The Vinyl Kid

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Forty-Three

Just a few days ago, I took a trip back in time. Of course, that is nothing unusual for me. I became the first person to open a package wrapped fifty years ago. Next week, I’ll share with you what that was.

A person under the influence of a foreign substance once told me she had taken a trip and never left the couch. I have the uncanny ability to do the same thing without the use of anything other than my imagination. All I have to do is pick up a book, and I can travel to places that don’t even exist, both in the past, present, future, and to a time that never was or will be.

But one thing has always taken me back in time—vinyl records.

I could have been called “the vinyl kid”, for it seemed a lot of things in my life were made from vinyl—the upholstery on our living room furniture and car interiors. Many of my very favorite memories come from countless hours spent listening to vinyl records. Lots of kids today have no experience with 33 1/3 RPM (revolutions per minute) vinyl records, though they and retro turntables are making a comeback. Perhaps the best way to describe a vinyl record is as “an antique CD” (though perhaps CDs are also becoming outdated).

I can barely remember my half-brother Jerry having a portable turntable. I must have been fascinated by it, for my dad went to Shoffner’s Furniture and Appliance and bought a new living room suite, a wringer washing machine, and a small cabinet model stereo with red fabric covering the speaker vents on either side. The floor model stereo was so small that I could stand and watch the records turn as they spun on the turntable. Dad was obviously afraid that I would tear up the stereo, for he had Irby Monroe make a pedestal for it.

I remember missing being able to watch the labels spin, but I could still hear the music. My dad borrowed some records of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys from my sister Icy Madeline (Pat) McMurray. He borrowed others from her that I didn’t particularly care for, and I was no fan of Bill Monroe, either (though, praise God, I later came to see the light on that one).

Mother did order a mail order recording of which I was particularly fond. It was a Columbia® Special Products record with a red, white and black label simply entitled “18 All Time Country Hits”. The cover still bears traces from when I colored all around the pictures with a red crayon. I am looking at it as I write this article, though I still to this day have it memorized. I had Mother play that record so many times for me that it almost sickened her to hear it until her dying day.

I memorized every word of every song and would sing for anyone who would listen. I once performed for our landlord, Kenneth “Buck” Buckner. I told him when I finished, “Most people pay me to sing.” He laughed and paid me the only money I really remember receiving for my vocal abilities, one quarter. I’d probably get more money now from people paying me not to pollute the sound waves with my noise.

The record had one selection considered by the compiler to be the greatest recording for each of the eighteen country music stars popular in the 1960s. Side 1 led off with Marty Robbins’ “A White Sport Coat”. Not to be left out were two of Union County’s greatest singers, Roy Acuff’s “Wabash Cannonball” and Carl Smith’s “Foggy River”. Another personal favorite of mine was Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight”.

All was well until Dad had a stroke episode and had to quit working with Irby Monroe in maintenance for the Union County Schools. Mother never forgot the day that Rina Shoffner came to the door inquiring for payment for his merchandise. She said that he said he hated to take the washing machine “away from you and the boy”. It was arranged with my sister Ruby Foulks and her husband Buddy that they would take over the payments, but in the process they also acquired the stereo. Life was lonely without music for a few years, until December, 1971. That’s when Dad came home with an olive green, portable RCA™ turntable. Until 1983, when my mother bought me a Quasar™ stereo from Hobert Brown, that turntable became my best inanimate friend. Now, I could once more sing along with Marty, Patsy, Carl, Roy and the rest!

Dad also brought home something more valuable than the turntable—five used Chuck Wagon Gang records. He once again bought the turntable from Rina Shoffner, but I never knew where those wonderful Chuck Wagon Gang records came from. For many years, those records along with the hymns at church composed my musical repertoire. We acquired a few other records along the way, but everything always came back to those five records.

A classmate once asked me who my favorite singers were. When I told him “The Chuch Wagon Gang,” he began to, as the scriptures say, “Laugh me to scorn” (Psalms 22:7 KJV).

When I began dating my wife, I had a stack of perhaps fifty record albums. She introduced me to the wonderful worlds of Goodwill and KARM, and I now have over twenty feet of shelves loaded with records. It is now a hobby to try to find a Chuck Wagon or George Beverly Shea record that I don’t have.

Time has passed, friends have come and gone, the cabinet model stereo and olive turntable are long gone. The Quasar™ stereo remains, though the turntable only produces sound from one speaker. Other turntables from vintage sales and stores now elicit the wonderful sounds heard all throughout my life, though a great many of the voices they project have been stilled by death. Yet the vinyl records remain, stalwart in life as the God of which so many of them sing.

A good record is like a friendship, the better it is cared for the longer it will remain and the sweeter music it will produce, even if there is the occasional scratch or skip along the way. You can keep reading if you wish, but I hear one of my friends calling me just now.

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