Guest Column: All Sales Are Vinyl

We seem to be inspiring our readers these days. We have Nick’s Tales of the Hunt in some of the comments, and now Dan Forté, who wrote a guest column last week on Ed Beach, is back with a new column on buying records in New York when vinyl was king. This one brings back a lot of nice memories for me. Here’s Dan:

All Sales Are Vinyl – On the Hunt for Jazz LPs During the 1970s in NYC, by Dan Forté

Before the invention of the CD player in 1982 and prior to the major jazz record labels beginning their exhaustive reissue programs in earnest, there was little else one could do but search the dusty bins of the friendly, neighborhood record stores for those coveted out-of-print jazz LPs to add to their collection.  For jazz vinyl lovers in New York City on the prowl for “cut-outs” of out-of-print (hereafter referred to simply as OOP) releases during the early 1970s (way before Fred Cohen’s Jazz Record Center and eBay), there was a wide range of record emporiums sure to strike a responsive chord in the memory banks of those old enough – and fortunate enough – to remember them. Here are a few:

King Karol (especially the main store located at 120 West 42nd Street and the Outlet at 460 West 42nd Street), Sam Goody (particularly the old location on Third Avenue in midtown), The Record Hunter on Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, Bleecker Bob’s in the West Village and The Colony on Broadway near Times Square (both still in business).  At Colony, OOP vinyl pricing was highly inflated because of the store’s prime midtown location. Unbeknownst to many non-regulars, once repeat customers made their selections, they were then whisked to a back room by a salesman where prices were negotiated.

If you came up dry via the record stores, you found other ways to satisfy your LP cravings: By getting your name on various mail-order jazz auction lists from around the country; Music Man Murray and Jim Sharpe, both out of Hollywood, immediately come to mind, when every six months or so, you got a Xeroxed catalog printed on two, perhaps three, 9 X 14-inch sheets of paper folded in quarters, bid listings in alphabetical order (on average 1,000 lots) by artists’ name, LP title, label, record number and their graded conditions for both sides. I had to use a magnifying glass to pore over the items because they were reduced to six-point type. That’s probably one of the reasons why I now wear trifocals.

Now for a bit of trivia:  The jazz auction route was how my good friend Fred Cohen of the renowned Jazz Record Center got his start. From humble beginnings, working out of his old apartment on lower Park Avenue in the early 1980s, minimum bids in Fred’s auctions were ten dollars and most sold in the $25-$75 range. Indeed, a far cry from his now famous eBay vinyl auctions of today. I still have Fred’s early auction lists in my possession and use them as prized discographical reference material.

As one who liked to stay away from the chain stores, I tended to frequent the more offbeat shops like Budget Books, a cramped, nondescript storefront located on Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets owned by a cantankerous, elderly, but wonderful man named John Walker, where I paid cash for hundreds of his rare vinyl.  Once John and I became friends, his rough veneer began to peal away like the skin of a ripe banana. He allowed me the privilege of flipping through his private stock of original deep-groove 10- and 12-inch Blue Notes, Clefs, Prestiges and Riversides. There was also The Record Mart downstairs in the bowels of the Times Square Subway station.  Still around and underground, but at a newer location, its owner Jesse Moskowitz also gave me unfettered access to his “underground cave,” where I quickly became a tunnel rat, searching for buried jazz treasures while Disco and Salsa music blared from the store’s overhead speakers out front.

