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The peculiar, obsessive world of 78 Record Collectors

Music journalist Amanda Petrusich on 78 RPM collectors has shaped our understanding of 20th century music.
Music journalist  Amanda Petrusich joins guest host  Stephen Quinn to discuss the obsessive world of 78 RPM record collectors, their ongoing search for authenticity, and how the interests of these largely white, male collectors has skewed our understanding of 20th century music history. 

  "Listening to a 78 now is a challenging experience, there's a lot of surface noise, they're crackly, they sound like they've been buried under six feet of dirt and are being broadcast from underground," Petrusich says, "They're tough to listen to at first, there's a bit of a learning curve." 


  In her journey into the world of 78s, Petrusich discovered music in a way she never had before. Her previous relationship with music, she says, had become "overwhelmed and underinvested." 

  "It focused the listening experience," Petrusich tells Stephen, "It forced me to sit down and listen more carefully and listen differently than I had grown accustomed to." 

Always needing that next hit

  Petrusich also stumbled upon a kind of collecting that she said was comparable to an addiction, where collectors were always needing to get their hands on the that next hit. 

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  "They tend to talk about their collecting as a disease, it's a thing that has consequences on their lives often. There's a lot of failed relationships, there's a lot of mismanaged financial resources, there's a lot of time and energy that gets put into the hunt and into the preservation of these records." 


  Petrusich's experience researching 78 records has turned her into a fan herself and reconnected her to a medium she holds dear. 

"Music had given me so much in my life and here were these collectors that were really fighting, dedicating, and making sacrifices to both collect and also to save this music that was in danger of being lost."

That grand old sound

  Here's a great bit of music that only hints at what is still out there: a track by Willie Brown -- a contemporary of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Son House. He recorded 6 songs with Paramount in 1930, but only  Future Blues (and it's flip side  M & O Blues) has been found. 

  Spin Future Blues in the window embedded below.
     

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