I’ve been working at Used Kids Records
in Columbus, Ohio for the better part of two years now. On occasion, I work the register while playing DJ to the people browsing in the store. A big part of our business involves buying (cash or trade?) used records. People come upstairs with their stacks and we name a price- titles and condition taken into consideration quickly. I’m honing this fine skill as the dust to mold fights for traction in my lungs.
Recently, a gentleman came up the steps with a crate of records. He wanted to know if it’d be worth hauling up the other four based on what he had in his arms. I took a quick look at them. We’ll call them thrift store records, stuff that doesn’t sell well for us, even at a buck. Most of it would be recycled (the jackets) as packing material for shipping orders. They looked to be in good condition though and he wanted some of them to have a shot at a home before a death in the dumpster. I made an offer. It’s funny how people who say “It’s not about the money” sing a different song when you name a figure lower than they expected. They’ve moved a decimal point into right-field-fantasy land. No one likes to get ripped off and I don’t care to be the ripper. To be honest, I probably overpaid by $5 (a manager mentioned this to me) based on what I saw and what they said about the records. Soon after, they left amicably with cash pocketed.
I started going through the records, making stacks of possible store stock. There was some Sinatra and Billie at best, lots of classical and some show tunes. Too much Al Hirt for anyone. Suddenly, the iconic art of a Blue Note Jazz LP showed its face. The manager picked it up.
“You may have saved your pants on that one,” he said. We laughed. A stroll to the computer and a few key strokes let us know it was valuable and would soon help the store make a healthy sale. We’d salvaged a piece of jazz history. Who could have known there was that rare winner hiding between the discards? We cleaned it up and played it. Donald Byrd’s Byrd in Flight soared over our heads as we worked along below.
Over dinner with my family last weekend I recalled the story, mostly to put my dumb luck on display. I also wanted to give an idea of what people and institutions are willing to pay for historically and culturally significant records. My Gram was reminded of something and began her own story.
“You know I did artwork for an album cover… your Uncle’s friends… you know, he was always very involved with everything music around here…”
I swore I’d heard the story before but probably didn’t give it the attention it deserved. With my recent immersion in everything records, my ears widened as Gram put more pieces in place.
“It was something, Autumn to Spring... Autumn to…”
“Wasn’t it From Autumn to May?” my mom said.
Gram had done the cover by hand, even the lettering. She also chose the colors.
“It was a light blue on one side and kind of a Chartreuse on the other” she said.
“What’s Chartreuse? Like a lighter pink?” my brother said.
“No no, no, Chartreuse is almost a lighter green” Gram said, almost offended.
I wanted to see her art. I started searching the web on my Brother’s iPhone, plugging in the clues.
“I bet you it’s on here” I said.
First a link on youtube displayed the title, Franklin & Hayes Autumn to May.
It wasn’t on Wikipedia. Next I did an image search and there it was; Gram’s art- vibrant and timeless. It looked perfect. Next to the image (see above) was a link to Ron Franklin’s (the Franklin part of the duo) blog
. I clicked. As it loaded I stepped to the middle of the floor then read his words verbatim.
“The album was called Autumn to May by Franklin and Hayes, a duo album with my high school friend Ann Hayes (see pic of us in Olmsted Falls park). We only made 1000 so they are pretty rare, but it’s listed in the Acid Archives, a catalog of independent vinyl records of the period, so it has became a minor collector’s item – one sold on eBay last year for over $500.”
“I’m famous!” Gram said.
We gathered around the iPhone, admiring in disbelief, our foreheads all almost touching in a Chartreuse glow.
“Look at how good I am!” she said.
It was true, she was good. My sister wanted one for her and her husband’s new home. It would hang adjacent from where we’d just eaten at the dinner table. A light green wall would host it well.
“A print out may have to do” she said.
I wanted it. I wanted to play it. I knew it was valuable, but I’m one for putting a few scratches down, making a path. I want the cracks and the pops while I get bean burrito juice on the liner notes (not too much). Gram remembered getting a call from a collector about it once. He’d seen her name credited on the record and hunted her down to try to get a copy. She tried to be helpful but couldn’t say if he’d ever succeeded. I loved the thought of pre-internet detective work, the way so many people take access to information for granted. A random phone call or a written letter seems like a distant concept with home keys always near by.
Some more research revealed that the release dates back to 1969. They were in high school at the time and based in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. The album was a private press release (funded by an individual as opposed to a commercial label), catalog number WR-1-69. It could be classified as late 60s folk with pop-psych leanings, especially in the sometimes-moody girl/guy harmonies. It didn’t sound too psychedelic to me. I can’t see Olmsted Falls lending too many trippy vibes. On a Collector’s Frenzy (high end vinyl record auction site) the players are listed as ‘ron franklin-guitar/vocals, tobe finney-guitar, craig baker-bass, tim collins-bass, dennis olic-guitar, ralph jocke-drums, greg funk-congas & ann hayes-vocals… produced by bob wenning out of Cleveland Ohio…’ Along with Franklin & Hayes limited and only LP, The Acid Archives (Patrick Lundborg 2006) documented and reviewed 4,000 underground LPs from the US and Canada between the years 1965–1982.
Maybe it’s time to start scouring the thrift stores in Northeast Ohio. If I found one I’d give it to Gram. Maybe there’s one in a garage or a basement sopping up rain water. Maybe I’ll just wait for another crate to come bumbling up the steps, ragged with someone’s history, ready for new fingerprints.