Friday, January 24, 2014
Marva Whitney Live and Lowdown at the Apollo King 1969
I never thought I'd own an original copy of this LP. In fact, the reissue of this LP was on the short list to be purchased. Nevertheless, I stumbled across an original copy with a beat up cover (but, hey, the vinyl is in VG+ condition). Since I've spent a number of post gushing about Kansas City Soul Sister #1, Marva Whiteny, I thought I'd discuss the epic dig that brought this album to me.
First, I don't really eat lunch, I spend my lunch hour at thrift stores looking through LPs and various other things. I don't have much of a disposable income so I rarely venture into anything other than thrift stores, but about a week ago I happened upon Vintage Stock on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Shawnee, KS. If you haven't been to a Vintage Stock, it's not a great place to look for records, they are primarily focused on video games and DVDs. Each store has a rack of used LPs, they don't give people much for the used albums and I don't think that people with a pile of old LPs would even know the stores existed and buy LPs. I've found great stuff at their stores, usually because they had no idea what they were selling. However, they don't grade LPs and usually over price albums by well known groups.
Anyway, the only reason I walked into the store was because I had to go to the nearby grocery store to buy some bagels for my kids' lunches. I ventured in due to the proximity and looked at the 100 or so albums and was surprised to see an impressive Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa selection. The Cooper was all the early stuff, you know, Alice Cooper when it was still a band with a singer named Vincent Furnier, and the Zappa was a virtually every Mother's album with the exception of the first. They were all marked $6.99 and all the covers were beat to hell. Had they been in good shape or just a $1, I may have rounded out my early Cooper catalog and may have picked up some Zappa despite that I'm not really a fan. But, I left the store without making a purchase.
My dad however is a huge Zappa fan. Or least he is right now. I gave him a record player a year or ago and since then, he's been buying all sorts of albums. Zappa is his current obsession. So I called him on the way to the grocery store and said he needed to check out all this Zappa. He asked, "What albums are there?" I said, "I told you, everything but the first Mother's LP, I'm not kidding, it's pretty incredible that someone sold it all to Vintage Stock." He said he'd check it out.
That was on a Wednesday and by the weekend my dad still hadn't checked the store out. I don't know why but I kept bugging him about it. I think I just wanted someone else to discuss the strangeness of a video game store bringing in a large Zappa collection, even with conditions issues, I thought it strange that someone would have took it there for trade-in or cash.
By Sunday, I had kind of gave up on my dad going. However, I was cruising on Shawnee Mission Parkway with my youngest son hitting up my favorite thrift store and thought about it again. I texted my dad, who surprisingly called me right away. Immediately he started telling me how weird it was and asked if I had seen the stuff behind the counter. I had not. I asked what was behind the counter and my dad began to tell me a bunch of high priced reggae albums and jazz. He also explained that the guy working there had made the purchase when a guy came in with a box of records and asked for a $100 even. When the kid saw the Frank Zappa, he agreed and paid the guy what he wanted.
I hung up the phone and thought I should go check out the stuff behind the counter. Again, I really don't have a disposable income for records, so chances are no purchase would be made as most behind the counter records at Vintage Stock are at least $20. Since I was close, I went. The records were still up on the counter and not back in the case from when my dad had been there and started looking through them. $200 valued Big Youth reggae album, $100 to $200 valued Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane albums, Cro-Mags on ESP, and some other assorted rarities all for between $20 and $40. This was interesting, but most of the covers were pretty tore up and there wasn't anything I had to have. Further, due to condition and prices, there wasn't anything I would have felt comfortable trying to flip on eBay.
While I was there, I decided to look over the rack a second time. I had thought it'd be the same stuff I saw the last time. This is when shit got weird. I started looking through the rack and freaking out. Meters' albums for $10, more rare reggae for $10, free jazz, obscure jazz rock, there was no way one person should have owned this many rare records and treated them so poorly, the covers were tore up, but fuck, at these prices it was well worth it to pick up. As I was putting together a pile, I texted an old friend, "Call me." I continued looking and started seeing even better prices on more insanely rare albums. Called my friend and got no answer. Continued amassing a large pile of records to look through and check condition when I came across an original copy of Mara Whitney's Live and Lowdown at the Apollo. Out loud, in front of my two year old son, a lady looking at clearance DVDS, and the store employees I loudly said, "Holy shit!" Then I apologized and mumbled, "I really need this album, sorry." $4.99 they had it priced, $4.99! For an album that in VG shape you're going to spend over a $100 for the original item, this was a steal despite cover condition..
Carefully, I inspected the LP and it was so clean, just a few scuff marks from storage, nothing deep, nothing that would affect playback. I carefully put the album on top of my pile and took a quick a photo, I sent this photo to my friend that I had been trying to reach. After the photo sent, he called immediately.
I was stuttering I was so excited about all this when I said to him, "Dude, you need to get to KC, this is absurd."
"Where are you?" he replied.
"Vintage Stock on, on, on. Uh. You know, that place I hit up on lunch, Shawnee Mission."
"Oh, yeah, I'm actually in KC, what's there."
"That Marva Whitney album I sent you. Rare reggae, Augustus Pablo, Jazz, Alice Coltran, John Coltrane, it's just stupid."
"Okay," he said.
"Dude, I think I could spend like $200 and be happy about it." I said.
"Alright, I might go up there."
We hung up and continued the dig. After finding this Marva Whitney LP, I wasn't too concerned about a whole lot, if I only walked away with just this, it'd still be an epic trip. I gathered everything up and immediately started dropping out anything over $5. I got some rare jazz-rock, funk type stuff I'd be happy with at reasonable prices. Then grabbed every .99 album realizing that it had to be worth it just based on the collection I was looking at. Tossing back the Meters, a King Tubby album, and the Augustus Pablo hurt quite a bit, but believe me, I'm perfectly happy with stack of albums I did buy for $20.
I got out of the store, put my kid in his car seat and lit a cigarette up outside the car (it was that intense) and called the old man.
"Dad, seriously, what did you get? That was insane, that stuff was not out there when I told you to check it out."
"Uh, a few Zappa albums and some James Brown."
"You missed Marva Whitney, the stuff there was insane, you should have took some flyers on a few, you wouldn't have been upset. That collection should not be there."
Finished that conversation and then my friend called me.
"Did you go?" I asked.
"Well, what did you find?" He asked.
I went through some of the titles and he said, "Okay, I'm going." Later, I got a text from him saying simply, "Thanks."
Since then, a few others have been. All of them asking whoever sent them, "How could you pass on this?!" And each of us saying, "I had to stop at some point, I could have spent hundreds of dollars on rare albums with bad covers, but I had to cut it off at some point. Don't worry about me I got good stuff." We've even had debates on how such an amazing collection, with such amazing taste, ended up at a store that focuses on video games. The best we have come up with was they were from someone's estate who passed or a storage locker buy out. Just absurd to see and will likely be the most epic dig of 2014.
Marva's rendition of a classic, "Respect"