And then there was the Dayton Record Store, located at 824 Broadway on the corner of 12th Street, directly across from Strand Books.  To this day, I still remember their telephone number:  AL (for the Algonquin exchange) 4-5084.  If you’ve read this far, you can plainly see that Dayton’s was by no means the end-all place to search for and purchase rare jazz vinyl.  But there was something very special about it and its strange cast of characters.  Who can forget big Jay (The “Grizz”) always in his “Mr. Green Jeans” denim overalls?  He reminded me of the character, “Andy,” played by the relatively unknown actor Bowman Upchurch in the 1967 film version of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.  Jay and his 350-pound frame would usually work the cash register while Art, the affable salesman and keeper of the store’s private, but well-catalogued, non-binned jazz rarities, would assist you. Jimmy Dayton, the store’s eponymous owner, was just as garish in person as he was portrayed on the shop’s white paper LP shopping bags. Blessed with a big shock of long, silver hair, combed back into a duck’s ass, large-collared shirts unbuttoned to his navel revealing a hairy chest and various gaudy necklaces, Jimmy always topped off his ensemble with blinding bejeweled rings on nearly every finger. According to New York Magazine’s “Urban Strategist” column from January 3, 1972, Dayton’s “buys old classical, jazz, show and personality LPs.  They prefer to buy in bulk (collections of at least 200 records) and, although the price depends upon the age, condition and rarity of the collection, Dayton usually pays between 25 and 50 cents per record. They will pick up large collections anywhere in the five boroughs.”  Just imagine:  they made a full 100-times mark-up on records they paid 50 cents for and sold for $50 bucks.  More on that coming….

As an avid WRVR listener, the overnight jazz jock at the time was a smooth-talking gentleman by the name of Van Jay.  Van played a track by my favorite pianist, Red Garland (1923-1984), a prolific Prestige recording artist known for his romantic, yet swinging ballads peppered with single note playing and his signature block chords.  Red, who recorded countless LPs as a leader, also came to marquee-value fame as the pianist for Miles Davis’s iconic 1956 Prestige quintet dates:  Workin’, Steamin’, Cookin’ and Relaxin.’ The beautiful on-air ballad Van played was called “You Better Go Now,” and was on Garland’s Prestige LP entitled, RoJo (Prestige 7193).  I’ll never forget phoning Dayton’s, and after inquiring about this LP rarity, hear Jay say, “If we DO have it, depending on condition, it can run you between $75 and $100.”  Jay thought we were disconnected because suddenly, there was dead silence on my end of the line.  When you consider that the cost of a regular LP during the 1970s ran between $1.99 and $3.99, the prices Dayton’s were selling them for were downright criminal.  But they knew they had a corner on the OOP jazz market, thereby completing a perfect parasitic relationship.  Besides, how else do you think Jimmy Dayton was able to afford all of his 1970s bling?

Well, I had no choice.  I simply had to have that disc.  After saving my hard-earned money as a shoe salesman working nights part time at the Alexander’s Department Store on Queens Boulevard while attending Hunter College during the day, I managed to cobble together that hard-earned C-note and headed down to Dayton’s to purchase the Garland LP.  My copy had the glazed Esmond Edwards photo jacket of Red with the word “PROMO” stamped on its back cover. It truly was an original deep groove Prestige yellow label pressing with ‘RVG’ impressed into the dead wax.  With its near-pristine microgrooves gleaming in the store’s fluorescent light, I couldn’t wait to get home and give it a spin on my Dual 1227 turntable. Needless to say, I would make many more subsequent buying pilgrimages to Dayton’s before it closed its doors for good.

PostScript:  When Red Garland came out of retirement and played the Village Vanguard in March of 1978 (his first NY gig in over seven years), I was there every night to listen to him along with Sam Jones on bass and Al Foster on drums.  On the second night of his gig, I went in the Vanguard’s foodless kitchen (backstage) to speak with Red between sets.  Naturally, I brought along my cherished, Dayton’s-bought $100 Promo copy of RoJo, which he graciously signed: ‘To Dan, Best always, Red Garland.’  Upon handing the LP back to me, Red asked what my favorite track was on the disc.  Of course, I mentioned “You Better Go Now.”  Wouldn’t you know, next set, he sat down at the piano, lit a Lucky Strike and played that beautiful ballad just for me.  At that time, the esteemed New York Times jazz critic was the late John S. Wilson, who happened to be sitting at the table next to mine that night.  On Friday, March 24, 1978, the paper ran his review of Red’s Vanguard gig.  Wilson said, “Red Garland is a jazz pianist with what can be viewed in terms of today’s music, as an old-fashioned charm.  He delights in the dramatic qualities of a melody…Garland is eagerly responsive to his listeners, acknowledging every display of applause with a big, sweeping bow.” As I look back fondly on that cool, March night at the Vanguard 33 years ago, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dayton’s Record Store and its unforgettable crew. You will forever remain a very special part of me and my jazz record collecting.

