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Back to vinyl

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Vintage_Wade

Wade Tatangelo, Herald-Tribune entertainment reporter, checks out at Vintage Goodies Vinyl Record Shop. COURTESY PHOTO BY DANIELLE WHEELER, OWNER OF VINTAGE GOODIES.

I had the whole vinyl records thing under control – just Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and some other golden oldies – until an unplanned visit to a place called The Pirate’s Exchange. I was driving, yammering about the truly dark meaning of a half-century-old country song playing on the satellite radio, when my wife spotted a handwritten sign that told of a going-out-of-business sale. She suggested we stop at the squatty, cinderblock building across from the fishing village of Cortez. It had potential.

Inside, we spotted a lanky man with leathery skin who could’ve easily been an extra in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He stood shirtless in a pair of cut-off shorts, smoking. Jeffrey W. Lynch – the name on his business card he would soon give me – leaned around the corner to see who had entered his shop, which once sold fine art, antique furniture, jewelry, books and music. I told him about my interest in vinyl and his eyes brightened.

All that remained of any value in The Pirate’s Exchange, to me at least, were the music selections. Crates and crates of roughly alphabetized vinyl records placed in a cramped, hot room with no windows. It was located off to the side of the main display area as if used solely for storage – or a personal stash.

I surveyed the titles and discretely smiled at my wife. She understood. I approached the merchandise with all the enthusiasm and determination of a 6-year-old hunting for Easter eggs.

In an hour that felt like a few minutes, I assembled a stack of nicely maintained vinyl records that included a bunch of vintage Allman Brothers Band and Rolling Stones LPs, and other classics ranging from Waylon Jennings to Frank Sinatra to Talking Heads. But the one album, the one double album, I wanted more than all the rest, eluded me: The Allman Brothers Band opus “At Fillmore East.”

I concluded there were actually numerous essentials that escaped me, but I dripped with sweat and my amazing wife couldn’t have been too happy. We were hot and hungry and, by the look of things, already about to drop at least a hundred in cash. I yelled out “excuse me” as politely as possible.

“No, I did have it, but I sold it,” Jeff said in between drags when I inquired about “At Fillmore East.”

“Great album,” he added.

“Any Dylan?” I asked.

“Nah, his stuff goes quick.”

“Zeppelin?”

“Had some, but these college kids snatched ‘em up the other day,” Jeff said. “But if you ever want anything, here’s my card, just call. I’m setting up shop in Sarasota.”

My wife and I then celebrated at our original destination, The Cortez Kitchen. While plopped down in the passenger's seat during the short drive home, I realized my vinyl obsession had been reignited.

VINYL MEMORIES

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Danielle Wheeler, owner of Vintage Goodies Record Shop, shows me a copy of The Allman Brothers Band's classic double album "At Fillmore East" in "excellent" condition" at her store  in Venice. STAFF PHOTO BY WADE TATANGELO

I vividly remember how my dad often used the music of his youth to decompress after a long day of work, marriage and raising me and my three younger siblings. He would prop his head up on a pillow right next to one of the Bose speakers he'd probably owned since college and listen to the sounds emanating from the turntable. He had many records, but the one I recall him gravitating to most often was one with a black and white cover featuring six guys laughing at some inside joke. "The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East" played often in our house, but when Dad really needed to escape he went straight to side four and lost himself in the 23-minute version of "Whipping Post."

As a kid, I couldn't properly appreciate the pain in Gregg Allman's bourbon-soaked vocals as he equated unrequited love with a torturous death. But I knew there was magic inside those black spinning circles and, while starting to deal with my own adolescent woes, I wanted to experience some of that escapism for myself.

By age 12, right around the time we had moved from Hershey, Pa., to Tampa, I gained permission to operate my dad's turntable and found myself listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, especially "Desire." In addition to the music, as with most great vinyl, there were the fascinating photos of my hero and mind-expanding liner notes. I'm sure Allen Ginsberg's "Songs of Redemption," printed on the inner jacket, is the first piece of real poetry I ever read.

My switch to CDs came when I turned 13 or 14. My parents bought me a mid-sized boom box and a copy of the release best known as "Led Zeppelin IV." For the next decade, I used the money I made mowing lawns and doing other miserable jobs to buy used, and the occasional new, CDs. I liked some music from my generation — Pearl Jam, Nirvana, 2Pac — but mostly bought stuff originally released on vinyl, or at least by artists from the vinyl era.

I started writing about music in 2001 while still an English major at the University of South Florida in Tampa. I definitely appreciated the money, and the opportunity it gave me to do some genuine journalism later on, but the main reason was for the free CDs. Getting them sent to me gratis, before they were available to the public, seemed like the greatest job in the world.

In 2010 — around the time people stopped buying CDs — I spent a couple nights in my tiny bungalow apartment in Newport Beach, Ca. uploading my favorite music to my MacBook. I resigned my job as music editor at the OC Weekly the same day I sold my 2,000-plus CD collection at Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was a surreal and sad day. Looking back, though, I made one of the smartest decisions of my life.

VINYL TIME AGAIN

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A customer looks over classic rock albums at JR's Home Entertainment located at the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO BY THOMAS BENDER

My current interest in vinyl really started with our dogs. Not too long after returning to my rightful place on the west coast of Florida I finally convinced an amazing woman I had known for a long time to be my wife. She and I moved into our first house together about a year ago. One day we bought a Crosley record player that also plays CDs and cassettes while shopping for cleaning supplies and vitamins at Target. For months, the best I did to accommodate our new living room fixture was find a few of those badly worn Elvis and Bing LPs while shopping for antique furniture.

