Like so many people, Warren Carey of Tewksbury, Mass., didn’t get into record collecting with the intention of selling his vinyl. However, in time, his desire for more and different records prompted him first to trade his records, and ultimately sell them – doing business as Grandpa’s Records.
“I started selling records simply to pay for more records,” Carey said. “After 20-plus years, I started to trade second copies for different titles and even trade for recordings that I wanted using records I had become less interested in. This led to my selling, almost always to other collectors, and purchasing my needs directly rather than by bartering. So basically, my hobby became self-supporting but not profitable at that time.”
However, that’s changed as the years have gone on, as Carey has sold records to people
in every part of the U.S., in addition to Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands and other locales around the globe, gaining countless “followers” who know the place to go for vintage records is Grandpa’s Records.
“Now that I have over 150,000 45 RPMs and thousands of albums and 78s, I’ve become more active selling, in great part because of my age, family and the difficulty to properly store and maintain them,” said the father of eight, grandfather of 28 and great-grandfather of two. “When I turned 75, I ‘gave’ my collection to my 28 grandchildren, and now they receive the proceeds of the sales I make, thus the name ‘Grandpa’s Records.’ ”
The bulk of Carey’s sales come from word of mouth, requests from other collectors or other sellers and through ads in magazines. While he’s been to his share of record shows, he’s never attended any as a vendor. He attends more for the opportunity to meet new collectors and meet up with long-time pals of the record collecting community.
Of course, Carey’s deep appreciation for community isn’t limited to the record collecting world, although both have benefitted from the other. Growing up in Tewksbury in a family of 15 children, working as an electrical dispatcher for the power company for 32 years before being elected and serving as town treasurer for 17 years, and proudly serving (for nearly 57 years) as husband to Liz, the former Tewksbury town clerk of more than 25 years, Carey knows many people and, in turn, is known by many.
“You can bet we all let people know I was a collector, and many generous people gave me records they were disposing of,” Carey said.
In fact, Carey’s records and one of his daughter’s class projects has become a humorous
and popular story around town.
“As part of a grammar school class exercise on family, my youngest daughter included that her father had a collection of 50,000 45 RPM records (at that time),” he said. “(My daughter) was reprimanded by her teacher for exaggerating, and my wife had to write a note to explain it was a low estimate.”
Looking back on how things were when Carey first began collecting records, and where things are today, it can be summed up as similar, but different.
In Carey’s estimation and experience, the most significant changes in record collecting are: increased cost/prices, difficulty in finding desirable records and increased interest and number of collectors.
“I was very lucky to start close to the time that 45 RPM singles and 33-1/3 RPM albums were new to the market and available in appreciable numbers, 1949-1950, and also to pick up a lot of DJ/sample copies of singles,” said Carey, who paid just 10 cents a record when he first started collecting in 1953. “These demonstration radio station discs sometimes turned out to be the only available issue of some rare records that were never popular or had zero-to-minimal sales. At other times, they contained spoken introductions, interviews, some variation from the stock copy (including a different take from the final release) and later were the only single copies of cuts found on long play albums.”
With the longevity he’s had in the record collecting community, Carey continues to be amazed and excited by how it continues to evolve, such as major label albums of the ’60s and ’70s now often available at most flea markets in very decent condition for reasonably low money. This includes the likes of Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams on Columbia, to the Tijuana Brass on A&M. In addition, Carey also points out another positive trend: increased buying interest in 10-inch shellac 78 records, which were the standard for the first half of the 20th century and then phased out in the 1950s.
“This indicates to me that despite all of the new media devices and ways for the public to obtain and play music, records will still be collected after our generation has passed on,” he said.
To ask someone like Carey what his favorite record is may be a bit of a loaded question, but one that just begs to be asked.
“I can honestly say that I would have a problem cutting my list of favorite recordings to 500 and definitely not any lower, and my favorite artists picks would be around 100,” he said.
When he expounds on that answer, it is as much an insightful lesson into music history as it is an inspiring list of suggested artists to cast an ear to. He cites Louis Jordan as the major individual influence on changing pop music recordings to include rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll; credits Atlantic and Chess labels and many other small, independent labels of the 1940s and ’50s with changing musical tastes altogether. Plus, he calls out
Ray Charles, and, to a slightly lesser degree, Fats Domino as bridging the connection between some soul, R&B and country, while giving props to the Glen Miller Orchestra and Hank Williams for offering up game-changing records, before both of their lives were cut short at the peak of their fame. Last, but certainly not least, Carey lists Patti Page, Jo Stafford and Brenda Lee among his favorite female vocalists.
While a collection of 150,000 may leave some speechless, for Carey’s wife Liz, it’s simply part of their lives and always has been.
“Warren doesn’t drink, smoke or carouse, and his hobby as a record collector brings him much joy, so I am thankful for this. I sometimes go on his searches for records at various venues to keep him company,” said Liz, who met Carey in 1953 — the same year he started collecting records.
That’s not to say Liz doesn’t have any rules for storing the records, but they’re pretty simple – not under the bed and not in the dining room or living room areas – and Carey gladly complies.
“I fully support him in his endeavors because he is and has been a great family man, a good provider and friend to many. My advice to others is love and patience.”
Which is a wonderful piece of advice for all of us, in any situation.