Monday, March 16, 2009

When Irish Eyes Are Searching ... for Christmas LPs

In March of 2007, I travelled to Chicago sans wife & kids to search through the bowels of Chicago thrift stores, flea markets, and rare record stores to search for Christmas LPs for my collection. This past weekend, I travelled again to Chicago sans wife & kids to do the exact same thing.

Upon learning the news, the Chicago River turned green with envy (keep reading).

My weekend trip began last Friday and I stopped at various flea markets and antique stores along the Lincoln Highway from Fort Wayne to Chicago. I walked away with two Christmas albums (both have been shared out by our friend Ernie (Not Bert) - keep reading).

After getting to Illinois, I went to a thrift store location that two years ago had just opened, had one entire corner of their store reserved for LPs, and yielded a good portion of the titles I shared out last year. Upon my return this year, their selection was reduced to an eight ft. folding table with about 10 milk crates full of LPs. Sadly, I walked away with nothing.

Such was the case at many of the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores that were once my salvation when it came to Christmas LPs. I pressed on to the next location, then then next, and the next only to discover little to nothing for my troubles.

These stores used to have teeming vinyl bins, so fully compact that you couldn't slide your fingers inbetween albums. They are now being replaced by two or three milk crates with a smattering of LPs and only when they are empty will the stores accept more donations of albums. One suburban Goodwill store has not only stopped carrying vinyl for resale - VHS and CDs are strictly forbidden as well.

I was getting majorly depressed. So I decided right then and there to head to the mecca of all Chicago vinyl stores - Beverly Records on Western Ave. I spent nearly 45 minutes going through their nine boxes of Christmas 45s then asked entrance to the backroom and its famous wall of Christmas LPs.

I wrote about this wall in July of 2007 when I posted "A Polka Christmas" by Li'l Wally. Then the wall measured eight feet in height, 12 feet in length. I'm happy to report it's still there and OVERFLOWING onto other temporary shelves. After spending two hours at the wall, I was euphoric and came away with a good pile of albums.

I had originally planned on coming to Beverly on Sunday before I left for home but overheard one of the employees talking about the South Side St. Patrick's Day Parade. This was a March 17th Chicago tradition that I had forgotten about. "You won't even get near the store" was the direct quote.

Indeed, Irish eyes were smiling on my decision to head to Beverly Records that day - still the best place in Chicago for vinyl (thank you Dreznes family!).

On Saturday, I headed into Chicago to visit even more thrift stores and ran into the phenomenon known as the St. Patrick's Day parade and traditional dying the Chicago River green for the day:

This made travelling by car through Chicago miserable thanks to the many streets closed for parade prep and the parade itself. Thankfully, I stayed north of the river and searched through thrift stores there. Again, not much luck of the Irish in the way of LPs or Christmas albums.

I then headed to Laurie's Planet Of Sound in the Lincoln Square section of town. The owner of the store was a former acquaintance of my brother John and I and it was good reconnecting with him again. He did manage to have a good selection of Christmas LPs (including a mono copy of the Three Suns "A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!" for $2) and I walked away with a short stack of LPs.

By now, I was getting tired of driving the streets of Chicago. I needed a pick me up. So I headed over to Nuts on Clark, several blocks from Wrigley Field, and home to the best caramel & cheese corn on the planet. I picked up some gift bags for the wife & kiddies (and a small taste o' my own), and kept driving south on Clark Street.

There are some places in the world that are truly heaven on earth. One such place for me is 1060 W. Addison Street. I have spent many days there with my family and friends. I have encountered joy, heartbreak, misery, anger, hysteria, nausea, and ever-flowing optimism from this corner on the North Side. It's a landmark, it's Valhalla, it's a ballpark. Its name is Wrigley Field:

On this day, Wrigleyville was alive thanks to the hoards of returning residents and tourists fresh off the "L" from the parade, wearing leprechaun derbies and green beads, heading to various bars for more alcohol consumption and mating rituals. Wrigley sleeps knowing that more of the same is coming in under a month when the Cubs return for another season.

I headed west on Addison to a little curio store 3/4 of a block from the ballpark called Yesterday's. It continues to sell old LIFE magazines, movie stills, film posters, vintage memorabilia, and baseball collectibles - a nod to its famous neighbor up the street. I picked up a few magazines that contain vintage Christmas ads that will continue to be a feature here.

After spending a full morning and afternoon in the city, I headed back to my hotel room to nap and get ready for another trip. That night, I spent an evening with Groucho at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, Illinois.

