Sunday, August 25, 2019


I have written about my love for barbershop music on this blog many times over the years.  As one could imagine, this is largely an 'underground' genre...while it has a large and devoted following, you don't hear of the relevant quartets in the mainstream media, ever.  So 99% of the releases out there are private press, they were paid for (studio time, pressing, etc) by the members of the quartet.  But there is one exception.

Chord was a record label out of San Antonio Texas in the early 60s.  The man behind the curtain was Mike McCord, who was a lifetime barbershopper himself, active in many quartets and choruses.  He selected some of the biggest and his most favorite quartets and released full length LPs for a number of years.  There are a total of 18 releases across two 'series', I discovered and researched these through countless eBay deep dives.  After a long period, I was finally able to acquire all 18 myself via that method.  It was rewarding to finally get them all, this huge piece of barbershop history.

I was contacted by none other than by his son (also named Mike) through discogs when he saw I was the person who added most of these releases to the database.  We had a likely conversation through a number of messages and he mentioned that he had access to some old releases that were part of his father's estate!

I didn't hear from him for a number of weeks and thought it was a dead end until one night (I was in a hotel in Louisana) when I got a discogs message with his phone number asking me to call him.  I didn't hesitate and we talked for quite a spell.  He apologized for the delay and said the box would soon be on it's way.  He told me mostly what I should expect, then he insisted on sending me the load for free and even refused to let me pay for shipping! A short time later, an expertly wrapped parcel arrived! 

As expected, I got a motherlode!

  • I got a number of Sweet Adelines competition albums I was missing: 1956, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1973, 1984.  I already had a couple but this was huge.  1963 I had never even seen before so that had to be added to the DB
  • Got a sealed copy of the Golden Staters album I had seen so many times before (but did not own)
  • Got a reissue/comp I had seen before but did not own, quite a rarity (I already own the original issues, on Chord, of course)
  • Got a spare copy of a Gaynotes album I already had, but never hurts to have two for something this rare! (Ironically I already owned two copies of the other album for the same reason!)
  • Speaking of the Gaynotes (Mike said he thought of Mo Rector as his uncle when he was growing up - wow!), I also got the original private press issue of their first album, this is a holy grail and probably the biggest score of the box.
  • Got a few more SPEBSQSA competition albums I didnt have ('56, '58, '59)
  • From the same era, got the Play Tonics album 
  • A previously unknown Saints LP!
  • Got duplicate copies for 14 of the 18 Chord releases (again, I already had the entire discography).  Why would I want duplicates? BECAUSE THESE WERE PERSONAL COPIES OF THE PERSON WHO OWNED THE LABEL!!!
But probably the greatest score of all was a previously unknown Chord release! It is unique in a few ways: it is a 10" (everything else was an LP) and it is actually a regional Sweet Adelines album! How many of these were ever pressed I do not know, but I'd bet pretty few.  What an unbelievable score!

Just goes to show you: networking is key! Discogs has netted me some cool stuff before but nothing like this.  However I almost treasure even more the chance to have a long telephone conversation with the son of the founder of a historic record label - I am very fortunate.  Thank you Mike!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ghost of East Side Records/Double Nickels Collective [Tempe AZ]

After a week in Palm Desert I made the four hour drive back to Phoenix for one more night of fun before my flight the next morning.  This would be my opportunity to get out and about, see the city a bit, and of course check out some records.

I left Palm Desert by 7am.  Stopped to get gas and Starbucks then didn't touch the brake until around 11am.  Returned the rental car, took the rental car shuttle back to PHX.  Then I called the hotel, took the hotel shuttle and was able to check in early.  I dumped my bag and headed right back out the door.  I walked about 2.5 miles in the heat, stopped for lunch, just so I could get a bike.  Staying on the east side of the airport, Tempe was more accessible then Phoenix so that is where I searched the map.  

It was about a 4 mile ride south to Double Nickels.  I saw two Google Map places next to one another - I knew that it would be unlikely for two record stores to be so near one another and it turns out they are one in the same, just a shop with an identity problem that can't decide what it should be called.

I almost went to another shop in town but in the video description they immediately stated that they sell 'new vinyl'.  Hearing that as the first part of the description is disturbing and I am glad I listened to that, so I didn't go.  I only bring that up because Double Nickels is a mess - and this makes me feel very at home.  Not because my records are a mess (not even close) but this is the kind of record shop I have been to many times before, all over the country.  There were even not one - but two dogs in there! This cute little guy barked like a pitbull but then rubbed up against my hand like a cat.

When I walked in there was some atrocious noisy jazz playing and 4 different people were all chatting, I couldn't even tell who worked there and who was a customer....or maybe just hanging out! It was a good vibe.  I dug through all the jazz but didn't see anything interesting.  I dug around the shop and was more entertained by listening to the other conversations in there than anything else at that point.

They had some bins devoted to punk and hardcore, I leafed through them but nothing caught my eye. There were some boxes in the back marked 'private press' and would you believe I instantly found this thing - tones from home! (I think I am even more impressed that there are 17 releases for this 'artist' on discogs!)

