End of an Era

Sonny Rollins, Prestige 78I see there was a mention in the previous post of the impending closing of the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago. Thought it is worth having a separate post if people choose to comment. I had some great experiences at that store. I’m sure I’ve told the story here before, but let me tell it again. Back in the mid-1980s I would go to Chicago fairly often on business and I would typically stay at the Hilton on Grand Avenue. It was just a short walk to the Jazz Record Mart and I always made sure I had extra time to do some record shopping. I think it was the first time I was there, I was looking through the rows of LPs when I noticed that there were also 78s on bottom shelves. I got down on the floor and began looking through the 78s and, to my great pleasure and surprise, there were hundreds of Prestige 78s — all of which looked like they were old store stock and had never been played. I started pulling them out, one after another after another after another. Pretty soon I must have had at least 60 Prestige 78s in various piles next to me on the floor.I brought them to the counter and told them I lived in New York and they said they could arrange to ship the records to me. “No way,” I said. “I’m bringing these babies home.” So I went back to the hotel, got my rolling carry-on bag and filled it with Prestige 78s, a bunch of Miles, Rollins, Moody, Stitt, Ammons, King Pleasure. You name it, I took it. Hauling them home was quite the hassle, but not quite as bad as what happened on my next trip. This time, I was not only bringing home the Prestige 78s for myself, but also for my friend Dan, who was even more enthralled with them than I was. At least I was prepared this time: I brought an extra carry-on bag. The problem, however, was that Chicago was just the first stop on this particular business trip. So not only did I have to lug the 78s in the bag and onto the plane, I had to also take them with me to San Francisco before returning home. This was about 100 78s at this point, probably 70 pounds I would guess. Was it worth it? Oh yeah! If I recall, I didn’t have any breakage — OK maybe one or two — and I still have all of those 78s and still listen to them with great joy, enhanced by the clear memory of how and when I got them and what I went through to bring them to their rightful home. So that’s my Jazz Record Mart story. Anyone else want to join in?

38 comments

  • In the early 1990s, I was looking thru a bin of used lps at the JRM and found mint copies of SONNY ROLLINS PLUS 4 and TENOR MADNESS (Prestige) with NY yellow labels. They were priced at $10.00 each. Not sure how these got priced so low, but it was easily the best deal I ever got at the JRM. However my all time favorite incident at the JRM was about 30 years ago, I was looking thru some lps when a gentleman walked in and asked Bob Koester if they carried any Al Hirt lps. Koester got mad and tossed the guy out of the store! Koester was never known for his customer service, but he sure had a great store.

  • I just wish I had a “those were the days” story. Problems of a newer collector I suppose.

  • I once asked Bob about one of the Sun Ra LPs on Delmark, and he started going on about how he ended up buying the tapes from Transition, what Sun was like, then all about Yusef Lateef visiting the store when he was in from Detroit, etc. etc. for a good hour. We just walked around the store while he looked at stock and told me all about Delmark. It was awesome.

  • Koester threw him out on his Keister, I guess. Al Hirt. Who can blame him.

  • Concerning Al The King Hirt: Soul In The Horn has been a consistent seller online, due mostly to hip hop sampling and it being the only listenable Hirt album. Not a bad cover, either.

    Cool stories everyone, it is sad to see another store shutter.

  • I was just joking. I admire anyone who can make music, knowing from experience how hard it can be and how much work it takes.

  • I wonder if Funkyousounds was the one who bought the collection…

  • I bought a ton of 78’s also but my favorite record was a great Leon Sash l.P. Yes folks the accordion does play jazz! Let me tell you this was one heavy carry on bag. My son sent me the sad news of the store and wanted to know if I was going to buy it! I told him no, mom still likes 3 meals a day! Support your local record store.

  • I’d support my local record store if they actually still worth visiting. In my city the local stores frankly suck. Anything worthwhile is priced at or above “online” prices, and usually in not so great condition. Record stores used to be a lot of fun..not so much anymore.

  • When I lived in Chicago in 2001-2002 I went there and found some decent scores (and interesting records in the “sealed vinyl” section) but no bargain-price Prestiges or 78s. I think the salad days were waning but it’s still unfortunate to see them go. From what I understand, the buyer was an online seller in Arizona; funkyou is in St. Louis.

  • Clifford I found a few sealed copies of the forkladd gudd Lp on Caprice around that time or earlier which I ordered via their mail order catalog I used to receive way back when. Also got a few sealed copies of an obscure mid-70s Egil Johansen LP with Terje Rypdal on guitar.

