A family friend decimated, destroyed and devastated my mother’s record collection by sitting on dozens of 78 shellac discs spread out on the couch next to her phonograph in our front room. There may have been less than three records that survived that fateful Sunday sitdown. From that time on, I’ve been most protective of my sounds. There was a scene in the movie “Blackboard Jungle” where Richard Kiley, who portrayed a high school teacher, took his prized 78 jazz record collection to class in order to introduce his students to what he called the music masters. The class was a mixed bunch of what were then juvenile delinquents, thugs, hoodlums and blockheads, as my high school teacher would have labeled them. Well, Kiley’s teacher’s scholarly efforts were tantamount to pearls before swine. Besides their ignorance and stupidity, they commenced to hurl his Dorseys, Bidenbecks and Teagardens around the classroom like frisbees until they smashed against the desks and walls shattering into hundreds of shellac fragments. I think that I might have been outnumbered, but I would have choked the shit out of one of them if they had misused my records.
When I was in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for Basic Training as a National Guardsman, a situation with a fellow recruit almost caused us to come to blows. This knucklehead put his grubby fingers on my record while it was spinning on the day room record player. This olive drab-clad yoakum took a dislike to the sound of Nat Adderly playing his trumpet’s mouthpiece on the composition “Little Boy with the Sad Eyes.” Nat was soloing with the Cannonball Adderly Quartet. This clown grabbed the tone arm in an attempt to stop my LP from tracking. At which time, I grabbed his arm as the needle skated across the vinyl surface making a dreadful sound that made me cringe and fear for the surface quality and life of my record.
Those LP’s were a lifeline, or should I say a sanctuary, for me while I did my four-month boot camp stretch. I had two records that were purchased at the post PX. Since no personal possessions of a non-military issue were allowed, I constructed a false bottom in my foot locker, covered under my towels, to hide my jams. When I was not in the charge of our drill sergeants and other so-called leaders, I would take my music, escape to the library and lose myself in the virtuosity of the two respective groups: the Charles Lloyd quartet and as I stated earlier, the Julian “Cannonball” Adderly Quartet.
I can say, of the thousands of LPs in my collection, those two vinyl discs were paramount to my sanity and at that time in my life, it could be summed up with the words from one of the old standby gospel classics: “How I got over.” My soul looks back and wonders how I got over. Well, that’s how. Amen to vinyl.
Barkley L. Hendricks July 30, 2010
IMAGE: Barkley L. Hendricks, “Broken Record,” 2010. Digital print. Courtesy of the artist.