Someone on Facebook recently posed the question, “What was the first record you ever bought?” I immediately remembered what it was.
It was a record by The Osmonds called, “Crazy Horses.” I saw it in a wire display rack at the Shurway Grocery Store in Ashdown, Arkansas, and it was .67 cents.
The reason I remember the cost is because someone had stamped the price on the record sleeve with one of those ink pricers that they used to use to put the cost of groceries on each item.
If you think back, you’ll likely remember the grocery boy on one knee on the side of a grocery aisle adjusting the numbers on the pricing device he kept in his back pocket. He would stamp the price on a can of peas as he pulled each can from a box on the floor and then put them, label facing the front, on the shelf.
I worked at a Piggly Wiggly and a Big Star grocery store, so I can tell you that those who work in a supermarket today have no idea how lucky they are that someone invented bar codes.
But, I digress.
The Osmonds were a popular group of brothers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When I saw that record in the carousel, I told my mom that I just had to have it. I’d saved my money from working at Mr. Bill’s bait shop (I wasn’t old enough to work in a grocery store at that point) and I was willing to part with some of my cash to get that song.
The only obstacle (and I knew that it would be a big one) was whether my dad was going to let me use the big console stereo that he and mom had just bought from the local furniture and appliance store.
It was a big, RCA stereo that had sliding doors on the top and speakers in the front. If you slid the left door open, there was a record player and an AM/FM radio with a round dial to change the stations. If you slid the right door open, there was an 8-track tape player.
When I was growing up, there were some things in every home that were just off limits to kids. And new, nice, hi-fi systems were on that list.
That RCA was more than just a music system; it was a really nice piece of furniture. Back then, things like that were still made in America and the quality was very good.
So, some kid with an Osmonds record wasn’t likely to get permission to hear “Crazy Horses” on it. But, I was willing to take my chances.
I had my own record player, but most of the vinyl I had to listen to were things like Danny Kaye telling stories of far away lands, or some second-hand Disney record with a guy doing a bad Mickey Mouse impersonation.
Heck, I was growing up. I was an Osmonds fella now.
“No, you can’t use the new stereo to listen to that,” my dad said when we got home.
“Told you,” my mom added.
Ugh. I had a great new 45 that was the latest hit on the radio and all I could listen to it on was some rinky-dink record player with a plastic lid and one speaker.
It would have to do.
But, time changes things, and as I got older, my parents began to trust me with more things. One day when I had some friends coming over, I asked if we could listen to our records on the RCA. I was surprised to hear, “Yes.”
We listened to all of the latest records that day, and they sounded absolutely great.
The big console stereos always had a sound that no other music system has had before or since.
Anyone whose parents or grandparents had an RCA, Magnavox, Zenith, Philco, or other hi-fidelity console system knows what I mean.
After that day, I would buy 45-rpm records when I could afford them and I’d stack the player in my parents’ console stereo and hit play. I’d then lie down on my back on the floor with my head between the speakers and listen to every one of them until I heard the needle lift and return to its base, and then, “Ka-Chunk.” The turntable turned itself off.
Time passed and the turntable, the 8-track, and the console stereo fell out of favor. Jam boxes and other smaller, more portable, systems became popular. Console stereos became a frequent sight at yard sales.
You almost couldn’t give them away.
A few years ago, younger people rediscovered vinyl. I’m not sure exactly how that happened, but I’m glad that it did. They’re actually making new vinyl records again, and record players are also being manufactured.
Vinyl records are the only music medium that’s actually growing in sales.
As good as the new Bose Wave Radios and other music systems sound, and they do sound really good, they will never be able to replicate the feeling of lying on the floor with your ear next to the speakers of a console stereo and hearing your favorite records.
From the time the needle first hits the beginning of a record until the last track plays and you have to get up and flip it over to hear side B, there’s truly no substitute for experiencing the music of our youth on a console stereo.
And even though they’re making record players again, I’ve yet to see a new console on the market. That means if you want one, you’ll have to find an old one that still works.
I’ve kept some of my records, so I have enough vinyl. And as far as a big RCA stereo, I have just the spot for it. I just have to find one and then convince my wife that we need it.
I have a feeling that she’s going to tell me to hold my crazy horses.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.