Western Swing: December 2008 Archives

Vinyl appeal

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This is a "bleg" -- begging on a blog. I need some advice and assistance.

I recently came across and purchased a copy of the Johnnie Lee Wills "Reunion" LP, recorded on April 3rd and 4th, 1978 at Tulsa Studios, released on the Flying Fish label, and featuring an amazing lineup of western swing all-stars: Johnny Gimble, Joe Holley, and Curly Lewis on fiddle, Eldon Shamblin, Don Tolle, and Roy Ferguson on guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Gene Crownover on steel, Wayne Johnson on sax and clarinet, Clarence Cagle on piano, Glenn "Blub" Rhees on sax, Ted Adams on bass, Claude Clemmons and Tom Montgomery on drums, John Thomas Wills (Johnnie Lee's son), and a cameo by O. W. Mayo, Johnnie Lee's manager and announcer and long-time owner of Cain's Ballroom. Steve Ripley produced the album, Jim Halsey was executive producer, and Bob Burwell was creative director.

The track list:

Side One: Silver Bells; Rag Mop; Memories of You, Dear; I Wish That Your Picture Was You; Four or Five Times; La Golondrina; Rosetta.

Side Two: South; If I Had Another Chance; In a Spanish Mission; Talkin' 'bout You; Whose Heart Are You breaking Now?; Milk Cow Blues; Goodnight Little Sweetheart.

(This album is part of my long-term aim to own every recording on which Eldon Shamblin performed. I would love to hear the albums made by the reunited Original Texas Playboys in the late '70s and early '80s.)

I haven't listened to the album yet. While I have a couple of turntables, one is older than this album and the other is nearly as old, and I haven't used either in over a decade -- probably closer to two. I have no idea if the belts or needles are any good, or where I'd get replacements if I needed them. I don't want to use this album as a guinea pig.

I remember that in college I had a Discwasher kit, which I used religiously before putting an album on the turntable. I have no idea if that product is still around or if it's even recommended anymore.

While I appreciate the special qualities of vinyl recordings, I'd really like to get this album into a digital format, so I can enjoy it on my MP3 player and in the car. My wife and I have other recordings that we'd like to hear again as well. Some of them, recordings of school orchestras and church choirs, are never going to be available from another source.

So I'd welcome advice, particularly from those of you in Tulsa, about sources for testing and reconditioning turntables, needles, cleaning methods and supplies, and digitizing vinyl records.

Please note that while I am a music lover, I am not an audiophile, so I don't demand an acoustically perfect experience. I have a high tolerance for scratches, warbles, and other artifacts of age and wear. I just want to hear the music.


Some time not too long ago, I watched The Blues Brothers. The movie is remarkable for bringing together great musicians from a wide variety of genres with some connection to the blues, including R&B, Soul, Big Band.

There's the scene early in the movie where the band plays the first gig after their reunion at Bob's Country Bunker, where they have both kinds of music -- country and western. The band soothes the savage country music fans in the bar by playing "Rawhide" and "Stand By Your Man."

During my recent viewing, it hit me what a wasted opportunity this was. Instead of introducing the Good Ol' Boys and adding them to the list of people who wanted Jake and Elwood dead, the scene might have highlighted the western side of the blues by bringing the Blues Brothers together with the Original Texas Playboys for a down-and-dirty rendition of "Blackout Blues," "Trouble in Mind," "Sittin' on Top of the World," or "Milk Cow Blues."

The Original Texas Playboys were actively touring and recording in the late '70s and early '80s, including several albums on Capitol. The Blues Brothers was released in 1980, so it could have happened, but for a lack of awareness of the blues roots of Western Swing.

But as an intriguing western swing what-if, it pales in comparison to "Can't Buy Me Faded Love."

UPDATE: Thanks to all who commented and e-mailed with helpful advice. Several of you pointed me to the many USB-capable turntables on the market. And then David Sims mentioned this CNET guide to turning vinyl LPs into CDs.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from December 2008.

Western Swing: November 2008 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: February 2009 is the next archive.

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