Frank Ferrante is perhaps the greatest Groucho Marx interpreter / impersonator this planet has known since the original Groucho was still smoking cigars. His recent tour brought him to Joliet and I couldn't pass up the chance to take in his wonderful show and laugh again and again at the genius of the one, the only...

I got a great front row seat (thanks Frank!) and watched as Jim Furmston, his pianist, played a rickety, badly out of tune grand piano to perfection. Frank hit the stage, transformed into Groucho, and explained that he was sharing the same stage Groucho, Chico, and Harpo used back in 1935 to fine tune their upcoming movie "A Night At The Opera".

The audience and I had a great time and it was great catching up with Frank and Jim after the show. We exchanged gifts (two vintage Marx Brothers stills from Yesterday's went to Frank - Jim gave me a copy of a children's book he did the music for), more laughs, and danced until the cows came home.

Yesterday morning, I awoke late and went to my final two thrift stores that were on the road to Indiana and home. I came away with nothing thanks to the minuscule selection of LPs both carried.

I stopped at one flea market and found a copy of Spike Jones' "Let's Sing A Song Of Christmas" in fair condition. I asked the elderly vendor for a price and he quoted $15. "Nope, too much money" I thought out loud. The vendor was a wee bit miffed - "That is the book price for that album."

Certain flea marketers strictly go by the book - anything Elvis is always $10 to $15 more expensive than anything else on his ship shod table of treasures. My weekend of trying to find Christmas albums was ending in an argument over a Spike Jones record. It was time to call it quits. Later that evening, I arrived home to many hugs from my family.

Overall, I came home with about 20 albums in total - half of which have already been posted along the sharity network:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Albums pictured from top to bottom (my reviews where applicable):

The Three Suns - A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas (MONO)

Eddie Dunstedter - Christmas Candy (review)

Jan Garber - Christmas Dance Party (STEREO) (review)

Robert John Carwithen - The Bells On Christmas Morn

Lorne Greene - Have A Happy Holiday (review)

The King Family - Christmas With

Thurlow Spurr & The Spurrlows - Christmas: Time For Song (review)

Peter Wood Singers - Jolly Christmas Songs (review)

Andre Kostelanetz - Wonderland Of Christmas (review)

The Holiday Bells - Ring The Bells On Christmas Day

One moment - that "Holiday Bells" album of mine is different than the one I just linked. Hmmm... And my King Family album is in stereo while the linked copy is mono... differences, differences.

So I have several new albums to add to the share stack - which all depends on my schedule with my family, two special projects that are beginning to see the light of day (details will be released when I'm officially able to), and the production of my annual Christmas CD. Wait and see.

I didn't find as many new Christmas LPs like I hoped but the wild Irish ride was well worth it. Thanks you wife and kids for allowing me a few days of R & R - back to the regularly scheduled life already in progress.



Ernie said...

And here I was hoping for some Irish Christmas music. Oh, well...

I rerecorded that King Family record in stereo for re-release last year, then never got to it. I'm a slacker. And that Bells record is different. Odd.

Sorry about your luck. I've been doing pretty well lately. Found stereo versions of both Warner Bros. Stars and Jimmy Joyce! It's gonna be a two-channel Christmas!

bongolong said...

...just goes to show ya that these music blogs are vital to saving the music of the LPs.

I have not been able to ripped anymore vinyl due to living in a 32 foot 5th-wheel trailer; not enough room and when ever anyone moves, the whole trailer moves (not idea for ripping vinyl). In my ever decreasing trips to the thrift stores I've seen lesser and lesser vinyl (and cassettes) being replaced by CDs & DVDs.

Thank you Ernie for your continued vigilance for saving Christmas vinyls for future generations!


bongolong said...

Captain OT!

Please accept my apologies for calling you "Ernie"; while being called Ernie is not really a bad thing (he has a wonderful blog too) but it's not YOUR name!

You let me correct my previous post:

Thank you Captain OT for your continued vigilance for saving Christmas vinyls for future generations!


Anonymous said...

Captain -

ONLY a true Sout' Siyder would know t'head down'ta BEFerly Rare Records, my friend! 'specially during da Sout' Siyde IIIRish p'rade, dere!

Speaking of which, I snagged Two-Ton Baker's Christmas record a while back...classic stuff.

Next time you head to Beverly 'over by dere', send up a flare; I'll meet you in the back room by the 78's!