“Vinyl records were actually the first musical medium that I ever knew. My Dad had been a music critic before I was born, writing for the Boston Phoenix, Creem magazine and others, so there were three creaking shelves full of LPs in my living room and a great sounding stereo system.”
“When I was really young (probably 7 or 8) I didn’t know how to work the turntable, and wasn’t tall enough to reach it anyway, so I would ask my Dad to put on Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly or The Coasters Greatest Hits (“Idol with the Golden Head” was an early favorite.) Some of my earliest memories are lying on the living room floor going through every single record, reading the notes, and looking at the pictures.”
As I got to be a teenager, I became more and more interested in Blues, and there was plenty of it in my house. In our attic I found my Dad’s trove of 78s that he had bought as a teenager at the Salvation Army in Cleveland. I listened to Lil Son Jackson on Goldstar and Otis Rush on Cobra, Sister Rosetta Tharpe on Decca and Sonny Boy Williamson on Checker. 78s were like a time machine for me, these thick, fragile records with obscure names on their labels and unknown provenance.
It didn’t take me long to dig through everything that was in the house, and I needed more to get my fix. The first record store I remember going to was Cheapo Records in Central Square, Cambridge. That was the old location, and the entire back wall was floor to ceiling in 45s, which was both exciting and incredibly intimidating.
I really got bit by the 45 bug, though, when I ended up in Chicago for college in 2003. I wanted to do a Southern Soul and Funk radio show on the university station and had the amazing good fortune of being slotted right after Bob Abrahamian and his Sweet Soul show, “Sitting in the Park.” I didn’t know it then, but Bob was one of the preeminent diggers and Soul collectors in Chicago (and really, the world) and he grudgingly took me under his wing.
Since we weren’t really into the same style (he loved his Sweet Soul and Groups and I was in to Southern, Funk, Blues, and Gospel) when we would go digging he would just hand me records and say “you need this, you need that,” etc… One time in particular he introduced me to a guy he had bought from several times that didn’t sell to many people. I took two buses to get there, across the entire West Side of Chicago and ended up in his musty basement which was completely filled with 45s. Everything was $1. I literally spent every last dollar I had (maybe $250?) and walked out of there with a milk crate full of 45s that I hauled back to my dorm room on the bus.
Since then, the 45 has become by far my favorite medium. So simple yet so effective; just one song on either side, no cover, just a plain sleeve. I probably have close to 5,000 singles now and I don’t see any signs of slowing down. When I’m touring and traveling I try my best to look for records everywhere I go. Whether it’s at actual record stores, thrift stores, junk shops or antique stores, you never know what you might find.
On my honeymoon in 2012, My wife and I went to Savannah, Georgia and the Carolina Coast. One afternoon we were driving through Savannah and I saw a junk store that had some LPs in the window. Amazingly, I convinced her to let me stop, and they had a few stacks of unsleeved 45s. I got through them all in about 20 minutes and was able to find several interesting looking Gospel records.
When I got back to Brooklyn a few days later, I found out that one of the 45s I bought was an incredible Gospel Funk record by The Peerless Four, “I Don’t Know What Tomorrow May Bring” with “He’s all I need” on the other side of which there are only 2 or 3 copies known to exist. That’s part of the reason I’ll never stop digging!”
—Eli Paperboy Reed
Eli Paperboy Reed’s brand new full length release, My Way Home arrives in stores on June 10, 2016 via Yep Roc Records. My Way Home is available for pre-order now.
Eli Paperboy Reed Tour Dates:
3/12: U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC
3/13: The Camel – Richmond, VA
3/14: City Winery Nashville – Nashville, TN
3/15: Hi Tone – Memphis, TN
3/21: House of Blues Dallas – Dallas, TX
3/22: The Vanguard Tulsa – Tulsa, OK
3/23: The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
3/24: The Maintenance Shop – Ames, IA
3/25: Off Broadway Music Venue – St. Louis, MO
3/26: The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
3/27: Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH
3/29: The Rex Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
3/30: Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA