Vinyl records music to some audiophiles’ ears in the Myrtle Beach area

spalisin@thesunnews.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Listening to music that spins 331/3 or 45 revolutions per minute never becomes a broken record for some audiophiles.

Vinyl albums await picking at thrift stores, sometimes used-book sales at libraries, and at other resellers such as Kilgor Trouts Music & More (445-2800 or www.kilgortrouts.com) in downtown Myrtle Beach and the Mr. K’s Used Books, Music and More chain, which includes a store near Tanger Outlets in North Charleston (843-793-4730 or www.mrksonline.com).

Anyone who wants to leaf through rows of 12-inch singles in along the floor at Kilgor Trouts might find owner Gary Finkenbiner offering a wheeled stool to make such surfing more comfortable.

He said vinyl, mainly used albums cleaned and repackaged, makes up 70 percent of his business, and that component has “almost doubled within the last year.”

Finkenbiner thanks “the rise of the record player” and the rarity of retailers specializing in vinyl records in any one town for a trend he saw coming seven years ago when he established the store.

Holding a rewrapped, late-1970s Atlanta Rhythm Section concert album Monday night, he said the market is ripe for such recordings that never were issued on CD.

A “collector and rock aficionado for most of my life,” Finkenbiner said he enjoys discovering new aspects about classic albums, and knowing what their original labels looked like and recognizing good condition and what’s worth buying when people want to sell old vinyl collections.

For vinyl care, Finkenbiner called Simple Green, diluted 50 percent with water, safe for wiping on vinyl grooves with a microfiber cloth. He advised avoiding rubbing alcohol, for it leaves a film, hardening the vinyl and making it brittle, which affects the sound quality.

Finkenbiner said Foreigner, Boston and Billy Joel albums “are hot now,” amid the rediscovery of 1970s-‘80s music. Browsers also come in, almost on a mission to stumble on a treasure, spending “four, five, six hours in the store.”

He said music fans don’t deal so much with “a matter of value, but what’s interesting.” He also loves glancing through incoming inventory for “the fun of going through it.”

“The things you find in people’s records,” Finkenbiner said, “notes, letters and cards and just weird, odd little things. You get a lot of history in these.”

Ashtin Potridge, a clerk at Kilgor Trouts, said shopping among the albums also lets people “recapture their childhood.”

‘Vinally Friday’ on air

Fidelity Broadcasting’s WYEZ FM “Movin” 94.5 celebrated records with a “Vinally Friday” promotion for six weeks this past fall.

Wally B., the program director, on the air 6 a.m.-noon Mondays through Fridays, said amid vinyl’s overall revival, station management sought “something novel” to give away in listener contests. Obtaining LPs by such acts such as Michael Jackson, with “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” as well as Prince’s “1999” and other works by Daryl Hall and John Oates, and Earth, Wind & Fire, Movin staff passed out about 30 albums.

“We wanted to make sure it was all the biggest names we play,” Wally B. said, explaining how most recipients said they planned to keep their prizes as a collector’s keepsake, instead of cracking it open and letting it play, but that was an OK choice.

A disc jockey “all my life,” Wally B. fondly remembered kind college dorm mates who would lend him copies of albums for his gigs, and his always taking care of them, “to not scratch one up.” Among his 35 years in radio, he said he hasn’t played records on the air since “making the move to FM” from AM, with music on cartridges, then compact disc, and later computers, but that syndicated weekly countdown shows carried on in vinyl for many more years.

He said changing a record during a commercial break demanded “that rush ... to get it cued up and ready.”

Hitting age 50 this year, Wally B. spoke of the “big emotional attachment to the music he grew up listening via vinyl.” Since the rollout of CDs in the marketplace, he also remembered the pitch about their sound and durability against scratching and in higher temperatures in storage, but that “they do indeed melt.”

Tyler Watkins of North Myrtle Beach, a partner in GrandStrandSportsReport.com and heard locally on radio broadcasts of the North Myrtle Beach High School Chiefs, the “Beach Ball Classic” and other games, said he got away from music after 20 years as a disc jockey in clubs and on radio. A purchase in 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn., of Johnny Cash performing on PBS’ “Austin City Limits” on vinyl kindled a rebirth, though.

“I bought the record so I would be motivated to buy a record player,” said Watkins, who later received a professional turntable for Christmas, which he hooked up to a pair of “old studio monitor speakers” and an amplifier, “which produced the sound” that an original 1970s-‘80s recording “the way it was meant to be listened to.”

The son of a radio broadcaster and mindful of space at home, Watkins said he has amassed a collection of about 200 favorite albums from that era. The Cash album find led to browsing at other stores and acquiring other colossal LPs such as Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall,” The Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed,” and more recently, Prince’s “1999” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

“The reason why I like vinyl,” Watkins said, “is you listen to it in a different way.”

He spoke of experiencing a whole album, vs. CDs being “designed and put together for individual songs.”

“That’s the way I buy and play vinyl,” Watkins said, “from start to finish.”

Listening to an album at night, he said, “vinyl takes you on a journey.”

“When you listen in the dark,” Watkins said, “it really becomes an experience.”

Art in the covers

Bryan Wester, owner of Coast to Coast Antiques Gallery in Myrtle Beach, sees interest in his bulk, “bargain records” section, but that many times, people buy the records for the art on the covers.

“That’s really driven up some of the prices” among LP collectors, he said. “You’d be surprised; it’s not the earlier stuff, but lots of later stuff by rock bands, such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin covers. ... That’s one side to it.”