21 comments

  • I remember Dayton’s.Their rare jazz was on a shelf above the bins with a string running across them!
    I recall more Sun Ra Saturns in a row than I’ve ever seen.
    By the way ,the real king of jazz auctions, Leon Leavitt,got his start working there before his move out west!
    I bought a sealed copy of Frank Strozier on Vee Jay at the Times Square record spot,and a playable copy of Jazz delegation from the East on Jazz West at some corner junk store.I played it to death up at Perry Robinson’s apartment where I stayed during my N.Y.days.

  • Priceless. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thank you !! fine contribution. I always like to read record hunting stories. I’d like to share my pairisian adventures in the glorious days, if i was able to write in english !!

  • Great stories, thank you.

    That Red Garland RoJo, by my calculation $100 in 1970 is $500 nearer $600 in todays money.

    You have to admire someones’ passion that they are prepared to put that much on the table for what they love. Bravo.

  • Dan-another great coloumn! Your writing is bringing back a ton of 70’s DJ memories of my own:
    Van Jay-I,too,was introduced to the “hunt” through my search for ROJO(that and JAZZTRACK were on my first “must find” list). And how about a segment he did called “CJ’s Vault”(I think),when a friend of his would come by and spin rare lps?
    Marty Wilson-I drove a yellow cab at night,college in the daytime. Wilson’s overnight show(WEVD) kept me going many an evening,and his “Through A Long And Sleepless Night” by Gloria Lynne was the perfect out-theme at 5am(?)
    Rodger Dawson-his “Sunday Salsa Show” and Symphony Sid kept my salsa juices flowing,making sure the “latin lp” browsers at King Karol always got serious attention from me.(Ben Karol built his massive store on 42nd street right before the compact disc was introduced-the renowned midtown chain never got on track and went under within a few years)
    And probably a few of this blog’s readers found their way to a funky stationary store on the corner of 179th & Bway-candy and junk up front,while the curtains in the rear of the store hid a nassive storage space for some guy’s floor-to-ceiling collection. The STORE owner would periodically sell off numerous lp’s because “this guy nevah pays his rent on time”. The raincoat-clad owner of the collection was the classic “I don’t listen to em’,but I know it’s rare AND mint!” type. That corner spot is a bodega now,but I often wonder what became of those original,never-played jazz lps over-flowing from those walls in the back..

  • Okay. You got me. I remember most of the places you mention, but I go back a little further to the original Jazz Record Center. It was owned by Prestige’s Bob Weinstock who would be behind the counter most days. It was up on the 2nd floor of a building on West 47th St. off of 6th Ave.(Fred has kept that upstairs tradition alive!) As you climbed the stairs, they had written on the facing side of the steps, one word at a time, “Everything From Bunk To Monk”. I believe there is a photo of those steps at Fred’s place. At the time I was very (VERY!) young and was just getting started collecting. My friend and I would take the bus and train into midtown and make our pilgrimage to the JRC. We had almost no money so we went straight for the bargain bin and rarely even looked at the regular stuff. I remember picking up Cecil Taylor on UA and Paul Bley on Savoy for $1 because Bob couldn’t stand the avant-garde music of the day. I also remember bugging him about Lennie Tristano’s Intuition so many times that he finally threw this catalog at me and said, “Kid, I can get anything in this catalog, that’s all.” It was a Harrison Jazz Record Catalog from Fall 1961 and is still amongst my prize possessions. The JRC ad is on the back, there are 54 pages of listings of jazz records, and an article by Martin Williams called “A Basic Jazz Library”, but no Tristano. That was okay, I couldn’t afford it anyway. Oh, and don’t get me started on Mo Asch’s record store around the corner on 6th. He sold all his Folkways stuff, without covers, for $1, and when all the companies were changing from Mono to Stereo, he had the entire Riverside mono catalog for $2. The transition time from mono to stereo was the greatest time to buy records. Everything was $2. Of course, for me, $2 was a week’s allowance. Oh for a time machine.