    So I guess I got a few scores myself from them but it was via mail order!

  • I bought so much great music there when I was growing up. Bob had no patience for fools shopping for Julio Iglaisias( Sp?). Probably not the easiest guy to work for. But he was more than happy to spend a minute with a wayward teen.

  • 78s contain a lot of wonderful music. Early bop 78s often sound better than their reissues on LP. This is particularly true for early 10-inch Prestige LPs. Blue Note 10-inch LPs were much better remastered. Same is true for Capitol, Contemporary, Discovery, EmArcy, Mercury, RCA, Trend, “X label, etc. For older collectors like me, 78s were the starting point. From there, the progression was into LPs (and for some, 45s or EPs). Generally, avid jazz record collectors want the best sound out of their records and thus take good care of them, including cleaning every one before first play. When looking for modern 78s on auction lists, I focus on dealers who specialize in pre-War jazz because their buyers are usually not interested in modern jazz so you are competing with far fewer bidders and lower prices. Example: Some years back, I bought at auction an N- Monk Blue Note “Straight, No Chaser” for $15.20. I may well have been the only bidder. Now, if I had shopped a dealer that specializes in modern jazz, the price would likely have been much higher. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I was buying modern jazz 78s in quantity, I was paying on average $5.00 or less for E+ to New copies. Don’t believe the nonsense about there not being any “new” records. There are, and I own quite a few.

  • Regarding the Hirt you can pick up: “The Horn meets the Hornet” for som cheesy good fun trumpet. And a great cover too!

  • If I recall, the Prestiges were unplayed and cost either $1 or $2 each. There were also multiple copies of many of them. I’m pretty sure they had bought out a warehouse or something like that. Maybe someone who worked at the store at the time is lurking here and could tell us?

  • I have been to the JRM twice. The first time was three years ago, while visiting the other half’s family for Christmas. I was still very naive about record buying and had never spent too much on a record, but they had what I knew was an original pressing of Bill Dixon’s “Intents and Purposes” for a very fair price. A little higher than I was comfortable with, but I knew it was a one-chance thing. Bought it and a few other things. Great score. Though this was after rifling for two hours through the horrible bins in the store, without realizing the ‘good stuff’ was in a smaller bin up front. That irked me a bit, that they would have this big sprawling store and anything worth more than $15 was squirreled away up front. But I didn’t care. I was very happy with my Bill Dixon score. I had previously spent over a year tracking down just a download for that album, and was thrilled to get a vinyl original (mono, DG, etc) so early in my collecting days.

    The second time was two years ago. Different situation entirely. Went RIGHT to the front bins this time, didn’t even look in the dusty piles of Herbie Mann crap on Atlantic that were out for browsing. It was very disappointing. Music Matters miles davis records for $75, not even sealed. Ten inches of dixieland schlock for $40. I bought one relatively interesting 10-inch, on which George Shearing played accordion. It was fun to listen to.

    I didn’t go back this year.

    I really feel like the store put way too much effort into the Delmark thing, and not nearly enough into acquiring quality collections of collectible vinyl. Even the first time I went, maybe 1 out of every 500 records was something I could see a collector being interested in. But maybe I’m just not being appreciative enough.

  • gregorythefish – no, you’re quite right. Over the past few years, there have been very very few collectibles out in the store. I understand it’s because Bob just didn’t get around to purchase collections as much as he used to (that is entirely hearsay, by the way). About 5-6 years ago, there were often desirable collectibles in the front bins, but they were hugely overpriced. Starting about 2-3 years ago, there have been very few indeed, and the prices of the remaining stock were dramatically reduced; I recall seeing (say) a (should be $10) Stan Getz Verve record with $25 price tag over an old $125 price tag, etc. Since then, it’s been mostly new “collectible” LPs in those bins. And the regular stock just didn’t turn over at all. I’ve seen many of same records in the bins for 5 years running! I got a few amazing deals over the years, but not anything of note for the past 2-3 years.

    Still and all, it was a great store for three reasons: (1) it was downtown, so was accessible to tourists; (2) it has been around forever, so has been offering jazz and blues LPs even when that was not fashionable; and (3) Delmark is awesome, and has, and still does, put out great Chicago jazz and blues music. Bob was really quite a force in the jazz and blues records industry who I think remains under-appreciated, and it was cool that he ran both the label and a store. The Junior Wells records, Magic Sam, JB Hutto, Big Joe Williams, the Sun Ra LPs originally recorded for Transition, Roscoe Mitchell, Ira Sullivan (Delmark 402 is a fantastic record that would cost >$250 if were released on Blue Note), Anthony Braxton, and the AEC (not my thing, but important nevertheless), Jimmy Dawkins, Muhal Richard Abrams – a lot of good stuff there.

