Tag Archives: record digging

Greetings from Pittsburgh

Greetings from Pittsburgh vintage post card, undated.

One of the great things about record digging is where it takes you while traveling. You often get down to the neighborhood level, where many tourists don’t go. You find other cool places along the way.

I wrote that two years ago and we did just that again earlier this month as we took a week and drove from Wisconsin to Maryland and back.

Hallway sign at Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh, Pa.

First stop: Thursday was spent in Pittsburgh, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. We had only a day, but after doing what we most wanted to do —  trying Primanti Bros. sandwiches, riding the Duquesne Incline overlooking downtown Pittsburgh and seeing the old Forbes Field wall on the Pitt campus — we wound up near the mighty Jerry’s Records late that afternoon. Black Moses greets you in the hallway as you walk in off the sidewalk.

Exterior view of Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Jerry’s claims to be the world’s largest used record store with almost 1 million records. I don’t doubt that. It’s certainly the largest record store I’ve ever been in. Jerry’s takes up the entire second floor of this building in the Squirrel Hill South neighborhood east of downtown Pittsburgh.

But after a brief look around all those records, and hoping to find obscure records on the wish list in my head, I didn’t find anything. Even so, highly recommended. I’d love to spend an afternoon there.

Love People Records sign, Kensington, Md.

Second stop: By Saturday, we’d arrived in Maryland, the northern D.C. suburbs. We spent the day with our son, his girlfriend and his buddy. One of our stops was Kensington, where Love People Records has two tiny spaces inside Antique Village in that quaint downtown.

As I dug through the bins, I shot the breeze with Q, who runs the place with his wife Rita. Both former DJs, they realized a dream when they opened the store last year. Q’s father also ran a record store in the ’70s and 80s, the original Love People Records in Brooklyn. (Q concedes he and Rita had a lot of records and, with a growing family, needed to downsize.)

Joe Tex Hold What You've Got LP jacket

The good news is that my record-digging dry spell ended at Love People Records. I found this cool-looking Joe Tex record, “Hold What You’ve Got,” from 1965.

Turns out Q and I may have a mutual acquaintance. I asked him what Q stood for — Quartermaine — and I said I know a guy named Quinn who also sells records. He lives down in Richmond, Virginia, a couple of hours south. Quinn Cunningham of Funk Trunk Records. That rang a bell with Q. Thinks he knows him from somewhere, maybe a record show or a DJ night.

(I know Quinn first from selling at the Milwaukee record show, then from his tiny, steps-down-from-the-sidewalk storefront in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, and now from his online store, highly recommended if you seek hard-to-find soul, R&B, disco, jazz and gospel.)

Sonidos! record store card and receipt

Third stop: Sunday was a lazy day, much needed for recombobulation. We needed to top the gas tank. The Costco gas station in Beltsville was a zoo, so we drove a block north for a brief return trip to Sonidos! Music & More, the tiny but excellent record store I first visited two years ago. Didn’t find anything there, either, but nice to stop in again.

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Filed under November 2022

Thanks for everything, Jim

It’s been almost 10 years, March 2013, since I took this picture of an old 45 record holder in my friend Jim’s basement.

Later that year, Jim moved to Missouri to be closer to a daughter, so the days of digging for records in his tiny basement are long gone. Now Jim Young is gone as well. He died earlier this month. He was 71.

Jim was friendly but quirky. I went digging at his home in Appleton, a half-hour away, maybe a dozen times, and I never found out what he did for a living. His obit offers few clues. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

“Jim loved music, spending most of his life collecting vinyl,” the obit reads.

There was a lot of vinyl in that tiny basement, all neatly organized and stored. Shelves lined the walls. Crates on tables filled most of the rest of the room. He organized a couple of record shows, but mostly worked out of his house.

Jim lived on one side of a tiny duplex. He kept his collection on the main floor, but I never saw it. He collected mostly country music, I think. When it came time for a sale, Jim set up this tent in the back yard.