  • nice stories for us youngsters and overccccc- people!
    thanx for sharing

  • Ceedee, Glad I brought back some great memories. I had a ball writing this column and as you can see my memories are as vivid as if they happened yesterday.

    You mention Marty Wilson and his “Jazz Through the Night” radio show on WEVD. I’ll never forget being asked by Marty to guest host a show of his. It was during a 1970s blizzard (January 16, 1977, to be exact) and I lugged a bunch of my rare vinyl into the studio that night and had a ball! The phone lines lit up praising my tasteful, yet swinging choices in microgrooves.

    I’ll never forget the date because it was the very same night that Frank Sinatra’s mom, Dolly perished in a plane crash. Don’t know what ever happened to Marty in the intervening years but I do remember his sign-off with Gloria Lynne’s “Through a Long and Sleepless Night.”

    To be continued….

  • Nick (Tales Of The Hunt 4)

    Hello All,
    Dan I must have passed you during my travels and hunts (lol)

    My first encounter with Daytons was on West 8th Street I was on my way to work in the West Village 1970 my first job out of the service NY State Correction on Morton Street. I passed this record store on West 8th St. and a huge sign said records 3 for $5.00, went in and there were BLUE NOTES in every bin and on shelfs along the walls I picked out three and went to the clerk, he told me get four more for $10 they were 7 for $10, I told him I needed money for lunch, he than told me take four and give me the five the next time I come in., what a salemen. I said OK. I had started! a true BLUE NOTE Junkie I would buy the same records over and over and over.

    Jimmy Daytons was the best!!!!. Besides the store on 12 and Broadway. He had 2 apartments above the store loaded with ALL BLUE NOTES, VERVES and classical records. Jimmy had purchased the remainders MONO stock Blue Notes from I guess Liberty or maybe right from BLUE NOTE, I never really found out. I once asked him how many BLUE NOTES do you have he told me ALL OF THEM and laughted. He had stores one was on Canal Street, another on Chambers Street, the one on West 8th Street and he also had one on Fulton Street in Brooklyn I would visit them all at least once a week.

    Also Dan thanks for the name Art I was trying like hell to remember his name. He use to ask me you buy the same records what are you a dealer and pat me on the head..

    Tales Of the Hunt The Day My Son Scored!

    When my son was 3 I use to take him with me to the city, he loved the subway, with his little train hat on and he would make believe he was reading a subway map that he carried. It was around 1980 and I had just left Daytons on my way to some book stores on 4th Avenue, one in particular had records for 50 cents and a dollar. I was looking thru a bin and watching my son, than he disappeared. A panic went thru me I started yelling for him, than from under the counter, I saw his little sneaker, pushing back the cloth he had a record in his hand Pepper Adams Critics Choice on World Pacific, he had gone into a box and pulled it out. I went into the box the whole box was the same Pepper Adams, the box next to it was Al Haig on Counterpoint, than there was the 10 inch Haig same as the Counterpoint but on a different label I think it started with an E there was a female vocal on Counterpoint I forget her name, all in all there were 10 different titles 250 records. I went to the counter and told him I found some records and could he give me a price. He walked over looked and said how many I told him 250. He said how about $100, luck I had it on me, helped me to the curb, jumped in a cab… And back to Brooklyn. That night I called Red Carrero and told him I have some records for him and I told him to bring some Savoy’s, he asked me how many I told him around 50 or so and bring some EPS. Red had made a Savoy hit and had all the original Blood Red Labels, and I knew some of the eps he had contained songs that never came out on LP at that time! This was because I was studing Jepsens and had done some research earlier on Savoys. That Saturday I took out 7 of each and had them on the table, Red walked in and started to look and Red always had a poker face. I told him, nice stuff, he nodded. we traded.. Red took 70 albums, I had 60 Savoy 50 or so 12 inch and the rest 10 inch and around 125 EPS… We were both Happy. The following week I took him to the bookstore… we found some other boxes mostly one of a kind JAZZ
    Take care CIAO

