Records – Vinyl’s Long and Amazing Journey via the Record Store
I just completed reading and being captivated by a great little eclectic book titled “Record Store Days – From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again”.
The focus of this Post, of course, is on some of the tantalizing and intriguing ditties present in this 240-page narrative pertaining the good old American record store.
America’s Oldest Record Store
According to “Record Store Days”, the title of “oldest record store” in the United States goes to George’s Song Shop located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, being opened back in 1932. The store, “…is stocked with about one million 45’s, 50,000 LP’s” and at least at one time, tons of CD’s.
Wallichs Music City
Calamar/Gallo relate that Wallichs was a pioneer record store, along with The Commodore, Sam Goody’s and The Colony all located in New York City. Glenn Wallichs was the proprietor of several radio repair stores in California which he decided to sell in order to open his soon-to-become legendary record shop in Los Angeles in 1940.
Wallichs was easily the largest store on the West Coast and featured a promotional approach which would spread to other shops in short order, the “listening booth”. Clientele could take recordings into these booths prior to making a purchase. Of course, many clients would pass on making a purchase and thus Wallach’s became a pioneer as well offering these recordings for sale as “used records”.
Big Labels Ignore Wallichs
The major labels at the time of the store’s founding, RCA, Columbia and Decca, would not direct-sell recordings to Wallichs which put him at a disadvantage. and so report Calamar and Gallo write “One of his (Wallichs) early customers was Johnny Mercer, the songwriter, who had branched into film production as well. They bonded after Mercer’s wife Ginger had surprised the songwriter by getting a radio installed in his car in 1935 when Wallichs was doing that type of work.
“Wallichs, Mercer, and Paramount production chief Buddy DeSylva sat down and decided to create a record label. Mercer would put up most of the money and Wallichs would run the label. DeSylva would be its chairman. They considered the names Liberty and Victory – this was in 1942, with the U.S. at war – but both were dropped for being too similar to old company names. They went with Ginger’s suggestion: Capitol.”
And so a very formidable record giant was born on the West Coast. The original operation for Capitol would be situated in the floor above the record store. The landmark ‘Capitol Tower’ would be constructed in 1956 adjacent to Wallichs.
For the initial Capitol release, Colorado’s Paul Whiteman was contracted and recorded Capitol release 101 – “I Found a New Baby” b/w “The General Jumped at Dawn” released in June of 1942.
Record Store Journeys
Calamar and Gallo present us with an unmatched journey through the history of record collecting from the sheet music days after the turn of the 20th Century, to early radio, the ever-evolving music charts, and of course, vinyl.
In the beginning, record stores flourished, with more than 25,000 spread across the nation in the 1920’s. That number would diminish to less than 3,000 50 years later.
Along the way vinyl nearly succumbed to the CD format which was in large part promoted by both Sony and Pioneer who were developing players for the CD format. CDs came along and seemed to thrive but there were problems, one being unforeseen “The downside when CDs started was they wanted to load up 70 minutes of music. That’s not how people work. You create in small bursts,” observed a music industry spokesman in “Record Store Days”.
The CD was an evolution from the laser disc. It became a reality at the end of the 1970’s and by the end of the 1980’s had nearly displaced vinyl all-together, though not completely.
The book finally and joyously reports, that vinyl has returned! Anyone who is into recorded music knows this. Record shows are alive and well, and “Record Store Days” are enthusiastically embraced across the nation. Record Store Days are even supported by a national web site (click on the image here to visit the site).
Treat yourself to a wonderful experience – and obtain “Record Store Days” – What a wonderful journey!