The top photo is from May 14, 2011. The temperature was about 50. The wind chill was in the 30s. The bottom photo is from Sept. 11, 2011, a much nicer day. There were a lot of $1 records in the boxes in those tents.

I bought a lot of records from Jim back then, filling out my collection with mostly $1, $3 and $5 records, none particularly valuable, none in plastic sleeves. One day, I came home with 20 records for $20. Another day, 13 for $13.

As for the records I bought from Jim …

Dionne Warwick’s “Soulful,” which was good, and “In the Valley of the Dolls,” which was not. The first R.B. Greaves and Chi Coltrane LPs I ever saw. “Lonely Weekends” by Charlie Rich, bought solely for “Who Will the Next Fool Be.”

Though Jim’s tastes and his records were fairly mainstream, I found The Chi-Lites’ “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the cool Philadelphia International comp “Philadelphia Classics” and The Electric Indian’s “Keem-O-Sabe.” The latter sounds cringeworthy, but actually is solid Philly pop produced by Len Barry and featuring studio players who wound up in MFSB.

Some records seen in Jim’s basement stayed there. “A-tom-ic Jones,” by Tom Jones, I bought elsewhere. Joe Tex’s “Soul Country,” I still don’t have.

On my last trip to Jim’s basement, in November 2013, I found “New Country Roads” by Nat Stuckey, “What’s New Pussycat?” by Tom Jones and “Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne (which I already had, but my first one skipped).

Here’s Jim at a show he organized in February 2009. See how he tilted records at the back of boxes for a nice presentation? I’ve done that when I’ve sold records.

I’ll do it again this weekend, keeping Jim’s memory alive when I help my friends Jeff and Jolee set up their crates at the Green Bay Record Convention.

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Filed under October 2022, Sounds

Postcards from summer camp

If you’re wondering, yes, the dry spell continues deep into summer.

Christmas with the Mexicali Brass LP cover

That this cheesecake Christmas record, found last weekend among the cheesecake records at the mighty Stardust Records in Thiensville, Wisconsin, is perhaps the highlight of the summer’s record digging, well, there you go.

∗ ∗ ∗

Nor have I found a great summer song this summer, one you play over and over and blast from the car speakers. (No, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” doesn’t count.) Have you?

Heard this one on WXPN on Saturday morning. It’s in the running.

“Don’t Bother Me,” by The Suffers out of Houston. Been digging them for several years now. Kam Franklin is the lead singer. They played the always delightful Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake, Wisconsin, in early June. We’d have been there, but we were in Ohio at the time.

∗ ∗ ∗

We did, however, have a wonderful evening of music at the Thrasher three weeks ago. We traveled an hour or so south by southwest — appropriate — to see Texas-Louisiana piano pounder and singer Marcia Ball.

Pizza, Marcia Ball and fireworks

Although, when I posted it to Facebook, most folks were most wowed — and rightly so — by our sausage-and-mushroom pizza from Christiano’s Pizza.

As we left the show, Green Lake’s Fourth of July fireworks — postponed five days because of weather — had just started. What you don’t see of the fireworks is the spectacular view as we drove along the lake, not only of what was in the sky above but also of hundreds of boats on the lake, their running lights sparkling on the water like so many stars in the sky.

∗ ∗ ∗

For those who appreciate Gone in Threes, the long-running annual year-end roundup of noteworthy deaths that appears here each January, this year seems like one of the busiest. I’m constantly adding to my running list or sending notes to myself to remember this one or that one.

Today, especially, has been a day. Bill Russell. Nichelle Nichols. Pat Carroll, too.

That’s Sam Gazdziak, one of my regular reads at RIP Baseball, wishing only the best for baseball great Willie Mays, who is 91.

∗ ∗ ∗

Which brings us here. Though the record digging hasn’t been great lately, the baseball card finds have been spectacular. (Yes, I’m still seeing someone else.)