But then a funny thing happened. When I played that scratchy record of "Elvis in Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada," our three dogs paid attention. They liked it. Dunkin, Georgee and Tucker faced the speakers with ears up, tails wagging, responding the same way they do when a human guest they like enters the living room, which we now call, by the way, the listening room. Our dogs never reacted like that when I played CDs or MP3s of Elvis or anyone else. Yep, I was finally sold on all that stuff about vinyl offering superior sound quality to digital thanks to a pair of chocolate labs and a French bulldog.

The Pirate's Exchange visit came shortly after the canine epiphany. The following few weekends included several great picks at garage sales near our home in West Bradenton. The vinyl collecting habit, if confined to garage sales, would have remained inexpensive. But last month a friend told me about a place at the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.

It's called JR's Entertainment, but the person in charge is a fun and feisty woman named Lynne Verrier. She's assisted by her equally plucky teenage daughter.

The first day we went there I spent a solid two hours going through the vinyl. I started with the stuff precisely organized and priced before moving to the floor. I got down on all fours like an animal and dragged out boxes and boxes of unsorted inventory. I emerged with a heavy stack that included The Beatles' double record best known as "The White Album," Emmylou Harris' alt-country classic "Elite Hotel" and "Led Zeppelin IV." Yes, I finally replaced my first CD with vinyl.

VINYL SHOPS

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Danielle Wheeler inspects a copy of the Johnny Winter triple-album "Second Winter" at her Vintage Goodies Vinyl Record Shop in Venice. STAFF PHOTO BY WADE TATANGELO

Having become a regular at the best vinyl record shop in Manatee, it was time to visit the top spot in Sarasota. My expectations were high as I headed south on Tamiami Trail to Vintage Goodies Vinyl Record Shop in Venice. On this Tuesday afternoon it was just me and owner Danielle Wheeler. After about an hour she realized I knew much more about music than vinyl or stereo equipment.

In addition to helping me find "excellent" and "near mint" copies of the Allman Brothers Band's "At Fillmore East," the Richard Betts solo album "Highway Call" and Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," she gave me many tips on preserving my new purchases and other basics about being a vinyl collector (see sidebar). When I told Danielle about my Crosley turntable, she frowned and said maybe the "excellent" and "near mint" selections should wait until I upgraded to better gear because they could be damaged by my current equipment. So I bought a second copy of "At Fillmore East" that she deemed worthy of just a couple dollars but that sounds just fine to these ears.

Danielle also showed me a wealth of rarities that could seriously alter my financial situation if I started buying 'em. Take for instance Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland" with the original banned cover. It features a bunch of naked women. "How much?" I asked.

"$200," she answered.

Dangerous. Very dangerous. Granted, I spent about half that before I left Vintage Goodies not too long before its 5 p.m. closing time, but at least I had a stack in my hands. In fact, in addition to a bunch of great records - oh, yeah, got a copy of Dylan's "Desire" and Ray Charles' "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" - I also went home with this sponge-looking thing to clean my vinyl. Danielle told me to rub it counterclockwise and I do and it works, even with the rough stuff I salvaged from garage sales. The same stuff she sells for $1 - or simply refuses to put on her shelves. So, I got Lynne in Bradenton and Danielle in Venice. What about Jeff? Did the man, who with help from our three dogs, shoved me down this avenue of vinyl obsession ever resurface? I still had his business card and called him last week. The Pirate's Exchange is back in business, now in Sarasota.

"I got a bunch more vinyl, four or five thousand total now, because I brought a buddy in with me," Jeff said. "Lots of Zeppelin, Beatles, Hendrix, stuff that you would like." I will definitely be seeing him again, and anyone else with a collection of vinyl records who is willing to sell or trade a few, or maybe even just let me look and listen. To be honest, in addition to collecting the vinyl, I just like being around people like Jeff, Lynne and Danielle. They're people who share my strange passion for these 33 1/3 rpm microgroove vinyl records better known as long plays or LPs.

I'm responsible for the loss of my dad's LPs, at least most of them. I had a crate of his records and moved around so much in my 20s I'm not sure where I left them. One of my greater regrets is losing Dad's vinyl box set of "Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-85." Luckily, my father-in-law saved his copy, which is in excellent condition, and added it to our collection.

My wife, who's originally from South Jersey, and I had both our parents over to the house for Mother's Day. It wasn't long before everyone had gathered in the listening room. I was playing DJ and the requests kept coming for The Boss. Eventually, it seemed we played that whole vinyl box set, the one that closes with Springsteen's celebratory version of "Jersey Girl."

That's the first song my wife and I danced to as a married couple at our wedding in December. Funny how those vinyl records stick with you.

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Kristin and Wade Tatangelo dancing to Bruce Springsteen's version of "Jersey Girl" at their wedding in The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key, Dec. 16, 2012. COURTESY PHOTO BY SHANNA GILLETTE/sasharaephoto.com

Vintage_Danielle_1Vinyl advice for new record collectors from owner of Vintage Goodies

JR’s Entertainment is Store 24 at Red Barn Flea Market, 1707 1st St. E., Bradenton; 243-3831

The Pirate’s Exchange, 7650 S. Tamiami Trail Suite 5, Sarasota; 962-8034; thepiratesexchange.com

Vintage Goodies Vinyl Record Shop, 234 Tamiami Trail S., Venice; 893-8668; thevinylrecordshop.com
Last modified: August 8, 2013
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