  • OK, I give in. Dan, your last name should read “Fortunate” instead of “Forté”. Yes. Dan Fortunate. What a great story. I mean, I can tell stories like this myself, but they all start in the mid-eighties. Your stories and most of the replies from the older cats here, I’ve said it plenty of times, read like books. I guess it’s time to say that I’m jealous, folks! Keep on writing and share those fab anecdotes with us. Just imagine having a book full of material like this! 😉

  • Dan: great! Thanks to you I am re-living my Manhattan experience, which started in 1969. The Colony, King Karol, all these names are very familiar. I have nothing to add on Jay of Dayton’s, early encounters with Fred Cohen, Red Carraro, the lists of Setlik, Leavitt, Music Man Murray, and Fred’s and Red’s of course. These times are definitely gone. But a nice souvenir it is.

  • Nick (Tales Of The Hunt 5)

    Hello All
    I just finished reading all the comments.
    And I really enjoyed reading them all
    Sam Phipps – Thanks for The Leon Levitt notes. I remember him. He always sent me his catalogs. What A great guy.
    Bill – Thanks for the Riverside notes. Before the World Trade Center was built, I forget the street but there was all Radio and TV stores on one of those blocks and one store in particular had Riversides 3 for $5.00 WHERE IS MY TIME MACHINE (LOL) Thanks Al for giving this old man a chance to remember!!!

  • Nick-that” Al Haig on Counterpoint, than there was the 10 inch Haig same as the Counterpoint but on a different label I think it started with an E”
    would be on Esoteric. Excellent Al Haig,those lps. “On The Alamo”,etc..That “boxes under the counter” tale is a hell of a story !

  • Thanks for great the stories! I wish I could have been there….;-)

  • Intersting post. Just for info I am selling some Blue Notes (nothing extremely rare but there could be something of interest there): http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330530779396&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT

  • With each line of this post I was transported to a time and place, some totally familiar, others somewhat unknown, but all of it rich in both feeling and memory. When I got to New York in ’72, I had left a record collection behind in the Midwest. I hadn’t expected it to be 29 years before I got back home, but hey, life’s funny sometimes.

    Luckily my dad, was in the Big Apple, and a working musician. He introduced me to his peers, and those friendships, and others I was to make on my own form the basis of an experience that I won’t forget. This website became known to be today quite by accident. My dad’s collection included vinyl, 78’s and when I remember how important it was to hear jazz on the radio, from the likes of Les Davis, the aformentioned Ed Beach, Dr. Billy Taylor and others, I realize how this led to frequenting places like:
    King Karol, the 42nd St subway station, Colony, Discomat, Second hand Rose, on 6th Avenue, The Ann St. Book Store off Nassau St. J&R Records on Park Row,The Wiz in Brooklyn, and Ruby’s Book Store on Chambers Street. When I found out I could by a Louis Armstrong Decca for $.25 at a flea market in Englishtown, NJ I was on my way.
    Then my friend, drummer Kenny Washington, (16 at the time) showed me his collection of Charlie Parker Dial recordings, and I knew I’d seen the Holy Grail.
    Oh, one more thing, I can’t forget to mention how important that kitchen was at the Vanguard. One night in between sets, Elvin was nice enough to grant me an interview, and how great it was to hear him relate the lineage between Hawk and Chico Freeman, who was on Tenor that night along with guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, to complete the trio.