Willie Mays baseball cards, 1963 and 1964

In just the last week, I’ve found these Willie Mays cards, all reasonably priced. You never see Willie Mays cards reasonably priced. It’s a bit like finding the butcher cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” LP in the wild.

The first two are from 1964, the first year I ever collected baseball cards. (I suspect they were thrown out as we moved from Missouri to Wisconsin the next summer.) The third one is from 1963.

∗ ∗ ∗

Finally, if all this seems a bit disjointed, please consider that I spent much of this weekend moving everything from our basement rec room into our laundry room in preparation for carpet cleaning next week.

Part of that entailed unearthing two sets of speakers — yes, speakers from THAT stereo — the compact Bose speakers and the desktop Cambridge SoundWorks speakers, both with speaker wires intact, both 30-plus years old.

Part of that entailed removing the old but solid bar in the corner of the rec room. The previous owners left it for us 31 years ago. They probably built it in the late ’60s or early ’70s. That thing was put together. Knocking it apart and hauling it up the stairs and outside in pieces was quite a workout.

That’s right, Senator Blutarsky …


Filed under July 2022

Last call at The Exclusive Company

The sky was crying when I left work earlier today.

It was raining lightly as I headed out to go record digging at The Exclusive Company in Green Bay for the last time. But the sky was the only thing crying.

Today was a day for smiling and celebrating what’s been so great for so long.

It wasn’t so much that everything was 80% off. It was more about spending part of one more afternoon digging through records, savoring the vibe of the place and shooting the breeze with my friend Tom, who’s worked there since 1988 and who richly deserves all the love coming his way in these final days.

Almost empty record bins at The Exclusive Company record store in Green Bay, WI, June 30, 2022

As you’d expect, the bins are pretty well picked over after two months of a liquidation sale. The vinyl is almost gone. There’s one small row of new vinyl, probably fewer than 100 records. When someone grabs an LP off the new release wall — as I did today for the last time — Tom restocks it by grabbing a new LP at random from that small row and putting it up there.

Garland Records Pacific Northwest Pandora's Box LP cover

The last LP I grabbed off the new release wall is “Garland Records: Pacific Northwest Pandora’s Box,” a comp of mostly unreleased rock cuts from 1967 to the mid-’70s on Garland Records, a small label out of Salem, Oregon. Looks like fun, and it’s on royal blue vinyl! Here’s a sample.

As I dug through the CDs, I came across a bunch of familiar sights.

Hey, there’s Neil Diamond’s “Tap Root Manuscript,” one of the first records I ever bought 50 or so years ago. Hey, there’s “100 Days, 100 Nights,” the first new Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings record I ever bought. Hey, there’s one from a California group my friend Derek See played in 10 years ago (and I have that one on red vinyl.)

There are still a bunch of CDs left, but not so many that I can’t look through them all, and I found these.

Neal Francis In Plain Sight LP cover

Neal Francis is a Chicago singer-songwriter and keyboard player. He’s managed by Brendan O’Connell, whom I met a couple of times when he played keyboards and sang and wrote songs for The Right Now, a solid pop-soul group also from Chicago. My friend Bruce Warren at the mighty WXPN radio out of Philadelphia tipped me to this one.

“Can’t Stop The Rain,” Neal Francis, from “In Plain Sight,” 2021. Derek Trucks plays slide guitar on this one.

Inexplicably, there also were a bunch of Tony Joe White CDs. However, I already have a bunch of Tony Joe White records. Except this one.

Tony Joe White That On The Road Look Live LP cover

It’s a scorching, blistering, steaming, smoking live show from 1971, not released until 2010 and not seen by me until today. No one knows for sure where this show was. White thought maybe it was one of their opening gigs for Creedence Clearwater Revival in Europe, maybe at Royal Albert Hall in London. If so, then that was Sept. 27-28, 1971.

“Polk Salad Annie.” Tony Joe White, from “That On The Road Look ‘Live,'” recorded 1971, released 2010.

