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Vinyl Hunter: The Origins

My old-time music on vinyl collection has grown exponentially over the past two years. As I mentioned last time, this aspect of my collection has been one of the primary targets in my own resurgent interest in buying records.

I started buying vinyl in high school. Having grown up in the 1980s, my music consumption started with cassettes and then moved to CDs. Vinyl was the media of my parents' generation, and they played plenty of it in the house. I was raised on the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Mamas & The Papas and others from the 1960s and '70s.

My first piece of vinyl was the 1993 split seven-inch of Velocipede and Kill City Babies. My mind had just been blown after seeing Velocipede play at an Amnesty International benefit concert at my high school. I went to check out the merch table, and the only recording they had were the three songs on one side of this dual album.

These were both local bands active in Northeast Ohio in the 1990s. An upperclassman at my school had started his own record label, called Donut Friends (originally Donut Fiends), and I began buying all the albums I could. Most were on vinyl or cassette, with the exception of one or two CD compilations.

From there, I started mail-ordering records from independent labels like Kill Rock Stars and Dischord. This was before you could buy everything online. I sold almost all of my CDs at the time to fund the purchase of more and more vinyl.

The next step was becoming a crate digger. I started combing thrift stores and used record shops for older albums. I found some gems, like the Stray Cats, Blondie, Patti Smith, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash. For the time period of about 1994 to 2004, my primary mode of consuming music was on vinyl.

However, that trend slowed way down in the mid-2000s and then virtually stopped when I discovered old-time music. It seemed like the only way to find this music was on CD or digital download, whether a reissue of older music or newer releases.

The first old-time music I ever bought on vinyl was the Instrumental Music from the Southern Appalachians compilation, which I found in the basement shop of the Beachland Ballroom, a live music venue in Cleveland. This had to be early in my discovery of old-time, as I don't recall knowing who anyone was playing on the album, just a bunch of nobodies like Hobart Smith and Etta Baker. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized what a cool find this was. And check out the sticker in the photo, only $3! That's a good score, right there.

This first time I remember finding old-time on vinyl and knowing what I was getting was when I found two New Lost City Ramblers records at a shop in Ravenna, Ohio, in August 2011. I was so thrilled to find these that it inspired me to start looking for this music on its original format. From then on, anytime I stepped into a record store, I would go directly to the folk/country/bluegrass/misc. section to see if I could find some old-time. Unfortunately, these visits remained few and far between.

My first post about getting old-time on vinyl for this blog was in 2015, when I found Mike Seeger's The Second Annual Farewell Reunion at my neighborhood record store while I was waiting on the barbershop around the corner to open.

Less than a year later, I embarked on my first vinyl hunting tour and nabbed that Ed Haley record and the 1964 Galax Va. Old Fiddlers' Convention compilation. Since then, I've added about eight albums per year to my old-time vinyl collection, combing record stores, winning a couple eBay auctions and ordering from other online vendors, which was the case with my most recent acquisition. I even received a Tommy Jarrell record as a gift.

Now, I find myself coming back around to my origins, as Brooklyn-based independent label Jalopy Records (and hopefully I'll discover others) are issuing old-time music on vinyl. Instead of mailing away for a catalog, now I can just point, click and consume.

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