When the Professor and I got married two+ years ago I had the redhot idea of redecorating the guest room in Alabama by framing vintage record covers and hanging them on the wall. (Admittedly inspired by the bar area of Threadgill’s in Austin.) My new husband with his intuitive and creative eye green lighted the project STAT. Because, clearly, it’s an idea that is as brilliant as the sun is bright. We would hang some Alabama music, some Texas music, and a few foreign sounds that have meaning to us as a couple. I contacted my mom and asked her to scour the mysteriously shrinking collection of family LPs up in Nashville and send me the best of the best looking record covers. But only from albums & artists that have been known to stir my soul. She cherry picked some gems.
Featured above: Willie & Leon Russell, Hank Thompson, Leon Russell as his classic country alter Hank Wilson (perhaps my favorite LP art cover ever), and Bob Wills.
Above: The famous WANTED album with Waylon, Tompall Glaser, Jessi Colter and Willie, The While Animals (whom The Professor listened to in college while they played my 8th grade graduation party), Willie Red Headed Stranger, Willie/Waylon.
Even though I am rarely objective when it comes to Willie, it was conspicuous even to me that I was a wee bit Willie heavy. It’s hard for me to admit much less choke out those words! First things first, I needed some key Alabama-based music to balance things out. EBAY was the obvious step.
There was just one problem: my to do list.
As with so many of my off-the-chart ingenious schemes, this one too was inadvertently shelved due to the chaos of daily life, not to mention more pressing budgetary concerns. Two years into our marriage, the guest room remained unchanged.
But about a month ago our interest in vinyl was reignited…on a whole new level. You may recall we celebrated our anniversary in Alabama in December down at the gulf at the new waterfront restaurant called The Gulf. We fell in love with the hip mood, the delicious grouper sandwiches, and the fact that all the music was vinyl played on a good old fashioned record player.
We also enjoyed meeting proprietor Johnny Fisher (clearly the personality behind this cool joint) who talked about the choice to do all vinyl, as well as the fun he has every day mixing up all sorts of good music on records he has found for $5-10 at flea markets through the years. No matter the musical genre, the oh so subtle crackling sound of a record playing is just plain nostalgic.
And boom. We were bit by the vinyl bug.
Since then, four other things have squeezed some extra kerosene on this simmering fire:
- The Professor went duck hunting with a good friend from Atlanta whose daughters gave him a record player for Christmas.
- I sold my 1991 standup JBL speakers to a true music aficionado who waxed on for half an hour about vinyl and high fidelity and old speakers.
- I had a wonderful conversation with singer-songwriter Gretsch Lyles who is so committed to the full sonic experience that his new album will be released as vinyl as well as digital.
- I found this hilarious tumblr feed where they do “sleevefacing”. Are you familiar with the term? I wasn’t either, but now I’m obsessed. Think this might be the inspiration for our 2014 Christmas card. (Do NOT steal that idea!) But do take a look: Library Sleevefacing
So basically when we ventured out for our planned Saturday this past weekend, we should have known our subconscious would press us in a slightly more analog direction. Our plan was to hit the budget-friendly Southeastern Salvage to try and find the world’s teeniest breakfast café table and then cruise straight down to the gulf to soak up some balmy January sunshine and see if Johnny Fisher was right about how delicious the burgers are at The Gulf.
Instead of a little café table we found the world’s most inexpensive dining room table – that we both actually liked. Giddy from that success we cruised down the service road to a slightly more upscale antique mart. We hunted and scoured until we actually did find the elusive café table that will fit our tight kitchen space. As we celebrated this needle in the haystack victory and prepared to settle up at the front desk, I just happened to spot it. Propped under glass. Like a puppy at the pet store it was trying to make eye contact with me, practically whimpering for me to take it home.
A 1955 album of Alabama native and honky tonk icon Hank Williams. I was in décor mode and was merely focused on the fabulous cover but of course the ever practical Professor wanted to know if there was an actual record inside. Yes. He negotiated the price down from $55 to $35 and in a flash, we had started our own vinyl collection.
The fact that we have no way to play it didn’t dampen our spirits one iota. We tore down to the gulf fairly excited about our thrifty dining room table deal; moderately impressed with ourselves for finding a workable café table; but completely over the moon about our vintage Hank album!
It was clearly a vinyl themed day once we hit The Gulf.
Everything was mellow and groovy with this late afternoon view…
And that’s when it hit us! Maybe Johnny would play our new Hank album for us so we could actually hear it! The king of cool didn’t miss a beat. Not only did he quickly but delicately tee it up on the record player but my precious new baby album cover was also propped up in the ‘Now Playing’ window. Mama was so proud.
The joint was hopping but Johnny was kind enough to sit and indulge us as we rambled enthusiastically about the joys of vinyl. The warm, tinny sound. The signature crackle as the stylus moves through the grooves. The “slow down” sensation Johnny described when you actually sit and listen to one entire album instead of hopping around itunes from song to song. I was having a true music moment listening our new-to-us1955 Hank record amplified al fresca out into the Gulf of Mexico. I felt like I owned a little piece of history. I felt a little more connected to Alabama and to its music culture.
A heartfelt thanks for the vinyl high, Johnny Fisher.
And yes, you were right about the burger. Out of sight. We’ll catch you on the flipside.
(Copyright 2013 by Christine Warren)
What’s the word, do any of you collect vinyl? Please tell us about any gems you have on your shelves! Any suggestions on what we need to hang on our guest room wall? Which of our Willie Nelson albums should make the cut?