Vinyl addicts unite: the lasting culture of record collecting

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Don Mayberger has collected records since the age of 10, as he has scrapped and worked all kinds of jobs just to buy vinyl. His collection today is around 3,000 records, after downsizing from nearly 7,000.

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Don Mayberger's turntable (Technics) sits in his den upstairs where he will spend hours during the winter sifting through his collection of 3,000 records, bringing stacks at a time up from the basement where he stores them.

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Don Mayberger holds the "Butcher Cover" Beatles album with an image of the band surrounded by decapitated dolls and pieces of meat. It had been recalled and covered over with a picture of The Beatles sitting on suitcases, but Mayberger soaked off the cover to reveal the original image. This is one of his most memorable finds.

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Don Mayberger spends countless hours in a remodeled upstairs den listening to music on a Technics record player.

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Ian Wolf, 34, Lawrence sits in his house in east Lawrence with his collection of more than 5,000 vinyl records.

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Ian Wolf has a portable record player that allows him to take his music wherever he goes.

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Emily Scholle spins records as DJ Modrey Hepburn.

It’s a bit of mystery why vinyl records have as strong a presence as they do. With cheaper, more portable and less precious ways of consuming music, then why does independent, record-peddling Love Garden remain one of the most popular shops on Mass. Street?

The culture of collecting is more than an opportunity to convince others you're a hipster. Three locals — a small sample size of the much larger record-collecting whole — from different generations share why they're unwilling to part with the plastic and are invested in the tradition, treasure hunt and nostalgia that surrounds vinyl.

The lifelong collector

Fifty years ago, Don Mayberger remembers, mowing three lawns was the equivalent of buying one record.

When he worked on a film team for former Kansas University football coach Bud Moore, the $5 he received as payment toward gas would instead be used to accumulate even more albums.

The Pitch magazine would not have existed if it weren’t for Mayberger’s fixation on vinyl. As a representative for a record distributor, he decided that putting out a fake newspaper with weekly reviews of new releases would help sell the records. Under the pseudonym Warren Stylus, Mayberger, now 64, engaged tons of readers through talking about records.

“And then I got even more promos,” Mayberger says. “People started sending me records. It was the greatest.”

He would call himself a “reformed” collector or collector “in remission.” At one time, he had at least 7,000 LPs. Now stored on shelves in the basement of his home, Mayberger says he has more than 3,000 records in his possession. He started collecting when he was 10 years old, in the heyday of vinyl.

“To be 14 when the Beatles hit was pretty good timing,” he says.

Mayberger pulls out a framed “Yesterday and Today” Beatles’ record, a shocking image of The Fab Four covered with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. The photograph was so controversial, Capitol Records recalled these copies and rather than reprinting all new covers, pasted an image on some of the old covers of the band sitting on suitcases with a white background.

“The only way you could tell there was one underneath it was that you could see Ringo’s black dickey,” he says. “Everyone went around to find it. I found like three of them.”

Those who didn’t soak off the top cover could sell those records for $5,000 now. “I was stupid,” he says laughing.

Whiling away winter hours in his den listening to classics, Mayberger has no plans to ditch his vinyl.

“Everyone’s walking around with a pocket full of ones and zeros, and I’m kind of resistant to that,” he says.

Record-bred collector

Growing up with records, it’s still the only format in which Ian Wolf, 34, consumes his music. Hauling a portable record player to other locations and working at Taproom, where there’s a record player on hand, he can’t remember the last time he even listened to a CD.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Wolf says. “You get to hold it. There’s the whole thing of flipping the record over. It’s very intimate and personal.”

With at least 5,000 records in his collection, Wolf describes finding a “golden record,” or records that will never be in digital format, as a huge incentive to hunt for more.

“There’s so much music that’s never going to be heard because you can’t download it,” he says. “You actually have to physically find it. I think that’s where the addiction comes from.”

Those “random finds,” released from small-time, no-label bands that broke up after one tour for one reason or another, are now being reissued, after someone finds a 40-year-old song and thinks it should be shared now.

“Like the compilations that come out,” he says.

Wolf appreciates that bands will put out specific records for those days and only a limited amount of copies on “Record Store Day.”

“Those are the records that in 20 years people will be like, “whoa, they only pressed 100 of these and I have one,’” he says.

The record convert

Emily Scholle, 26, remembers the rich sounds from her parents’ record player as a young girl and the urge she had to get her hands on the vinyl.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t touch the record player,” Scholle says. “And I always wanted to touch the record player. It made me want records that much more.”

Three years ago when she was dating a popular DJ in town, she saw how easy it was for him find cheap records. Once she tracked down a record player she could afford, Scholle says she bought too many, too fast.

“It snowballed from there,” she says laughing. “As addictions do.”

Her affinity for ‘50s and ‘60s doo-wop or surf rock music aligns with her affinity for vinyl; she used to DJ a weekly radio show called “Vintage Vinyl,” playing only vinyl records on air on KJHK, and currently mixes this style of music at the Replay as DJ Modrey Hepburn.

Every once in a while, she will pick up a new LP, but doesn’t notice the difference in quality of sound compared with a digital release, as much as she can with old-school records.

“With older stuff especially, they were made to be listened to on vinyl, in that medium,” she says. “The sound quality is a lot better. If you listen to music from the MP3 on your laptop, and you listen to it on vinyl, you hear that there is so much more on the vinyl that you just don’t hear otherwise.”

After a recent collection purge, Scholle says she has about 500 45s and 100 LPs.

Pulling out old girl group compilation records — The Shangri-Las and The Shirelles are favorites — Scholle de-stresses through music that reminds her of simpler, happier times.

“It’s so honest,” she says. “We live in such a bizarre world... It’s nice to think ‘I’m not in 2014 right now; it’s 1958.”

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I too am a holder of many vinyl editions. Being a music major in college, and having a great love for all the classical music records, I still have a great collection of records. I even still have some old 78 rpm very fragile records.

The main problem that this article does not touch on is the means to play these records. There are very few companies still manufacturing record players and maintaining old units is becoming difficult. Needles wear out or get damaged and finding replacements in a town like Lawrence is a real problem.

I still have a large collection of RCA Red Seal classic music as well as nearly all the ABBA albums. Most of those have been re-released on CD. My Japanese-made Victor record turntable still works with some maintenance and I hope to keep it running. I still enjoy these records although the new CDs are a lot more easy to store and do not wear out.

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