These are articles written for the Orillia Packet & Times newspaper by Lorne VanSinclair, former promoter of the Toronto Musical Collectables Record & CD Sale and this site's administrator.

These articles began in 2004 as a monthly series designed to be a primer on record collecting for the uninitiated. It was supposed to last just a few weeks but it kept going until the end of 2016.

The series expanded to include articles on other aspects of collecting and they can be seen on our sister web site

146 stardust labelSome time ago I was listening to a CBC Radio show hosted by Colin James, a great blues-based musician, who flatly declared that Stardust was the best song ever written. He did this just after playing a Howlin’ Wolf record which puts him in the Music Appreciation Hall of Fame as far as I’m concerned.

Every generation has its own unique fashion in clothes that is not liked by the previous generation. Lately there has been a tendency to “dress down”; the grunge look of the 1980s, or the torn blue jeans of the hippies in the 1960s, but in the 1930s the ultimate in-your-face fashion statement was a suit. It was called a zoot suit and surprisingly, it generated the strongest reaction ever seen about any form of clothing in the modern era.

90 callowayIn music, as in other entertainment arts, there are some performers who come to represent more than just their music. They become symbols and catalysts for a whole range of social dynamics in their particular generation. Cab Calloway is a perfect example.

89 beatlemaniaThe so-called British Invasion of the 1960s transformed the music industry, our culture and Britain itself. It has often been pointed out as a supreme paradox that the ammunition in this invasion of America was mostly American made. What most of us didn’t know back then was then even what we thought were original songs from Britain, were also American.

86 robert-johnsonThere are many myths and legends about blues and folk performers but nobody is more mythic and legendary than the great country blues man, Robert Johnson. Recently broadcaster Jad Abumrad did some serious digging into the myth and legend of Robert Johnson and made some startling discoveries.

83 booker-tBooker T. Jones, one of the most influential musicians alive in the blues and soul genres literally laid the tracks for southern soul.

84 folkModern folk music started with Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. It appeard to die out in the 80s but folk music is back, bigger, better and stronger than ever. The current revival is the latest of many. The first began in the mid-1800s, during the Industrial Revolution.

81 wallerFats Waller, one of the most popular entertainers of the 1930s, had a rare combination of talents and also happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time to develop those talents into superb artistry.

105 vinyl obsessionsAll collectors are a bit obsessive, it comes with the territory. Those who collect vinyl records are among the most obsessive.

138 cassetteThink of a technology that profoundly changed the way we interact with each other. You know the first one that allowed us to share music with almost anyone anywhere in the world and gave amateur musicians a chance to record their songs without having to be signed to a record label.

137 marion williamsStanley Dance, one of the pre-eminent jazz critics of the swing era called her “America’s greatest singer”. Years later music historian Dave McGee wrote in the Rolling Stone Album Guide "One will come away from her recordings believing that she was nothing less than the greatest singer ever".

77 kingKing Records was one of the most divergent, successful and often overlooked labels. It was centred on the vision and hard work of one person; owner Syd Nathan.

75 western roy-rogersThe term “country & western” has been around since 1956 when Billboard coined it to differentiate rural folk music from pop and rhythm & blues. It was a bit clumsy in that country music is not the same thing as western music.

74 ma raineyWe often forget that the very first recorded blues artists, the so-called classic blues singers, were all women. There was one person could legitimately claim to be the “Mother of the Blues”.

73 cover artVinyl LP records continue to grow in popularity with young people. When asked why, many will respond that it’s the cover art that attracts them.

79 count-basie-orchestraBefore Robert Altman released his film Kansas City in 1996, many music fans were unaware that Kansas City was a major jazz centre in the 1930s.

71 JohnnyCash1969What makes some artists’ records more collectable than others? Even though some artists are (or were) very popular, there’s no interest in their old records. At the same time there’s a select few whose records just keep increasing in value.

70 Orillia bluesThe Orillia Spring Blues Festival gets going next weekend. What can be better than a combination of spring and blues?

69 jackie-wilsonJackie Wilson didn’t follow convention, he defined his own style. He also had one of the most dynamic stage shows ever and earned the respect and admiration of the top names in show business.

68 reggaeIf you happened to visit Jamaica in the 1960s and brought home some records, think twice before youget rid of them. Many original Jamaican records are worth enough money to pay for another vacation to the sunny isle.

67 vinyl digitalCD sales are slipping drastically, companies are going broke, but amid all this doom and gloom sales of vinyl records are actually increasing, up 300% since 2006

66 lyricsPopular music was in the news this month with the story that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has deemed the song Money For Nothing by Dire Straits unacceptable for broadcast on Canadian radio.

65 holiday musicIt used to be that holiday music, or Christmas music as we called it, stopped after Christmas Day. Now TV commercials, radio stations and shopping malls use holiday music in a valiant effort to keep us in buying mode at least until New Year.

64 hmv logoOne of the most difficult aspects of record collecting is figuring out the brands – all the different the labels and what companies they belonged to. Collectors care about brands because, well, we’re collectors. That’s what we do.

