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It's Travis' Turn column: Feeding an addiction to shellac

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Our turn
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Record.jpg
A label from one of the many 78s in my collection.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

In my first column for the Echo Press I wrote about the enormous number of books I have, and protested that I was not a hoarder, but a collector.

I'm happy to report that since I moved to Alexandria in July, I have only acquired about five more titles.

The same cannot be said, however, for my other major collection: Records. To be specific, 78 rpm records.

While I do collect (and own hundreds of) regular vinyl LPs, my interest in them has fallen by the wayside in exchange for the 10-inch shellac antiques.

That is not to say I will grab up just any 78 I see. My interest lies in the period of about 1925-1932, both jazz and country. Anything past those dates just doesn't cut it. The music becomes either too syrupy sweet, or too much like swing, both of which are styles of music I hate. Not dislike. Hate.

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I can't quite say how I've found myself in this predicament, but I do know one thing. My purchasing of these discs has grown exponentially since the first of the year. About 30. Which is added, of course, to the ones I already owned.

My addiction began about 10 years ago when I purchased an Edison phonograph from an antique store. Most of the records that came with it — not 78s, but extremely thick discs made of wood pulp and resin — weren't great. Marching bands, tenors, that kind of thing. But a few of them contained jazz and dance band music that would not be out of place in a Laurel and Hardy movie.

I liked it. A lot.

I searched through antique stores looking for more of these discs, eventually ending up with about 40.

The only problem was that the music on these was not typical of what Edison's company generally released. Most of its output consisted of those marching bands and tenors, something in which I had zero interest.

However, I realized that other record companies of the era were releasing music similar to (and in many cases, better than) the music I enjoyed on the Edison discs. So I bought a record player with 78 capability and began acquiring records.

A lot of them come from eBay, but my favorite place to get them is a store in Minneapolis called Vintage Music Company, which deals in nothing but 78s and vintage audio equipment. It's the kind of place you can get lost in. My favorite Saturday activity is to go there and just pore over the racks for hours.

It's sick, really.

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Or is it? Is it really a problem to enjoy something that much? To think about it all the time and obsess over it to the exclusion of all other things?

Yeah, probably. But it's too late for me.

By the way, if anybody reading this happens to have any 78s from the era and genres I'm talking about, I would be more than happy to take them off your hands.

What can I say? I'm addicted.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Opinion by Travis Gulbrandson
Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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