My dad Glenn was one of many thousands of heroes who fought, among others, the battles of Guadalcanal and Bouganville, taking the Solomon Islands back from the Japanese. He brought back a Japanese dagger and a Purple Heart to attest to just how up close and personally that medal had been won.
Back home, the dashing war hero was footloose and fancy free, then he met the vivacious young Sylvia and they were married, like people did in those days.
No doubt they were swinging to the hot sounds of the day like that new kid the teens were all abuzz about, a skinny crooner from Hoboken who had paid his dues as the boy singer in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, not yet chairman of the board.
And then, much to their surprise, in April 1947, I was born! Whoop-de-doo!
When I was little, my parents owned two records, 78 rpm originals of Guy Lombardo's "Auld Lang Syne" and Patti Page's "Tennessee Waltz". By the age of four I was playing both sides of those records almost as much as I played outside with my friends every day, probably driving my parents crazy with "Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight" and "Auld Lang Syne" all summer long, then in early 1953 when I was five they brought home Patti Page's "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window", and I became obsessed with that, and it's puppy barking every 20 seconds.
About then my dad brought home what I thought was a little suitcase. "Where we going daddy?", "Oh son I thought we'd take a trip", but the suitcase was in fact one of those new-fangled portable record players, and in it was a little stack of five inch yellow vinyl 78 rpm “Little Golden Records”.
Suddenly those clumsy big black 78's were a thing of the past. Here was a treasure trove of songs and stories, Disney and fables, “The Little Engine That Could”, Brer Rabbit's “The Laughing Place”, the story of a frog that went a-courtin', and so much more, it was simply magical and all coming out of the speaker of my very own record player, before I was even in school. Without knowing it, my dad had set me on a path that 62 years later I still travel.
"A Lot Of Water Under the Bridge" barely summarizes the years between 1953 and 1978, but suffice it to say that starting from a time before there was such a thing as rock 'n roll I began accumulating a lot of records. Perry Como, Dean Martin and Teresa Brewer were favorites.
I still remember hearing "Heartbreak Hotel" for the first time on a steakhouse jukebox where my aunt, a big brassy broad who was a very talented artist and musician, was house organist. Cousins and friends gave me records, later as a paper boy my wages ($1.20 a week) all went on records, in Junior and Senior High I spent my lunch money on records. At 12 I joined the Columbia Record Club for the first of many, many times and began building an LP collection 9 or 12 records at a time for $1.98, or whatever the deal might be.
I studied the labels on 45's and LP's and when I only had enough money for one 45 the decision would come down to my favorite font size and label design. I got to know which labels provided the most information, became familiar with songwriters like Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman, Carole King/Gerry Goffin, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant...publishers, producers (Hugo and Luigi for RCA, Snuff Garrett for Liberty, Phil Spector, Don Kirschner...), I knew the addresses of my favorite labels and was aware of what was going on in the Brill Building.
I learned performance rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC), the recording and mastering process, even studios like Sun and Gold Star, artists who wrote and produced their own records (Gene Pitney, Paul Anka, Del Shannon, Sam Cooke, among others). In 1963 I knew that a new songwriter named Bob Dylan had arrived and had written hits for Peter Paul and Mary and Johnny Cash.
Inspired by teen idols like Ricky Nelson and the great songwriters of the day, I wrote a couple of songs and sent them to Bobby Darin at TM Music, who graciously wrote back saying they couldn't use those but inviting me to continue sending them songs for consideration. This was all very important stuff, and then—here came The Beatles. Katy, bar the door. I became a musician with a primary goal of making a record. In 1966, my band of like-minded teenagers, GONN, did just that, "Blackout Of Gretely", written by myself and guitarist Rex Garrett.
So then came decades of traveling around town to town with this band and that, playing dances and fairs and clubs and concerts, while the collection grew beyond the cabinet of my Voice Of Music console stereo or my 45 carrying case which morphed into dozens of those, and then into 4-drawer cabinets and then onto shelves full of albums. GONN recorded a second single in 1967, and a later band, ILMO Smokehouse, released a self-produced LP in 1970 that went out world-wide on Roulette Records in 1971-72.
In 1978 a friend in an Erie, PA, punk band called 'Pistol Whip' clued me in to the fact that there was such a thing as a record collector's magazine, 'Goldmine', which at the time was little more than a newsprint flyer. He showed me that “Trouser Press” magazine carried “records wanted/for sale” ads in the back, as the used/rare record scene began to take form nationally.
I was astonished to discover that some used LP's could sell for as much as $10! I went to another friend who owned a coin-op business in Keokuk, Iowa, servicing jukeboxes and pinball games, and spent $500 @10 cents each on 45's with the intention of becoming a dealer, to trade and sell so I could get more of the records I was looking for. I had no intention of selling any of my own, after all.
