Re-collecting a collection: Various artists (1950s)

2017-05-06 16.40.18

(Above: Carol Holmes’ box of records, circa 1958)

The 45s in my collection fall into three categories:

a) The original records I inherited from my folks when I got my first record player at age 4.  There’s maybe 30 or 40 of these.

b) Records that I bought new.  There’s hundreds of these.

c) Records I bought used that someone else bought new.  There’s probably thousands of these.

It’s not lost on me that most of my collection was someone else’s first. It’s not often, though, that I think about who owned the records first, because I have no way to know who they were. Sure, occasionally a 45 will have a name on it, but most of the time there’s no way to know precisely who – or how many people – owned the records first.

The box I got today is a rare exception. On the way across the state we stopped into an antique store in Jackson, Michigan. Antique malls are tricky places to buy records. Far too often dealers are convinced that what they have is super-rare and price it accordingly ($25 for a Hall and Oates LP?), or have been well-picked over by the time I find them.  Many of the retro cases that you find at such shops are filled with easy listening pap or those Tops re-releases that sold bunches in the Fifties. That’s why I was so surprised when I picked up a red 45 case – with an asking price of $48 – and found it to actually be a good deal.

The reason this one was remarkable was that it had its original index card – and almost every record on the index (48 out of 50) was in the box in its correct position.  That’s right: someone essentially put this collection aside, possibly sixty years ago, and left it there, forgotten.  Years later someone thought to leave it intact and sell it, and I happened to be the one to pick it up. The other reason this was a lucky find was that the collection is actually really good. While some of the records have been, shall we say, “well loved,” others are in really nice shape.

What’s in the box?

  1.  “It’s Only Make Believe” – Conway Twitty
  2.  “Tom Dooley” – The Kingston Trio
  3.  “Dreamy Eyes” – Johnny Tillotson
  4.  “Wicked Ruby” – Danny Zella.  This one looks unplayed.
  5.  “To Know Him Is To Love Him” – The Teddy Bears
  6.  “Little Star” – The Elegants. I have always loved this record.
  7.  “Rockin’ Robin” – Bobby Day.  This is one of the records that is missing from the box. Somewhere I think I have a copy I can replace it with.
  8.  “Poor Boy” – Royaltones
  9.  “Poor Little Fool” – Ricky Nelson
  10.  “Lonesome Town/I Got a Feeling” – Ricky Nelson.  This one has the original picture sleeve stuck behind the single. Score.
  11.  “Susie Darling” – Robin Luke
  12. “Devoted To You/Bird Dog” – Everly Brothers
  13.  “It’s All In the Game” – Tommy Edwards
  14.  “Mexican Hat Rock” – Applejacks. It’s the first pressing with “Sophisticated Swing” on the flip side.
  15.  “La Do Dada” – Dale Hawkins. This also looks unplayed.
  16.  “Willie and the Hand Jive” – Johnny Otis Show
  17.  “Judy” – Frankie Vaughan. One of the weaker links in the collection.
  18.  “When” – The Kalin Twins
  19.  “Just a Dream” – Jimmy Clanton
  20.  “Book Of Love” – The Monotones
  21.  “All I Have To Do Is Dream” – Everly Brothers.  This was one of the original records I inherited at age four.  Needless to say this one is in better shape.
  22.  “Stood Up/Waitin’ In School” – Ricky Nelson.
  23.  “Oh Julie” – Crescendoes
  24.  “26 Miles” – Four Preps
  25.  “Melodie D’Amour” – Ames Brothers. This one seems a little out of place in this collection.
  26.  “Oh Boy” – The Crickets (on Brunswick)
  27.  “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” – Elvis Presley
  28.  “That’ll Be The Day” – The Crickets (also on Brunswick)
  29.  “Hey Schoolgirl” – Tom and Jerry.  Tom was Art Garfunkel and Jerry was Paul Simon. You probably know them for other work.
  30.  “Jennie Lee” – Jan and Arnie.  Arnie Ginsburg got drafted, and Jan Berry later teamed up with a guy named Dean Torrence.
  31.  “Peggy Sue/Everyday” – Buddy Holly (on Coral). Unfortunately, this one has a crack in it, and is the only damaged record in the box.
  32.  “Love Me Tender” – Elvis
  33.  “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands” – Laurie London. Couldn’t this have been the cracked one?
  34.  “My Special Angel” – Bobby Helms
  35.  “Jo-Ann” – The Playmates
  36.  “Jailhouse Rock/Treat Me Nice” – Elvis
  37.  “Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel” – Elvis. Unfortunately the Elvis picture sleeves, if they existed, were probably pinned on a wall and discarded years ago.
  38.  “Raunchy” – Bill Justis
  39.  “The Purple People Eater” – Sheb Wooley
  40.  “Moonlight Swim” – Nick Noble.  I would have rather have found the Tony Perkins version.
  41.  “Great Balls of Fire” – Jerry Lee Lewis
  42.  “Black Denim Trousers” – The Cheers. This is the other record that is missing, and I don’t have a copy to replace it with.  Bert Convy of TV’s “Tattletales” was one of the members of this band.
  43.  “Short Shorts” – The Royal Teens. Al Kooper, who later played on a lot of great rock records (Blonde on Blonde among them), plays on this record.
  44.  “Silhouettes” – The Rays. This is another of my original 45s. I used to play it over and over, so my copy is in really bad shape. This one looks pretty good. (My 78 RPM copy that I found several years ago is cleaner.)
  45.  “Let The Bells Keep Ringing” – Paul Anka.
  46.  “Lollipop” – The Chordettes
  47.  “Get a Job” – Silhouettes
  48.  “Catch a Falling Star” – Perry Como.  This was the first record to be certified gold in March of 1958.
  49.  “Love Me To Pieces” – Jill Corey. Again, couldn’t this have been the cracked or missing one?
  50.  “Black Slacks” – Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones

Compared to most of these boxes that I have found – and I have found a lot – this is a really solid collection.  Someone was a bit of a rocker (save a few odd selections). All of the records have their number stickers on them, and the index card is filled out, and all the records (save the two missing ones) are in the right slots. If only we knew whose collection this was?

We do, sort of.  The index card bears the name Carol Holmes. A few of the records (not many) are marked “Carol Warner” or just “Warner.” One has the name on the record changed to Holmes. So, here’s what I am guessing:  Carol Warner probably grew up and went to high school not terribly far from the Jackson area.  She likely got married right out of high school (as was common at that time), re-labeled her record case to reflect her new name, played the records for a few more years, and put them in the closet sometime in the early 1960s. I don’t know what else became of Ms. Holmes, except that I know that she has either passed on (she’d easily be in her mid-to-late-seventies by now) or parted with her record collection recently enough that no one had a chance to pull the records out of the box and mix them around. Wherever Ms. Holmes is, I’m glad that I found her record collection, and I’m happy to be the next caretaker of it for a while.

(Edit: The name on the record was “Warner,” not “Wallace,” as I originally had written.)

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