.

I still visit that music store from time to time, and I browse through the albums, and I sometimes run across a title or two, and I swear that it feels really familiar in my hand, like it may have been mine at one time.  And then I think about the fact that it could have been just sitting in that shelf for a couple of decades, unwanted and unrecognized for it's value.  Kind of sad really, and it makes me think about this guy and his warehouse full of albums and how much more poignant that story really is.  But as a friend pointed out, old dreams give way to new ones.  And may we all be granted the wisdom of knowing when to let go of the old to make room for the new.  But every now and then, it's still nice to be able to stop by that old warehouse and browse a little, and remember what was, and what might have been.


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