Guest Column: The Thrill of the Hunt

Imaginary Jazz Encounters The Real Thing

by Jason Sweet

Digging for records can be hard, but rewarding, work. A lot of times it’s right place, right time. You have to have knowledge though, players, producers, labels, and the like. To me, there is no better feeling than combing tiny shops from Indianapolis to Iceland, looking for a record that may only exist in my imagination and finding it. Have I bought records off eBay? Yes I have, though not many. The biggest problem I have with eBay is that I’m being asked to buy something sight unseen. And why relinquish the thrill of the hunt? Buying music on eBay is like trolling Internet pornography: A means to an end, but it will never replace the intimacy of the real thing.

The other day, I stumbled upon one of those “imaginary” finds that keeps us going. I’m a big

Johnny “Hammond” Smith fan. (I know, a second-tier collectable, but I’d rather have 500 $20 LPs that are good than one $2,000 that is good.) So what was my score? Oddly enough it was Imagination / Johnny Hammond. This is Johnny’s “lost” album, recorded on Warwick (Cat. #2002) in 1959, and not mentioned in any discography. This may be Johnny at his earliest, on an album filled with an energy that probably existed in his live performances.

Tracks include:

1. Imagination

2. Shalimar

3. On the Street Where You Live

4. Flip Top

5. Deep Purple

6. Lamberts Lodge

7. Over the Rainbow

8. Ecstasy


Johnny “Hammond” Smith – Organ

George Tucker – Bass

Leo Stevens – Drums

Thornel Schwartz – Guitar





  • Jason, your record buying/internet porn analogy had me in stitches. Well done! And congrats on the score!

  • I really like these kind of stories, but this one feels oddly unfinished. What store, what price, etc?

    I collect both jazz and hardcore/punk, and I can say that in both scenes the collector types are quit anal about their records. Regarding pressing, color vinyl, etc.

  • Beautiful post. i said before here that I believe the highest expression of collecting is finding the cute smile inside the plain girl ’cause once she becomes homecoming queen, people become mindless sheep, and LP’s suddenly turn into pickles on Orchard Street.
    And speaking of organ, the organ/guitar/drums trio began in 1950, when Wild Bill Davis asked John Collins to join his trio, instead of using a tenor.

    And with titles like Organ Grinder’s Swing and Ellington’s Soft Winds…we don’t have to guess what Jimmy Smith’s influence addition to every other organist of the 50s and 60s.

    But there’s not even a google photo of what should be a PRICELESS piece of history —that original 10″ disc on Ellington’s MERCER label 1002 “Wild Bill Davis and his Real Gone Organ”. So will somebody please tell me how collectible this is. I’d love to own an original.

  • (I hope you meant “trawling” the Internet, rather than “trolling”- that’s people who leave anonymous unpleasant personal attacks!)

    Being “out in the sticks” (Europe) there are not many old boxes of American recordings in our stores. eBay is sadly part of collectors life.

    Prices easily go through the roof on eBay, but the thrill of the hunt can still be had through your PC mnonitor. However with price-information readily available on-line to everyone, the “bargain” seems an extinct species.

  • Hey,London-I think Jason meant”scrolling”Internet pornography. And “trolls”,methinks,are folks that suggest you perform unimaginable acts upon them when they are clearly past their prime…not that there’s anything wrong with that!
    (BTW,nice heads-up on the JS,Jason. I think I flipped past it once just from the cover, thinking it was Johnny Smith-GUITARIST. “D’oh!”)

  • Re: London
    There’s always a bargain somewhere to be had. Just today I got an original sealed copy of Jimmy Smith ‘Prayer Meetin’ for $5. Not a highly collectible album, but a good one nonetheless, and a sealed blue note to boot. The hunt is always on!!!

  • I was with you until you mentioned Jimmy Smith… LOL. Thrill does not equate Jimmy Smith in my book.

  • is it an original sealed liberty copy?

  • Re: Chewy
    Of course, had to open it, find out, and listen to it. Deep groove, NY labels, RVG.

  • Gentlemen gentlemen, all collectors enjoy the thrill of the chase and the discovery of – whatever you find. There are still a few naieve (is that spelling right?) sellers and bargains somewhere.

    But as a sign of the times, one of my lesser known favourite stores in London has just recently, I was told, acquired a 2,000 record Jazz collection.I came to see what they had put out. Not a single collectible or bargain among them, nothing but 80’s reissues, everything of any value had been stripped out cleaner than a vulture on a carcass, to be “sold elsewhere”

    Still, I live in hope.

  • Thanks for bringing up Johnny Hammond, Jason. During my funk years I mostly looked for his KUDU and Milestone output and one on Salvation, “A Gambler’s Life”, of which I sadly have a reissue. From the KUDU releases I like “Wild Horses Rock Steady” and “Higher Ground” the best. On Milestone it’s “Gears” and “Forever Taurus”. Marvellous stuff to work with if you DJ in front of a live audience 😉

    Of course there’s more on the “Imagination” album if you click HERE 😀

  • If only I had know records would become so precious I would have purchased a lot more of them 30 years ago! I wonder what a SH copy of 1568 would have sold for in 1981?

  • The hunt in my area is a daily mission. There is one store in particular that there are 5 or 6 collectors/diggers that go to. There is a couple of them that stay at the store literally from opening to close, hoping that a good record drops. Can’t say I blame them because we all have pulled some amazing records from there.

    I totally agree with you on the sense that the price of the record never dictates quality.

  • London Calling: congratulations on your nice website.

  • London Calling: Indeed! Nice website. Already have a had a few good reads.

  • I’ll share one of my digging tricks. You have to check out the Jazz section of stores that don’t specialize in it at all. About two days ago I was in a very small shop outside of chicago which specializes in classic rock.. As the owner told me, it is the “unofficial pink floyd fan collectors club headquarters”…haha.. Well, anyways, I start digging through his two row jazz section.. I hit the jackpot finding a selection of bill Evans first pressings for 6 bucks a pop in vg-vg+ condition. Portrait In Jazz, Explorations, Moon Beams, Everyone Digs. In addition found the ellington ray brown “This one’s for Blanton” on Pablo for $4. I was most excited about the music which I never thought I would own originals on vinyl. But when I got home to check completed listings on ebay I was floored by the high prices of the Evans stuff..

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