  • One of the reasons it’s getting harder to find the more collectible records in stores is that those are the ones that sell faster. It used to be when a record store bought a collection you’d go in and gawk over the best lps that would be on display but you’d dig through the new arrival bins knowing that you’d have some time to think about the better pieces. You had time to think about the high end records and they would slowly sell over a week or two. Today both collectors and dealers are seeing the rarer pieces far less frequently so the better titles sell first.

  • woody:

    that makes sense, but there are some spots i like to go to that always has at least two or three nice new collectibles, amongst the slightly more stale stock, and they are constantly buying collections from all over. it IS do-able, but you have to try!

  • So if your local record store had that Blue note you were dying for at $500.00 wold you buy it? Or would whine about being out bid on e bay a week later?

  • Art; let me give you some examples from my local record stores.

    A year or so ago I found a mono Sheila Jordan on blue note in EX condition in a pile of records on the floor that were yet to be priced and sorted. I asked how much and was told it was going to be put on eBay. Just recently this same store is trying to sell a Liberty era “amazing bud Powell” (NY labels, no ear) for $100.

    Another local store is trying to sell an original mono NY “ear” “out to lunch” for $175. Well that might be an ok deal right? The problem is the cover is split from top to bottom and the vinyl has a ton of scuffs and scratches.

    I’m not asking for bargains, but if a brick and mortar store is selling collectible vinyl it should be priced slightly less then recent eBay sales…at least give the customer the small satisfaction of getting a minor deal…and entice them to keep shopping there. Otherwise why bother?

  • Well, perhaps I could regale you for a while. Most likely all would be bored. One of many who grew up with JRM.
    However, I do have many a tale since I first set foot in Jazz Record Mart as a teen in 1965. The first location after the mover from Roosevelt and Wabash, 7 West Grand, Big Joe Williams hanging there, sometimes in basement, AACM, Iggy Pop trying to become a blues drummer, true days of beatniks and hipsters and of course, one didn’t buy for collectability, does a teen care?, it was all about the music and well, it was a wonderful time.
    Now, like my youth ,vanished.

  • I was there only 2 weeks ago on business trip and unfortunately was in a hurry and didn’t buy anything or stop to talk to Bob. Last time I was there I weaseled my way into the back to see what was getting priced and coming out front in the next week.

    I wish I had known that they were selling the store. Have bought quite a few records there over the years and even a couple of tee-shirts. I am sad to see them go. I am wondering if he is selling the mail order CD business and Delmark catalog too.

  • If I was a record store owner, I would offer the premium titles in-store for my walk-in customers for a period of time (maybe 2 weeks) at a lower price (adjusted for omission of eBay listing and selling fees). Then if there are no takers, I’d then list it on eBay. Too many stores separate out the gems, and list them on eBay, which is fine if you’re a capitalist, but not if your trying to support your local community. I was recently in Frankfurt on business and checked several record stores … how disappointing. Lots of sealed 180g reissues, later pressings with unreasonable asking prices, and a lot of minor artists/titles. It will only be a matter of time before such stores will disappear again.

  • To Mac: that’s exactly what my local store does and it works out great for everyone. Probably the best way for a brick and mortar record shop to make it in a small town in 2016.

  • Mark – I’m totally with you on the pricing of B&M stores…Record stores should price record 10% to 20% less than eBay for a couple reasons. 1) No selling fees when your selling in your store (except taxes); 2) don’t have to deal with shipping the record and “hoping” that it gets to the buyer safely; 3 and the most important) you help satisfy local record buyers and keep them coming into the store…those are the loyals that will keep you in business.

  • Al, you recall paying $1-$2 apiece for mint Prestige 78s in JRM. At that price, I probably would have bought 78s that otherwise wouldn’t interest me for possible resale. And if there were multiple copies of 78s I DID like, I would have bought more, maybe ALL the copies. Right now, I’m missing maybe five or six copies of Prestige 78s that interest me that I don’t have. Somewhat more for Savoy because it has a bigger catalog.

  • I have spoken with several high end record dealers regarding Ebay. Most have tried to sell valuable records in a storefront, but a high value LP will often take several weeks to sell, and be subject to handling wear while on display. From their perspective, it is much easier to list on Ebay, and have top dollar in hand within 7 days. Some maintain lists of dedicated buyers who may receive a VM or email regarding a valuable LP (or newly acquired collection), and then have a few days to say yes or no.

