When I was a kid, probably around 10 years old, I would stay for a few weeks with my grandparents in Allegan Michigan during the summer.
My grandparents lived in a trailer at the end of an oiled dirt road. There were woods at their end of the road and a school with a huge playground within a short bike ride. Basically a little slice of heaven for a kid my age. I made a few summer friends that I played with when I was there. The guy that lived up the street introduced me to Richie Rich comic books. It was a free wheeling summertime paradise.
My grandparents were very religious. There was very little music played in the house thought they did listened to religious radio programs sometimes. My grandfather was blind since he was 18. He liked Ray Charles when he was playing religious music, but mainstream radio was not a staple. Mainly he listened to sermons on tape with grandma. She was a quiet woman with a great laugh and I have her to thank for my early interest in records.
Grandma liked to go to garage sales. We would get the local add paper and drive around Allegan and the surrounding cities going to them. It was crap shoot. There were no city-wide sales. This was just random sales. Sometimes there weren’t any. One garage sale changed me forever.
We stopped at a local garage sale and I was suddenly fascinated with a record player, the kind that only played 45’s, something like this,
and a top opening carrying case of 45’s, something like this.
My grandmother ended up buying these for me. I assume she knew that these were not religious 45’s and in retrospect, it was pretty damn cool of her. So suddenly I had an all in one instant record collection with a player.
I remember sitting in the living room of the trailer looking through all the records. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. I was stoked though. I was a record owner now. Those picture of kids having a party around a record player dancing and having a good time, I could be one of them now.
I recall there was some Jackson 5 and some Partridge Family, some Bay City Rollers. The rest I wasn’t too familiar with. I listened to a couple of them and found a funny one. It was Ray Stevens doing “The Streak”. I played it for my grandparents. They were not impressed. I suppose grandma regretted her decision after that one.
When I got home with the case of 45’s I found that I could play them on the big console stereo in the living room. The sound was WAY better than the little record player. This led me to investigate the records I found tucked away inside the console stereo… but that is a whole other story.
There was a little of everything in that 45 case. Rock, ballads, funny ones, there was even a speech read by someone about “Americans” that I recall was very good, but I have no idea who it was. I immersed myself in the world of 45’s for a while. I played them for my friend Paul (he was not interested) and the neighbor kid (also not interested). I loved them though.
There were probably 35 or so records in that case, and most of it is forgotten now, but I do recall that I had a copy of Ray Stevens “Guitarzan” in there and it was a one-sided 45. Just like the “Johnny Winter – Second Winter” one side of the 45 was blank with no grooves. It really didn’t occur to me just how weird that was.
There were even some Beatles in the case. I don’t recall exactly what songs they were, but they were on Apple Records, which I wish I would have kept, but again, you can’t keep everything forever.
My favorite of the whole case though was Paul McCartney and Wing doing “Band On The Run”.
I didn’t really understand that The Beatles had broken up and there was any difference between The Beatles and Wings. Paul McCartney was in both right? The notion of a band breaking up and members doing solo work or joining other bands was unknown to me at the time. I liked the “Band On The Run” 45 so much though that when the opportunity came up to transcribe the lyrics and have the whole music class sing along, I spent hours playing it over and over and over until I had all the words written down, mainly right.
Eventually through my experiences with the 45’s case, I made the leap to record buyer. The G. L. Perry Variety Store had a small bin of 45’s near the door that I had seen often but never paid much attention to. It was a small bin on tall legs just my height. Now, as a record owner I was drawn to it. I took the little money I had as a kid and poured over the selections they had in the little white paper sleeves and painstakingly reduced my choices to just one selection.
I bought Sonny and Cher doing “Gypsys Tramps and Thieves” b/w Sonny Bono doing “A Cowboys Work Is Never Done”. This was my first record.