Shortly thereafter, I moved back to Peoria permanently, and took part in some very small swap meets, and started using Goldmine as a tool to conduct this amazing new business. In 1979 myself, Bill Knight and Gary Becka established “Rumble Records” and for our first release I produced a live album for blues legend Luther Allison, recorded at The Other Side Lounge in Peoria Heights, called "Gonna Be A Live One In Here Tonight". It sold several thousand copies and won the Memphis Blues Society's Best Album award.
In 1980 John Lennon was assassinated, and demand for his records went through the roof, like Elvis' had before him. My friend Bill Love's Co-Op Records had grown into 28 stores. That same year I produced the Dave Chastain Band's classic southern rock debut LP “Rockin' Roulette” and two DCB 45's, "Highway Man" and "Fool For Lovin' You", as well as my own first solo 7" EP.
In 1982 I put together a band called Ready Steady Go with Greg Williams who had played guitar on that EP and was himself a local legend with 60's 45's by The Furniture & The Buster Browns, and Mike Isenberg who had two singles with The Jets in 1973 and 1979.
At the time, I was on a mission to accumulate the entire Elvis Presley picture sleeve and 7" EP catalog. On the road with RSG, our first stop in any town was always the local record shop, before we unloaded our gear or checked into a hotel. I started thinking it would be cool to be that well-informed though somewhat grumpy guy behind the counter at a used record shop. I took my load of '45's to this new thing called a “Record Show”, a regular event that had begun in St. Louis, a small affair in Champaign, and even one held in the La-Z-J Saloon in Bloomington. Those ten cent records were bringing $1 each, some of them even more!
I had also been selling records at home in the front yard during the summer and by virtue of that had come to know most of the local collectors, many of whom, like a kid named Bobby Gordon, actually knew something about it and could carry on an enjoyable conversation about his, or my, favorites.
At the regular Exposition Gardens gun show, a record dealer from the Quad Cities had been making news among the record crowd by always showing up with some really great records, usually too expensive to our way of thinking, but he had the stuff. The eye-opener was when I discovered I could find a lot of records worth buying at these “record shows” and there were always a lot more and a bigger variety of records available at a show than at any of the shops the band or I might visit, including Co-Op which was mostly new but had developed a reasonable used section before the chain collapsed in 1982-83, or at Victrola over in Macomb, which was the very first collector's shop I had found in the area.
I was missing one Elvis Presley EP, the double-pocket 2-record 8-song version of his first album released as EPB-1254. I had all the rest, but this had been eluding me. I had told all of the area dealers from St. Louis to the Quad Cities and the gun show dealer to everyone who might understand, that I was after this one EP in particular. Still a naïve but ever-hopeful vinyl junkie, I decided that just maybe I could find that EP if I put on a record show in Peoria.
So came to be the very first Peoria Area Collectible Records Convention, May 20, 1984. With 20 years of hustling rock 'n roll bands behind me, I had experience promoting events, and thanks to attending the St. Louis and other record shows, I already knew many dealers. I rented the “Mississippi Room” at the Howard Johnson's in downtown Peoria and lined up enough dealers to fill about 22 tables. I put ads in the paper and on Rock 106 (the original WWCT at 105.9) and hoped for the best.
I had a Ready Steady Go gig the night before, and went straight from that to a room I had booked in the Howard Johnson's, arriving about 3AM. Checking the room set-up, fussing with details, and loading my own records into the room, I finally hit the pillow about 5AM, with a 6AM wake-up call.
Dealers all came in on time, doors opened at 10AM with a $2 admission. We were having an enjoyable day (being in a room full of records easily kept me awake) when a young man came to my table with one lone record he had brought with him, wanting to sell. He was taking offers. Elvis Presley, EPB-1254. It was all I could do not to faint on the spot. I casually offered him $50, a fair dealer offer at the time, and asked him to see me again if he had any counter-offers before selling it. I lost track of him in the room, and he did not return, much to my dismay.
Later in the day, as I was collecting table fees from the dealers, I stopped by our notorious gun show dealer Jim's table. I asked him if he had bought anything of note during the day, and he produced the Elvis EP. He knew I was looking for it, and he knew from the seller that I had offered him $50 for it. So Jim offered him $55, which he accepted, gave Jim the EP, and left the show. My heart sank, but there it was. Before it was over, I had to pay him $100 for this EP or let it go, so I paid it. Capitalism had reared it's head among my record collection in big way, but I had in fact found that EP by putting on the record show! What are the odds?
Out of this event I decided to carry on and fill the void being left by the collapse of Co-Op by opening a full-blown used record shop of my own. In conversations with a WWCT DJ, Jim Reeves, I discovered that he had been thinking along those same lines. After I promoted a second record show later in the year, we decided to enter into this project together rather than do battle. Thus in late 1984 we opened what was then-called “The Peoria Record Company” at 711 West Main.
