Diplomats
of Solid Sound,
The TVD First Date

“My first introduction to vinyl records came through the mysterious RCA console in my parents’ living room and the modest stack of records they owned.”

“The console looked like a piece of furniture, but if you slid the top panel back it revealed a record player, a radio tuner, and some dials for EQ. It truly was a work of art. Inside the compartment was an assortment of 45s and LP records. My parents had rock-n-roll 45s including Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Bill Haley and the Comets. They had pop classics like The Crew Cuts, Harry Belafonte, Trini Lopez. They even had some big band jazz like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller

They had fewer LPs: Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the film soundtrack to West Side Story, Henry Mancini, some Christmas albums, and a few kid’s records like The Chipmunks. Their collection was somewhat eclectic and arbitrary.

My brother and I flipped out when we first heard the Elvis Presley 45 “Heartbreak Hotel.” What a menacing tune! It had dark lyrics about loneliness and despair. The spooky sound of the record set a brooding mood, and Scotty Moore’s staccato guitar breaks are the stuff of legend!

Back in the day, we had limited access to the music we wanted to listen to. That’s why vinyl took on such an esteemed position in a music lover’s life. Sure, you had the radio at home and in the car, jukeboxes at a diner or pizza place, and the sounds emanating from your TV or local movie theater screen, but vinyl records were your possession. You’d listen to them over and over, gaze at the artwork, and read the liner notes. Fascinating!

The first record I bought with my own money, which I earned from a paper route, was the “Starbaby” 45 by The Guess Who. Not exactly a genius pick—I blame it on 70s AM radio and WLS! I got “Starbaby” from the local music store, Tilton’s Music. They sold band instruments, guitars, amps, accessories, sheet music, and some records.

Eventually, when my high school buddies and I got driver’s licenses and some wheels to drive, we went on road trips to record stores in our home state of Iowa. We’d visit Asteroid Records in Dubuque, Iowa or Coop Records in Davenport. At these stores, you could buy cutting edge records by Television, The Jam, Elvis Costello, The Only Ones, The Ramones, and The Clash. Occasionally, I’d visit my sister in Iowa City, who was a student the University of Iowa, and check out BJ Records and another Coop Records.

When my first band wanted to record and put out a record, vinyl was our only option. CD technology was in its infancy and cassette tape releases were few and far between. So we made a 45. It was the gateway to college radio, record reviews, and merchandise we could sell at local record stores and shows. A pretty cool thing! We eventually signed to a small independent record label in Chicago and they released a 12” 6 song EP. We would have made a full length album, but we just didn’t have the material or the money for the recording studio. A good 24 track analog studio was expensive.

In the late 80s I worked at a record store in Iowa City called the Record Collector. Not exactly the most imaginative name, but it was dead on target. The owner knew his stuff and he had great musical taste. It was a killer store, and it’s still in business today, although under new ownership.

The early to mid-nineties was the best time to pick up used vinyl. Every knucklehead in America was dumping their vinyl for CDs! You could find great vinyl for cheap anywhere, because no one but the vinyl illuminati (ie: the diehards that never gave up their turntables or records) wanted them! You could find Jimmy Smith records on Blue Note or Verve for $5.00 or less. It was a great time to be a vinyl junkie!

My subsequent bands all had a vinyl aspect to their release schedules. Whether it was a vinyl LP, or 7” releases, I always strove to put out vinyl records. My current band, Diplomats of Solid Sound, has had vinyl releases in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the US. Our latest full length record, A Higher Place, is due out on Pravda Records on June 21st. You can order it here.

When not doing band stuff, I DJ soul 45s with a crew that does a night called “Soulshake.” We specialize in ’60s and ’70s soul, jazz, r-n-b, mod, and garage rock. We’ve held this event every Friday night since 2012 at Gabe’s in Iowa City. The official Diplomats of Solid Sound artist curated playlist on Spotify features some of my favorite tracks to spin at Soulshake.

Oh, and the mysterious RCA console? I inherited it from my mother when she moved to Florida in 1999. It still plays, but it could use some work. It’s getting old, you know!”
Doug Roberson

Diplomats of Solid Sound’s new full-length release, A Higher Place arrives in stores on June 21st, 2019 via Pravda Records—on vinyl.

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