63 americana the bandOur popular music is a North American phenomenon. Americana is now a genre in the Grammy Awards, it has its own section in record stores and it is a growing format on radio.

62 specialtyFor many record collectors, the label, or company, can be just as important as the music in the grooves. Specialty Records of Los Angeles is one.

61 patsy and patsyIf you ask those who do not like country music to name one country singer they do like, chances are they’ll say Patsy Cline.

60 canadian singles-2 Canada Day weekend is upon us and Canadian records are one of the hottest areas for record collectors so I thought, why not make up a list of records that should be in every Canadiana record collection?

59 vintage radioLike records, radios have a very emotional connection; they played music after all ... this beautiful, magic box with tubes that glow in the dark

58 record storeSaturday April 17 is Record Store Day. You may actually know that already, it’s becoming quite a sizeable event all over the world

52 ink spots pix 78The Ink Spots helped pave the way for Michael Jackson and many others. They broke the mould that said black groups had to sing and play jazz or blues or spirituals and should only play to black audiences.

57 radio memorbiliaRadio is inseparable from 20th century music so it’s only natural that records and radio memorabilia often end up in the same collections

56 - Pav poster blue labelMany cultures define themselves with their music, and we can too. It is difficult in a country like ours, diverse as it is, yet we have managed to build a very robust music industry here

55 copyrightMusicians, songwriters and other creative people like to spend their time creating but other things get in the way and recently, the issue of copyright, or song ownership, gets in the way more and more

54 rockabillySocial scientists tell us that people use music as a way of organizing themselves into groups. One of the largest, and most enduring is the one surrounding rockabilly music

53 arthur smithWhat does the James Brown hit Papa's Gotta Brand New Bag have in common with the theme from the move Deliverance? Well the link is one very remarkable musician and entrepreneur based in Charlotte, North Carolina

50 digitalConvert your vinyl records to digital files and if you do it right, those files will still sound a lot like your vinyl records

51 deanMartinIt's a bit ironic that the coolest of cool singers was not considered hip, wasn't really with it, but as more and more people are acknowledging, Dean Martin was the epitome of cool

49 RR revue posterIt'll never last. This jungle music is destroying our youth. It's just a bunch of white kids playing what black musicians have been playing for years.

48 SAR 101Most people are familiar with the music of Sam Cooke. He wasn't just another teen idol, his music changed rock 'n' roll, he helped usher in the era of soul

47 soundtracks compositeIt has been said that the best movie scores are so unobtrusive you don't even notice them; it's their job to stay in the background. But movies and popular music have a symbiotic relationship; you can't even imagine one without the other

46 blossomThere are some artists who are not so well known to mainstream audiences but have a passionate following of fans and collectors ... Blossom Dearie is a perfect example

45 toddRhodesIn these days of super-star vocalists and endless singing contests on TV it's hard to believe that just a few decades ago, many top musical acts never sang at all.

44 don messerNo style of music has been immune to the siren call of swing and improvisation. For example ... traditional fiddle playing - yes even Don Messer

43 jukebox posterPeople who collect records also collect books, graphic art, vintage electronics or just bits of tin ... as long as it has something to do with music

42 leiber stollerAlthough they never performed on stage, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had just as profound an impact on popular music as Lennon & McCartney did a decade or so later.

41 rca playerRecords are pretty well useless. On their own I mean. Yes they can be nice to look at, but they're meant to be heard and to hear them you need a device to play them.

40 B sidesThe single has been a staple of the music and record business throughout its history, however the B-side made the single much more fun.

39 boogieLet's boogie. That simple sentence can have many meanings, depending on context in can be an invitation to dance, to travel or to have sex.

38 louieOur story begins some time in 1955 in Los Angeles. A singer and songwriter named Richard Berry is backstage between sets hurriedly scrawling something on a napkin. He  never imagined the song he wrote that night would become one of the biggest hits in music history.

37 saxIf there is any one instrument that personifies cool, it's the saxophone. It can be mellow and sexy or brash and exciting.

36 sun elvis 78Collectors will often focus on certain stellar brands - Royal Dolton china or Zippo lighters for instance. For record collectors there are a very few brands - or labels - that warrant building a collection around them but of the ones that do, Sun Records of Memphis Tennessee is the cream of the crop.

The Boo - instrument invewnted by Harry PartchMusicians are a very colourful lot. No matter what genre of music you look at, you’ll find some weird people but there’s probably no genre as weird or colourful as avant-garde or experimental music.

35 girlsIn every musical era there has been one girl group that dominates or defines it. With each succeeding era there has been less emphasis on musical talent and more on showmanship.

Ever wonder why some artists’ records become so much more collectable than others? It isn’t popularity that makes the difference; it’s innovation that gets the attention of music collectors.

32_Love_Me_DoEvery once in a while there's a confluence of talent, timing and luck that makes a few musicians become not only stars but cultural phenomena.


Why do we couple cars and music?

Transportation has always been a central theme in the musical arts. The ability to leave someone, or the desire go home to someone, inspires a lot of songs.

