While conversing the other day with some friends who are fellow “vinyl junkies,” the subject of old local record stores came up.
It’s very encouraging that sales of vinyl are the highest they have been in more than 25 years. Did you know that most any album, new or catalog, is available in this wonderful, old-fashioned format?
From Pink Floyd to Foo Fighters, you can get it on wax. I just love the way it smells and feels when I break the seal on a record and pull the disc out of its protective sheath. Gently placing it on the turntable, the needle drops and musical nirvana is mine. Sweet.
Often, this reminds me of one of the most absolute most fun rituals of my teenage years just as if they happened yesterday. (No, not that!)
As an older youth, one of the things that I looked forward to the most was my weekly trek to Home Folks News and Record Store on Eighth Street. If Stephen Hawking ever figures out time travel, that’s one of the first places that I’m revisiting.
Walking through the front door at Home Folks was like Christmas morning. There were more albums in Home Folks than the number of ways there are to spell Khaddafi! Bins chock full of vinyl would get my pulse racing in anticipation of finding some cool albums that I could play and share with my friends.
Home Folks eventually had many locations scattered around town, but the original downtown store was the bomb. There were even shelves upon shelves of extra albums way in the back of the store which today would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Walking to the back of Home Folks was a little bit weird, as some of the publications they sold featured subject matter that I was certainly not familiar with at all. I never knew that books and magazines featuring all sorts of domestic animals were so popular with “grown-ups.”
Home Folks’ manager in those days was a real funny older dude named Benny, who, when he wasn’t laughing out loud at something or another, always seemed to be eating with his mouth open. But Benny was always patient with my endless questions and he really knew his record inventory … and exactly where it was in the store.
I’ll never forget the day some 40 years ago when Who’s Next by The Who first came into Home Folks. Seeing Benny’s reaction to the famous cover shot of the band photographed after a “pit stop” was priceless, even if I didn’t quite get the joke at first. I Won’t Get Fooled Again, indeed!
One day after I graduated from high school, Benny called me over to the counter, looked around the store and whispered “Here, Ed, look at this!” Expecting some “Holy Grail” find, like an unreleased imported Beatles album, I was stunned to see that he had some “pre-Sanford and Sons” Red Foxx comedy albums for sale that he kept under the counter that were considered “adults only.”
After that day, I knew that I had arrived, especially when I eventually purchased from Benny some “bootleg”’ vinyl by Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. They were coming to the early-’70s Augusta nightspot Kittens Korner and I wanted to hear some of their songs.
My mom was not amused (she was a big Brother Dave Gardner fan) so I made real sure never to play the offending humor when she was home. After all, Doug Clark used those banned-in-my-house “curse words” like “damn” and lots of words that rhyme with “Chuck.”
Another unique thing about the store was a magnificent painted ad on the Ellis Street side of the building that listed all of the older artists that recorded for the Capitol Records label. It listed Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton and even the Kingston Trio, the only “cool” nod to the pre-Beatles days of the hallowed record label.
Home Folks eventually moved in the late ’70s to Broad and Eighth, but with Benny (never knew his last name) gone, it just wasn’t the same. Those Richard Pryor and George Carlin albums in plain view of anybody made my old Redd Foxx and Doug Clark LP’s seem very tame, which, of course, they were. The downtown store eventually closed as the then-new malls mauled Broad Street businesses. But I will treasure the memories (and records) that I still possess from those days as long as songs are sung and instruments are played.