  • I am interested in the idea that a 78 could sound better than the lp copy of a release. This contradicts any of my past awareness of 78’s. Are there machines and needles that plays 78’s with high quality sound?

  • Daryl ,there are “machines and needles” which really make 78’s sound great. Remember that this is the way that the buyers of records first heard these masterpieces! Even with the sound much less clear than nowadays these cats knew that the magic was in those grooves!!

  • Art, what would those look like? For example, My Dual CS 5000 turntable indeed possesses a 78 speed, yet my understanding is that 78’s require a special needle. I don’t think I want to play a 78 with my Shure VST-V cartridge, right? Earlier in this comment thread a colleague notes that some 78’s possess a better sound than the related lp pressings, which has me scratching my head. Two issues emerge: 1) Is there general consensus in the jazz collecting community that the 78’s can be of a high or higher recording quality than their 33 counterparts? 2) Is there a simple way to extract this sound on an everyday audiophile system like mine described above? Many thanks to any who weigh in.

  • Kristian kristiansen

    Dear Daryl et al.
    78 demands a special needle, you can buy Ortofon who still does their SPU for 78, and yes higher speed gives higher resolution, therefore the 16 speed records never caught on, althought one I have on Prestige sounds really good on my Thorens 124.

    Here in Gothenburg, Sweden where I live one of the best used vbinyl shops closed this January, Pennies from Heaven, where I bought records during 20 years. Evert who ran it turned 75 and wanted more time for himself, but continues to sell privately from his storage to old customers. Here I found hundreds of wonderful often near M records from Swedish collectors at decent prices because Evert never went on e-bay, he rather sell directly to his customers at a lesser price than have the hassle with posting. Running a shop is a social thing that you dont get at e-bay. Many good discussions of records and their history like you tell about will disappear with the dealers and their loayl customers. I share my passion with a little group of jazz friends that meet and listen accompanied by some good food and wine

  • I’ve been in the market for a Lenco-Bogen B-50 for my 78’s. One of these days……..

  • Moin, if you are looking for a cheap cartridge with some “historic touch” I would recommend the
    denon 103. I made best eyperience with 78´s or 10″ or 12″ monos with an additional A23-trany on my Thorens 226 & Fidelity Research FR64S. A real power combination… I swear !
    tonarm. cu Horst

  • I used to stop at JRM about once a week when I lived in Chicago. As previous posters as noted, it was light on grails but a nice way for me to build a collection of cheaper essentials. Sure, half the store was undesirable Dixieland titles, but if you had time to dig you’d usually be rewarded.

    Great, friendly, knowledgeable staff and a great location in the middle of everything. I’ll miss that place!!

  • For those who have asked about 78 turntables and 78 styli, I use a Dual CS 5000 for playing 78s and use a variety of styli, which I have purchased from different sources. (For LPs, I use a Denon 62-DPL (with two tone arms), also with a variety of styli–1.0, 1.2, 2.3, 2.5, 2.7, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0.) No one styli will be right for all 78s or LPs. I have eight different styli of different shapes and mil sizes. Since I don’t have any Pathes, I don’t have large, ball-shaped styli. Some styli come from overseas. It takes a bit of hunting to find these sources. And they aren’t cheap! As for 78s sounding better than certain 10-inch reissue LPs, it depends on the label, the particular album, and the quality of the individual pressing. In the early 1950s, DJ 78s often had excellent sound. For example, RCA Victor DJs and their Special Revue pressings. When it comes to audio equipment, you can spend any amount of money. I’ve been in a few stores that sell $70- and $80,000 turntables, and speakers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. No, i don’t own any, but they’re fun to view and listen to!

  • Have been in JRM many many times as a resident of Chicago for most of my adult life. I vividly recall the time approximately 7 years ago I went to the store on my lunch hour – which turned into leaving work for the day. Seems the store bought out a collection and put it in the floor the day before. All of the LPs from the collection had the letter K writtin in ink on the upper, right corner of the back cover. Mostly 70s Blue Notes but priced to sell and in amazing shape. I must have spent over $1,000 in two trips and bought nearly 100 LPs.

    Still find the occasional acorn in the massive piles but more often than not I walk out of the store empty handed. Some of the highlights I recall scoring: 1) $3.99 each for 2 copies of the M & K LP “For Duke”; 2) $10 for a Japan pressing of JR Monterose’s – In the Studio; 3) coverless first mono copy of Rollins’ – East Broadway Rundown for $1.

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