OFF WE GO
The record show soon moved into the Holiday Inn in East Peoria with much more dealer space, a more convenient location and better load-in factors. In 1986 Jim split off and did his own thing, University Records, which did well for a period of time but eventually closed down as he pursued other goals.
One of my early customers, John Nimmo, came in my store one day and told me he was going to open a shop in his home town of Pekin. I had been thinking the same thing, but decided there was no point in creating a conflict like that when I liked John and wished him well. That was when "Rock Of Ages" came to be.
Another of my regular customers, Mark Gossick, went to work for me as Peoria Record Company store manager in 1986. Mark was with me for ten years during a period when we took over the Springfield Record Show, expanded the store into several locations, Decatur and Bloomington most notably, worked hard, endured two arson fires that destroyed an incredible amount of great store merchandise in Bloomington, and in general had a lot of fun, before he left eventually to do his own thing with a sports memorabilia kiosk as a fixture at Northwoods Mall for a long time.
Toward the end of the 80's Bobby Gordon, the affable young man I met at my yard sales and Expo, went to work for a temporarily surviving Co-Op location on Main Street. In June of 1991, Bobby took his wealth of knowledge about comic books and toys and opened his own shop, “Acme Comics”, which thrives today.
A young man named Cam who worked for that last Peoria Co-Op evntually took it over, moved to East Peoria, and he too survived. We all get along just fine, communicate regularly, and have a great working relationship. I'm the old dog in that zoo, and enjoy it immensely.
In 1994 I began my “Killer Catalog” series of hard-copy mail order catalogs, which coincidentally with our 1984-2014 30th Anniversary reaches Killer Catalog #100, a goal I set for myself several years ago, with no idea of just when that point would be reached. #100 will go out in the mail in November.
Between 1997-98 I very nearly packed up and moved to Omaha, Nebraska. I had an entire storefront there fully remodeled and renamed, “Younger Than Yesterday”, title of my favorite album by The Byrds, which itself was a take-off from a line in Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" ("Oh but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now..."). (I never liked "Peoria Record Company" anyway, it was a relic from someone else's idea.)
I had started doing my mail order from Omaha while Bill Risoli ran PRC for me in Peoria simultaneously. All that remained was to start moving racks and merchandise. I had a truck and help coming in from Austin, Texas, Blaine Price who helps me do the Austin Record Show. We backed the truck up to YTY in Omaha, to either load what was there and bring it back, or to bring it all in from Peoria. Literally at that moment I decided to take everything back to Peoria. I rented 2615 North University and built another store from the ground up, moved PRC into it, named it Younger Than Yesterday, and that is the only time this business has ever moved in 30 years.
The 1988 first fire in Bloomington ironically and directly led to a friendship with one of my heroes from the 60's, Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds, whom I happened to meet in London just at that time, and who came to be our special guest at the grand re-opening of the store and at the Springfield and Peoria Record Shows in 1989. It was his first trip to America since Renaissance in the early 70's. Younger Than Yesterday released his first-ever solo LP, Frontman, in 2014 as a Record Store Day exclusive that sold out in pre-orders.
We had a record show booked for September 16, 2001, at the Packard Plaza. Then came 9/11. With no time to reschedule, we went ahead with the show, all the dealers came, about 1/3 of the usual attendance showed up regardless, and life changed rather dramatically. That was 13 years ago already. The show, the store, and America carried on. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
While this novel covers a lot of time and territory, it leaves a Grand Canyon of unwritten chapters and “between-the-lines” stories and experiences. I have customers who started coming in the shop as children who are now bringing in their children. My kids have kids and their kids have kids, this teenage aspiring rock 'n roller is a great-grandfather four times.
2001 - 2014
I met my dear wife Marina in Russia in summer 2001 following a GONN tour of Europe. She came to Peoria in 2002, became a US citizen, and has been my right hand through thick and thin. She turned me on to Pink Floyd once and for all, a band she fell in love with listening to Radio Free Europe while growing up in the Soviet Union. It was my great pleasure to take her to see Roger Waters in Chicago and her other fave, Deep Purple, in St. Louis, not to mention so many others we've enjoyed together.
But she'd still like me to get all those damned records out of the garage!
THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY
PEORIA AREA COLLECTIBLE RECORDS CONVENTION
takes place SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2014,
at the TRAVEL LODGE (formerly THE GRAND HOTEL)
4400 Brandywine Drive, Peoria,
10-4, admission - $3
Related posts: Shop Hop—Younger Than Yesterday, (Almost) Live From Peoria: The Jim McCarty Experience With The Temporary Tribute Band At Younger Than Yesterday and Record Store Day At Younger Than Yesterday Records Starring The Black Roses.
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