Yeah, I figured you wanted the 10-minute jam. “I had Mike Utley, Duck Dunn and Sammy Creason with me, and them boys was into it,” White said.

I left the rest of the cool Tony Joe White CDs for someone else to grab at 90% off. There’s still a day and a half left before that Exclusive Company groove runs out.

Exclusive Company record store closing signs, Green Bay, WI, June 30, 2022

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Filed under June 2022, Sounds

About that stereo …

“Dad, could I write a blog post for Father’s Day?”

Sure, Evan. So with that, please enjoy the first guest post in the 15 years this blog has been hanging out in this corner of the web.

Evan Ash at 3Hey there. You might remember me as the kid that used to be in the header image to this blog. Or, if you’re a really seasoned follower of the Pen of Jeff Ash (older than dirt, as dad would say), you followed my adventures in the “Green Bay Update” column that dad wrote for South End Zone from 1998 to 2006. If the website (which is still going strong!) is to be believed, my adventures were “a popular part of each update.” Dad made sure in these columns to note that I “dissolved into tears” when my Pinewood Derby car lost in the double elimination tournament (hey, I was 8 and more concerned with a cool-looking car rather than aerodynamics) and that I was one of the “less talented” kids on the local SAY recreational soccer teams. Thanks for that, Pops. I’m sorry in advance to greatly date anyone who knew me from the above-mentioned references, but I’m 27 now, living in Maryland and coming up on year four of my Ph.D. program in history.

You might be wondering why I’m invading the pages of AM, then FM. No, I’m not guest writing a piece about vinyl. I lost the ability to enjoy my vinyl collection, assembled from new discs, music store finds, and, of course, pilfered from mom and dad’s vinyl collection, when mom and dad insisted that we donate dad’s venerable old Sony stereo system (which I’d taken to college, then grad school) when I moved into the tiny bedroom in my first house in Maryland back in 2019. More on that later.

Father’s Day is around the corner (I’m off to Rocky Gap State Park to go camping with my girlfriend this weekend, so I’m writing this on Friday afternoon), and I thought that this would be a nice present for dad and a chance for those who’ve followed my exploits since the dawn of the internet to see how I turned out. Jury’s still out on that one.

Moving to Maryland was the first time that I’d really felt far away from my parents. I didn’t go far for college, as you probably know. Just across town. Mom and dad never missed a show of mine, but I didn’t really spend much time at home outside of breaks until my senior year, when it was nice to get away from campus drama and the shitty coin-operated laundry machines at my apartment. Grad school was more of a challenge, but we all adapted nicely to it. Mom and dad came down for Thanksgiving in 2017 and managed to throw together a respectable feast in my tiny garden apartment kitchen. Then, once I joined Glee Club and Collegiate Chorale, they had a routine vacation down to Oxford that they made twice a semester, still making it to all my concerts. Mom was in Vegas for one, but that’s okay. It was a lousy concert. For a family that doesn’t take a lot of vacations, our trips to Southwest Ohio are the closest thing we get. Mom and dad get to enjoy the scenic 8-hour drive, stop at their favorite roadside restaurants, and we all get to enjoy the fruits of Cincinnati, Ohio, the greatest city in the world.

But moving to Maryland, and the subsequent world global health crisis that ensued, made things difficult. I was no longer a quick 8-hour drive away, and with the planet grinding to a halt in March 2020, planning to see each other became more difficult. However, we did start a new quasi-tradition of calling weekly-ish on Google Hangouts. I, in glorious HD on my wide-angled webcam, and mom and dad in what must be 480p, crammed into dad’s office. Mom and dad have made it out here a couple times, including a Christmas concert of mine. I give them a pass on concert attendance nowadays since the livestreaming infrastructure at Maryland is quite sophisticated.

Various events in the last couple of years inspired me to write this piece, which I originally brainstormed as a reflection on how dad contributed to the man that I developed into. As you know, and as my mother has become fond of saying, you don’t need a DNA test to figure out the relation there. As mom, dad, Joanna and I convened on scenic Burlington, Wisconsin, a few weeks ago for my cousin Beau’s wedding, we all took a picture together where dad and I are making the exact same face. As mom says. No DNA required. I’m shorter and my hair is longer, but otherwise, identical.

