My First Record: George Sluppick ofThe City Champs

Vinyl. Mmm, yes. I love it. The sound, the texture, the weight of a record. There’s just nothing like it. These wonderful round discs have slipped in and out of my life at different moments and although I’ve never been a collector per se, I have owned my fair share of wax. The earliest memory is of my mother’s 45 collection, as they were what I was listening to when first learning how to play the drums and she had some great stuff. Rufus Thomas, Dave Clark Five, Aretha, James Brown…we wore them out.

I remember her listening to Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells and when the song would end, she’d play it again. I was maybe four or five. My folks were a huge influence on me and Dad would take me and those records out to our little garage where we had his guitar amp, drum set and record player ready to go and we’d get to work. For hours we’d listen and play along to the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Motown and Stax records. He’d show me how to hold the sticks, while teaching me the finer points of song structure and how to get in the pocket. What an education.

Once a year, usually sometime near Christmas, my mom and gramma would have a yard sale, or carport sale, as they called it cause that’s where it was. All those records would be there, sitting out on a table and she’d let ’em go for a quarter a piece. Man, if I only knew back then what her collection would be worth today, I’d have taken all of my allowance and given it to her in exchange for them. She even had those nice little square record boxes to carry them in and would sell those off too. I guess we’ve all got stories like that. But my folks were gracious in letting me hang on to whatever record I wanted and there were several of my dad’s that I loved. I wore out his Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits and Mom’s Waylon & Willie.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Hodge

As I got a little older, I started listening to a lot of rock-n-roll and the first brand new record I remember getting for my very own was AC/DC’s Back In Black. Dad bought it for me at the Treasury Drug Store. Now I know that name will take some folks back a few years cause they exsisted long before we had a Wal-Mart and you could buy almost anything, especially records.

Many years later, I had a job as a teenager working at Poplar Tunes in downtown Memphis and right at a time when vinyl was on it’s way out, making room for compact discs. There was a lot of mixed feelings at the store back then. Some folks were really happy not to have to move all those big boxes of records around everywhere, while some, like me, felt a pang of sadness that a big part of our lives was getting replaced by these shinny little objects that looked like something from the Jetson’s. Honestly, they kinda freaked me out at first cause I couldn’t figure out how they worked and it would be years before I was able to afford a player. The cases were so thin and fragile and so easy to break that most of them suffered cracks as they were placed in the old wooden record bins. And you needed a magnifying glass to read the tiny written words in the liner notes. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t a fan right away.

Even though I own several hundred of them, not much has changed in how I feel about CD’s and how troublesome they are, but here it is, 2011 and vinyl is back with a vengeance and people everywhere are becoming audiophiles and I couldn’t be happier. A few weeks ago, I turned 43 and my good friend, Joe Restivo gave me Ahmad Jamal’s Happy Moods on wax for my birthday and it sounds unbelievable. He said he found it at Shangri-la, which is one of my favorite record stores here. Joe plays with me in The City Champs along with Al Gamble and so far we have released two albums on vinyl and the reviews from fans around the globe have been very consistent…”This record sounds great!” The guys in our band, we’re all into it and our label, Electraphonic, that’s their specialty and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although the three of us have different influences individually, the common thread we share is our love of music from the 60s and 70s and more specifically, Memphis soul music that was recorded on analog tape machines and released on vinyl. There’s really nothing like that sound. It’s full, rich and delicious. Just drop a needle on any Stax record and I dare you not to shake your booty!

George Sluppick is the drummer for The City Champs. He’ll spend 12 weeks this spring on the road as the drummer for The Black Crowes‘ Chris Robinson’s solo project The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Read about how George got the job here.

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