I also spotted another vinyl of interest in the same box.  I started making a list on discogs a while ago for a particular stock cover.  Since then, I've ever had others contribute my messaging me to let me know about others they find in the database.  Well I found a new one in this box! The artist was in the DB but the release was not.  So I took photos and just added it myself.

I ended up walking away empty handed but that's OK.  When I arrived, I looked at the storefront on Southern Ave but realized I was actually looking at the back of the store (technically there is a door, but the shop wasn't using it, meaning I have to walk around back).  There was a fellow standing outside of the coffee shop next door and I asked how the hell I get inside.  He told me to go around back, but said I could cut through his shop, which I did, and thanked him.  When I left Double Nickels, I went back to make good on the favor he showed me.  I sat in the AC for a while, drank some water and also had a double macchiato and a scone.  After that, I made it up to 10 miles by spinning around Tempe in the heat.  It was hot - but not as hot as the desert further west which I already miss!


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Record Collector [Idllywild CA]

On vacation in Palm Desert, I finally had a chance to knock the great state of California off my list.  There were a couple candidates in the area but this place was too good to pass up.  Way up in the mountains, I'd need to drive an hour down treacherous winding roads.  The Google Maps place didn't even have a photo, the street view showed what looked like a shack.  Was this place even real? I called once to confirm and got no answer.  So I called again a bit later and the person that answered did confirm their hours so I planned to set out on a Tuesday afternoon.

The drive was as wild as anything I've ever attempted.  Once I drove through Big Horn National Park in Wyoming and it was similar to that but I daresay even more dangerous.  It required all my mental faculties and somehow I made it.  Oh, did I mention the heat (this is excessive for this area, up in the mountains, but something I've already become accustomed to out in the desert).

The same guy I spoke to on the phone was there.  He told me that this is the second location of a larger shop in LA.  He said he has known the owners for over 30 years and worked at both locations.  He said that he watches this shop about half the week and the owners daughter watches it the rest of the time.  He even told me that the owners aunt lived in town and recently died and he goes to check on the cat, presumably in an otherwise empty house.

He told me up front that the store was mostly classical but also had jazz.  And that's it! No other genres.  Luckily for me, jazz is the first section I go to in any store but alienating the vast majority of people who want to look at rock albums doesn't make sense.  The building was beautiful.  The wood work was masterful and the bins were clearly made by a craftsman, probably the nicest I've ever seen.

It was a bit odd because there were no other customers (actually, a couple did come in but upon being told that they only had classical and jazz, they bolted) so it was just me and this bearded old timer.  He sat in a chair in the 'front room' (which was all classical) and I was in the 'back room' where the jazz was.  So we couldn't see each other and he only spoke when spoken to.  Finally I commented that I found it odd that a record would not be playing with all this silence.  He had the best response ever: he wanted to save electricity! He did offer to put something on but I told him it was OK.

I looked through every single jazz album.  12 bins I think, probably 1200 records I'd guess, maybe more.  I pulled out four but only bought one, and of course I have some regrets there:

  1. I have a good selection of Kai Winding albums on Verve in the mid 60s.  This stuff isn't very high brow but is very listenable and a lot of fun.  I came across one I've long been aware of but decided to leave it behind.  
  2. I dont't buy just any CTI album I find (almost though) but I thought it would be a good idea to check out some Gabor Szabo.  I started to feel like some of his 60s work would be a better buy, so I did a catch and release on that one. (I do own his collaborative album with Paul Desmond which came out in the same era, regrettably I've not spent much time listening to it.)
  3. I knew of Lalo Schifrin as the man who wrote the score for Enter the Dragon long before I knew he was a jazz musician.  I picked up one of his older vinyls at a garage sale a long time ago and always enjoyed it.  This one caught my eye because it is on Verve but also of course for the lengthy and ridiculous title.  I carry some serious regret I left this one behind.
  4. I have a special affinity for Joe Farrell.  First of all, he is from the Chicago area.  He died young, what a shame.  But he worked with so many of my favorite artists, especially the landmark debut from Return to Forever.  Discogs says I have 14 albums he appears on and I think only one is an album he is actually credited as the main artist (joint credit, with George Benson).  There was no way I was going to let this one go: CTI 6000 series with an all-star cast of side men, of course including the Mahavishnu himself! Little did I know at the time this was also the original 1970 issue (it was reissued by CTI in 1976).

I decided to toss back the Lalo Schifrin and Kai Winding right off the bat.  I brought the remaining two CTI records up to be priced (the old man priced everything on sight, I had already asked).  He wanted $20 each which I knew was a bit bold, even for a place like this so I told him to kick the Gabor Szabo and I made off with the Joe Farrell album.  It is in mint condition with the original inner sleeve (same goes for the Gabor Szabo, though it did have a snipped corner).  So I'm happy that I made out with a souvenir from such a wild day.  I topped it off by attempting to do a 500' climb (over about 1.2 miles) on a really crappy rental bike I stuffed in my car.  I gave up about 75% of the way and took a wild ride which topped 30mph on the way down!

Arizona and Nevada are on deck in the next month.  In fact, I'll probably have two shots at Arizona, but the first will be only two days from now and I'll be taking advantage!