Evan Ash photo at the University of Maryland

I also made a conscious choice a couple of years ago to start going to the bar that dad used to drink at, the venerable Pump Room, our local tavern. When I first moved, I would invite my friends in the area out to Titletown Brewing for some farewell drinks the night before I was due to leave, but this has since evolved to going out with just a few of my closest friends to the Pump Room. It’s quieter, the beer is cheaper, and the cheeseburgers are out of this world (Joanna, you’ll come around to them eventually). The last time I was there with a longtime pal of mine, Collin, Kathy was tending bar (if you know, you know). I gave her my card to pay for our drinks, and she comes back and goes “You’re Jeff’s son, aren’t you? Well, tell him that Dale O’Brien and Jim Zima are back in town on Wednesday.” That gives you a sense of how long it’s been since dad drank at the Pump Room regularly. As we walked out, Collin remarked to me “That’s the nicest I’ve ever seen her be to someone.” That, dear readers, is the Jeff Ash Effect.

Another moment of inspiration occurred when we were in Cincinnati last weekend exploring town before my Glee Club Reunion Concert. Whenever we’re in town, dad loves to hit up Shake-It Records, a long-running Northside record store. We each look for our own thing. Dad hunts for the classic funk and soul records, I look for movies and underground comics. I’ve always tagged along, with varying degrees of interest, to the record stores that dad pokes around in wherever we travel. I vividly recall, around the age of 9 or 10, staring incredulously at all the bongs and other weed paraphernalia that were behind the counter at the Electric Fetus in Duluth, MN, our family’s longtime vacation destination. Less fun were the trips in middle school to Mad City Music Exchange in Madison, where I couldn’t bear to be in the store for any time at all. But now, I happily go along, though, as I mentioned above, I’m not buying vinyl. Just CDs and movies.

I also started reading dad’s blog more, taking in dad as a writer, and not just dad as dad. My favorite things to read are always his meticulously researched end of year They Always Go In Threes. I don’t know how he does it. Most recently, his blogs on the shuttering of the Exclusive Company (another “Hey, you’re Jeff’s kid” place), and his recent dry spell in record hunting. I feel that. The comics I’ve bought are few and far between these days as well. As the years pass, I feel more and more like dad. And that’s okay. Dad’s a great writer, I hope to be one too. Dad’s a great historian, I hope to be one too. And one day when I’m ready, I hope I can be a great dad like dad’s been to me.

So, dad, thanks for all the morning motivation texts. I promise I read and appreciate them, even if I don’t text you back. Thanks for all the “FYI” or “Perhaps of interest” stuff you send my way on Twitter. Sometimes it is, in fact, of interest. Thanks for the virtual green handshakes (where dad will, without warning, send me an odd small sum of approximately 26 dollars). Thanks for
the predilection for all things old. Thanks for passing on your lack of athletic talent, which I funneled into other pursuits. Thanks for saving my bacon when I would have moved into an apartment that would have made me broke. Thanks for taking over my gig as East High basketball announcer, still connecting us to East almost ten years later. Thanks for making Joanna happy by talking about my boneheadedness when I’m not around. Thanks for being my #1 fan across the years and across the states.

Thanks for being my dad. I love you.


Dad has given me so much good advice that it’s hard to remember. But in the spirit of dad embarrassing younger me, I’m going to list the few times that dad has been wrong in his life.

  1. Despite your claims otherwise, I did not grow into those large and XL shirts while I was still in high school.
  2. Sorry to report, dad, but it’s not the ’70s anymore. People wear all kinds of high school clothing at college.
  3. Dad, we did not need to get rid of that stereo.

Dad's old stereo

(This is the stereo in question, seen as it was being moved from dorm room to apartment in 2016.)


Filed under June 2022