Localizing this topic in another angle, and noting country band Alabama’s springboard to fame from The Bowery in downtown Myrtle Beach, Wester said serious collectors might like the band’s records when they were pressed under the name Wild Country, “before they were Alabama.”

“Those records are fairly valuable and sought after,” he said, estimating those LPs might garner $150 to $500 each, or $1,000 in mint condition.

John Marshall of South Portland, Maine – also known as “Mighty John the Record Guy” – operates the website www.MoneyMusic.com. He’s a guest periodically on NextMedia Radio’s WRNN-FM 99.5 “Hot Talk” morning drive show in Myrtle Beach.

Marshall, who delves into collectivity and value of records, attributes the resurgence of vinyl partially to youth playing their parents’ collections. He said rock, the No. 1 genre, and country, blues, soul and jazz command their own corners in the market, especially with an era for Elvis Presley and the Beatles each.

“Anybody who has an effect on music and culture,” Marshall said, “tends be collectible.”

Yet, “just because a recording artist is popular doesn’t means they’ll be collectible,” he said, “and just because someone is not a big cultural figure does not mean their records won’t be collectible.”

Having paid 10 cents years ago for a 78-rpm pressing of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” Marshall said its worth has climbed to “about $150.”

Soundwise for Marshall, a 30-year veteran of radio, “vinyl has more of a warmth to it” with “the joy of holding a record album cover and reading the liner notes while listening to the music,” something more personal and “more intimate.”

“You can’t do that much with a CD or at all with an MP3,” he said.

Gatefold albums, with front and back covers that open like a book, and picture sleeves on 45s, provide other perks for vinyl fans.

“I remember picking up the ‘Love Gun’ album by Kiss at a yard sale,” Marshall said. “Inside was a little cardboard gun. That does not come with the CD. That little bang is, by itself, worth about $75.”

For the 45-rpm records that come in picture covers, “they’re always worth more than the record itself,” he said.

“A lot of collectors,” he said, “just collect the picture sleeves; they don’t care about the record at all.”

Chuck Splawn, a legal studies professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, thought back to his elementary school days, when he got his first record, the single “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.

He counts many favorite records at home.

“One that is really special is ‘Insight Out’ by The Association, in pristine condition after nearly 50 years,” said Splawn, always looking for other classics.

“Just in the last few years, I’ve started enjoying treasure-hunting at thrift stores, to supplement my original collection, and to add some artists and musical genres I didn’t appreciate when I was young, such as classical and folk. I really love not knowing what I’ll find while thumbing through a stack of albums, and the fact that I can usually nab a good album for a dollar or two is very satisfying.”

A quest to find Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” LP, from 1974, in decent condition rolls on.

“I found a copy once at a thrift store and got really excited, only to find it was scratched very badly,” Splawn said.

Mikey, owner of Water Dog Promotions in North Myrtle Beach, said she still plays 45s and LPs in her music collection on her daughter’s stereo.

“With a little push, the turntable still works,” Hough said.

She recalled the late 1950s and her initial album acquisition, “Tab Hunter,” along with her first 45s, Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog.”

Hough treasures Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ LPs and some 45s, all with autographs. She also remembered shopping outings with friends to the former Skips in Myrtle Beach, across from the now-Pavilion parking lot, for “all of our record needs.”

“Our Saturdays consisted of going to Skips,” Hough said, “and listening to all the latest 45s in the soundproof booth and buying a new one each week at $1 a record. With tax, it was $1.03. This was the standard birthday present we always gave to each other.”

Playing Chicago, overseas

Lou Krieger of the Surfside Beach area spent a few decades as a radio disc jockey. He said he spun his first record on the air in August 1970, Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” on Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in Asmara, Ethiopia. Stateside, his debut came in 1972, for Baltimore’s first FM station, WLPL, with “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

Krieger said he wants to acquire another turntable to re-play his collection of picture discs and original 45s saved through the years.

The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” picture album remains his favorite, for it “defined, in my opinion, my generation with the draft, Vietnam, peace, love and all that stuff.”

One album he hopes to find again: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Streets Survivors,” with the flames on the front, and released before three band members perished in 1977.

“We gave away a bunch of them on the air as promotional prizes,” Krieger said about that hot LP, “and after the plane crash, the cover was changed. Somewhere in my collection ... I have the Beatles’ ‘Butcher Block’ album that is pretty collectable – which they pulled.”

With Elvis’ “All Shook Up” as the first single he purchased, Krieger cannot forget what his first album brought home, “Meet the Beatles,” did for his family standing one day.

“My father chastised me for spending the money on music by screaming, long-haired freaks,” Krieger said.

Another Skynyrd fan, John Sheftic, market manager for NextMedia Radio in Myrtle Beach, said he and his wife have built up a new library of vinyl albums and singles, purchased “online very cheap,” and by using a phonograph also found in cyberspace. Their collection includes comedy albums by the late George Carlin and Flip Wilson, as well as 45s by such artists as Ray Charles, Tommy James and the Shondells, and The Byrds and Beatles.

“It is amazing what is still available,” Sheftic said. “I like anything that brings back memories.”

His first album, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “One More From The Road,” brought good times in childhood.

“We wore out record needles listening to ‘Free Bird,’ ” Sheftic said.

“What is amazing about music with any generation is how it brings back such vivid memories. I can remember sitting in my room, listening to records when I was supposed to be studying. My parents gave my one of the best Christmas gifts ever: headphones. We lived in a typical, small, three-bedroom brick house built in 1961 in suburban Maryland. The headphones made everyone in the family happy, especially my dad.”

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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