Fiddlin_John_Carson2If you’re not a devotee you might wonder, just what the heck is folk music anyway? The stock answer is that this is music made by just plain folks. The songs and styles are passed on through an oral tradition, not through formal education. The ideal folk musicians are just carrying on a culture, not trying to be stars making gazoolas of money.

redSealLabelThe record business mostly involves producing mass quantities of popular music. In many ways records have defined our popular music culture but the industry got its start - and a lot of its technological innovation - from classical music.

Dumbell_sheet_musicThe Dumbells may sound like a silly name but this group of actors and musicians played a crucial role in boosting morale among Canadian soldiers in the muddy, blood-soaked trenches of World War I. They then built on that success to become international stars.

aretha_LPMusicologists have noted that pretty well everything in our current musical culture, from rock concerts to television commercials, uses rhythms and sounds from the music of black churches.

christmas_frebergThis holiday season has many layers of significance. It is a time of lights and festivities to ward off the darkest days of the year, a time of religious observance, a time when we gather together and cherish our families. Christmas music reflects all this.

FiskSingersWe hear a lot about soul in music. Last month we looked at the phenomenon of Northern Soul, but sometimes it seems soul is everywhere. Alicia Keys, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks are all well-known exponents of soul singing. Most country and pop singers use soul techniques.

Do_I_Love_You_45Music collectors can sometimes be like a cult. They have their own language, sacred rituals and idols to worship. Most outsiders can only scratch their heads and wonder what it’s all about. No group is as rabid, enthusiastic or baffling to outsiders as Northern Soul collectors.

first_rockFor years, rock ‘n’ roll record collectors have been engaged in a debate over what was the first rock ‘n’ roll record. That may seem silly to some. Shouldn’t it be obvious? And why should we care?

decade_collageEvery decade has music that is popular, and some that goes unnoticed for a while but then defines the next decade. Those records then become very collectable. But what is the big deal with with decades?

group45sDoo-wop. That strange word is classic onomatopoeia. It sounds like what it describes; a style of vocal harmony popular in the 1950s where the group would back up the lead singer with a lot of meaningless syllables.

auctionsSeems you can buy just about anything on the Internet these days. For collectors, the real fun is on-line auctions. It’s a 24 hour a day, worldwide yard sale.

boss_guitarAll collectors, especially music fans, often base their collections around a theme. It might be a style of music, a time period, a certain artist or a specific instrument. In the last case, no instrument has inspired more music collectors than the guitar.

goNowMusic commentators and journalists like to use hip jargon. You’ll often hear them use the terms “cover” or “cover version” when referring to a new recording of a song that has been recorded before by someone else. The word cover is over used and usually applied incorrectly.

ruttlesEveryone loves a good laugh, and record companies have exploited that for years. Some of the very first recordings Thomas Edison made were comic monologues or recitations, some by Mark Twain. Novelty records have been a staple of the industry ever since.

motown45When buying music, most people look for a favourite song or artist, they don’t usually consider the label, that’s something collectors do. Some labels do manage to develop an audience for their own distinct “sound” but none did it as successfully as Motown Records.

zulu_78The word jazz has many different meanings. When you jazz something up, you make it more exciting or colourful. When you talk jazz, that’s nonsense.

Jazz music is just as hard to define. It can be dance and party music, smooth and soothing, or weird and dissonant. Fans say it doesn’t matter, as long as it swings.

pitney_sleeveIdols are big in the music business. We have the ever-popular Canadian & American Idol TV shows, and this week we have Bobby Vinton, billed as a teen idol, playing Casino Rama.

colour_78_1_smallAll mass manufacturers strive to find ways to make their products stand out from the ordinary, and record manufactures are no different. One of the most obvious ways was to make records of different colours to attract attention.

So why are most records black?

chess_45_wolfSpringtime brings the blues. That doesn’t sound right anywhere except Orillia as our annual Spring Bluesfest gets underway this weekend. The blues brings Orillians together as we throw off the shackles of winter to get out and enjoy some live music. 

carter_78People who collect records are usually driven by their passion for music. Country music fans are among the most passionate so country records can be very desirable collectors’ items.

Bootleg records are a hot topic in the news these days.

Bootlegs are unauthorized and illegal issues, often recordings of concerts or unreleased material stolen from record company vaults or even reproductions of legitimate releases.  Bottom line is, the person or company selling the record does not own the copyright and they don’t pay royalties

Is it original? That’s one of the most important questions to answer when you’re determining the value of a record.

It’s happened to all of us who diligently search for rare records. You find a wonderful collection for sale, really old, excellent music but arrgh; they’re useless because they’re warped, dirty or covered in mould.

Legend has it that Thomas Edison invented sound recording in the U.S.A. and the record industry was always based in the U.S., Britain, and Germany. So where do we as Canadians fit in? Right at the beginning.

In the late 1950s my father took me to Woolworths to buy my first real record. I was given a choice; every song was available on the old 78 rpm format, or the new 45 rpm. I chose the big 78, and I'd do the same today.

The big question we’re dealing with today: How do you sell, or buy, old vinyl records?

bozoIf you’re looking for something to collect that is nostalgic, historically significant, visually appealing, relatively cheap and entertaining to boot, then children’s records are a good place to start.