    I left NY after 9/11/01, (gosh has it been that long?). I miss it but THANKS to this site, I’m feeling right at home. Half of the moving truck taking me back to Iowa was filled with my records!!

  • Donkey Hote: Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad my piece had just the desired effect upon your memory banks!

    If you read my Ed Beach piece, you know that my dad also planted the jazz seed in me, as well. I grew up watching him wear out Dave Brubeck’s “Jazz Goes to College” (Columbia LP 566) and his cherished 10-inch Sidney Bechet Blue Note LPs.

    FYI: Second Hand Rose is still in existence; now, ironically directly across the street from where Dayton’s used to be on Broadway at 12th Street. Most recently, Dayton’s was a Quiznos, but has since closed and is now awaiting another fast-food tenant to take its place….

    Speaking of jazz DJs and WRVR, here’s the station’s March, 1977 program lineup:

    Herschel: 7-Midnite Mon.-Sat.
    Les Davis: 6-10 A.M. Mon.-Sat.
    G. Keith Alexander: 10-3 P.M. Mon. – Sat.
    Donna Halper: 3-7 P.M. Mon.-Fri. & 7-Midnight Sunday

    There’s also a WRVR Appreciation site online: Here’s the link:

    http://www.wrvrlives.org/

    Hope it brings back more pleasant memories and thanks again for reading my piece and taking the time to respond….

    Dan

  • Well, it’s nice to be remembered fondly. I left WEVD to wind up on WNEW-AM. I missed the jazz, but the money was better! I’ve since retired and moved to Florida. I still do commercials. When I moved I sold the music library. I didn’t get as much as I thought I would. The album jackets had notes written all over them, and the vinyl had been somewhat destroyed from being “cued up” over and over again, and most of the stuff has been reissued on CD. It was a great time and I’d like to thank all the guest programmers that dropped in to help.

    Marty

  • When did Denton’s stores close? Must have been before the late 1980s-early 1990s, when I moved to NYC. That E12St store sounds like a place I would’ve drooled in.

  • That would be Dayton’s. I recall that there were two stores at one point. There was the one on 12th Street and another on 8th Street, which was more of a discount outlet. The one on 8th Street probably closed in the early 1980s, the one on 12th lasted longer, but probably went out of business with the growth of CDs. Not sure exactly when, but perhaps someone else knows.

  • Dan,
    Thank you for this informative recollection of Dayton’s. I was not collecting Jazz but Blues lps during the mid 1970’s. I remember the Grizz was all business but never rude or nasty. If I asked about an artist, he’d take out one of the huge loose leaf binders where Dayton’s cataloged oop records by artist. The Grizz would then advise me that as an out of print record they would be $30, but most times more. I sometimes bought but also turned down records because they were too high. Once a record and price was discussed, the price was recorded in the binder. I guess that eliminated my getting a better deal if I returned at another time. Art was friendly and seemed as if he was just hanging out from his relaxed attitude. He eventually let me look in the walls but also reminded me to keep the all the records in perfect order. I remember Jimmy as a dapper man with long silver hair, wearing suits with pastel neckties he would fold over but never make a knot with. My one conversation with Jimmy Dayton was about a record I requested: Amos Milburn on Aladdin 10 inch lp. It was priced at $40 which was a steal even in 1977. He said to me, “you’ll never see that again in that condition.” Jimmy was correct. Some of the records I found there had a date written on the back covers. It was thought by some collectors these records came from Ralph Gleason’s collection but I have no way to confirm this. At some point I think Dayton’s moved to 11th. Street off of Broadway. I probably went just once after that. The next thing I knew, Dayton’s was gone. There were so many great record stores in New York back then, you never knew what you would find. Even with my limited experience at the time I did very well. It was a lot of fun although as a young collector, I had lots of anxiety. Dayton’s was one of the best.

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