The Vinyl Experience

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“I don’t play anything in my house but vinyl.”

Local musician Tom Moore is not adverse to the listening options of the digital age. While on the go, he will bring along an iPod or other digital device for portable listening. He keeps CDs around for his car. At his house, however, the speakers are only projecting music from his record collection.

We were recently discussing the world of vinyl after Tom had come into possession of a large record collection left to him after the passing of his friend, Neil Raby. He recalled tales of venturing out with Neil to store after store so they could both add to their libraries. His friend would pick up an album based on as little as an interesting musician name or attractive album cover. Together, they would explore genres and expand their tastes, leading to a library that is today full of stories.

“I absolutely love it,” Tom said. “The ritual, there’s something about it that’s so special to me, pulling the record out of the sleeve, cleaning them, the turntable. And there’s nothing like the sound of vinyl.”

After collecting for so long, Tom is pleased to see the resurgence of the format. He remembers coming home to find his teenage daughter sitting by his turntable with records spread out around her. Now she has a record player of her own and regularly plays vinyl.

“She caught the bug,” he said, recalling his daughter and her friends digging into his collection. “That was very heartwarming to witness.”

IMG_1320Matt, the owner of Niles record store Rumor Has It, is also pleased with the renewed popularity of vinyl. He has purchased and sold records for many years, maintaining a store front for the last five years. He pointed out to me that during the 2015 holiday season, turntables were the number one home audio item sold on Amazon.com and was one of the top-selling of all products.

“Tables being sold means records being eaten up,” he said.

He says that high schoolers and young kids account for nearly half of his business now.

“They’re buying everything. They’ll get some swing music, they’ll get Sinatra. They’re just trying to build their collection and find fun music.”

He credits the physical experience of records for a large part of the resurgence. Customers are able to take home a tangible product with liner notes, cover art, and photography included. New albums released on vinyl will often include a poster and typically offer a free digital download of the same music, giving listeners the convenience of the modern age coupled with the hands-on experience.

We discussed the adventure of the hunt for older records. He described customers coming in and spending hours digging through his selection of used vinyl, often bonding with each other and telling stories of where and when they found a long sought album. I related it to my own experience as a comic book collector, knowing that I could find any item on my wishlist on the Internet, but waiting for the fun of going to stores and conventions to dig through the collections.

“If they can find what they’re looking for during the search, that’s much more satisfying than buying on Amazon,” Matt said.

Matt works to keep his used collection constantly revolving for his customers. He also works to bring in new music on vinyl that is not as widely available, knowing that fans of independent music, punk rock, and other less radio friendly genres are always in need for a place to buy their music.

IMG_1319He, along with record stores across the nation, will be working hard to create a special experience this Saturday, April 16th, for the successful annual event, Record Store Day. Exclusive artist releases, special editions, and in-store events will highlight the growing vinyl culture. In it’s ninth year, this celebration of music and independent record stores continues to grow. More than a single event, Record Store Day has become an important piece in a movement to revive a love for a deep music experience, with promotion and support continuing throughout the entire year.

You can find more information on Record Store Day, including a list of this Saturday’s exclusive releases, as RecordStoreDay.com. Matt keeps customers up to date on new released, promotions, and live events for Rumor Has It at facebook.com/RumorStore. You can keep up with the latest music from Tom Moore by visiting facebook.com/TheMooreBrothers.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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A Vinyl Story With Tom Moore

10982037_559180010891922_8083795043673093135_nTom Moore is known in the region as a roots-oriented musician, skillfully telling stories on stage with his harmonica, guitar, and vocals. Whether playing with Dave Moore as The Moore Brothers, in other groups, or on his own, Tom has a long history in the world of blues and Americana. In many ways, he’s responsible for my own exploration into the world of local roots music, whether during our earliest days of getting to know each other when he played the blues at the Woodfire in Dowagiac or showing me the magic of the historic Midway Tavern. Recently, after the passing of his longtime friend, Neil Raby, Tom started to tell me the tales of his own exploration of the world of music, framed around the record collection left to him by his departed friend.

“It’s a spectacular collection,” Tom said. “I knew pretty much every record in there. As time went on it had more of a personal quality to it. There’s a story behind every one of these records.”

Tom begins telling me the effect on his life of his friendship, what he refers to as “the Neil Raby phenomenon.” He described the first time he was aware of Neil, seeing him playing in a school basketball game when the two were young.

“He looked like a little version of Freddie Prinze,” Tom said. “He had this long mop of hair flying. He was all over the court. He was constantly yakking to his teammates, to the referees, to everybody. I was just like, what a character. Who is this guy?”

Some time later, Tom would have another encounter with Neil, riding his bike along the road on a hot summer day on a trip to a neighborhood where another friend lived, seeing him standing on the street corner.

“He’s got this immaculate white leisure suit,” Tom said. “He’s got a white beret on, sun glasses. He’s got these white gloves on and a cane and he’s standing there on a street corner with a girl on each arm. That’s the guy! I’ve gotta meet this guy!”

He soon would, meeting as Freshmen at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend. The two became fast friends, bonding over their shared interest in music. At the time, rock blues bands such as Led Zeppelin and Canned Heat were common in their playlists, but Neil was already exploring outside of the style, listening to the acoustic blues of Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins. Tom described the evolution of his taste in music, led both by Neil and by the record collections of the parents of their African-American friends.

“The sound was a little more stripped down, a little more scaled down,” Tom said. “Something about that really grabbed me.”

The pair, along with their peers, would find influences throughout their environment. Both their high school and the Town & Country Theater would bring in concert films featuring Woodstock, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, and The Rolling Stones. They would meet Perry Aberli, who started the Midwest Blues Festival and had connections to Chicago blues labels, going over to his house to hear records from Johnny Shines and Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss.

“I think for me, it was like ‘wow,’ that’s when music really started to get interesting,” he said.

He described the impact of seeing the same musicians live at festivals he was listening to at home. Neil especially had a habit of picking up the record for the musicians who would be coming to town. When the two went off to Ball State together, Neil’s collection really started to expand. They met another music aficionado, Jeff Harell, and the three would share a house together.

“We’d fall asleep listening to records and wake up listening to records,” Tom said. “He would spin records until three in the morning.”

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Both Tom and Jeff refer to Neil’s impact on their musical tastes as significant. Jeff described Neil’s collection as “a big education” and explained how it increased his awareness of the wide spectrum of blues music.

“He had such a well rounded collection,” Tom said. “It’s kind of like this blues museum.”

Neil never stopped collecting. In addition to vinyl, he had sets of concert posters and other memorabilia. He would move into the world of CDs and boxed sets, but as Tom said, “he always played his vinyl.”

Tom hopes to find a way to bring the joy of Neil’s collection and their stories to music fans. I will bring you more of those stories here in the future. You can keep up on Tom Moore’s latest projects, including an upcoming release from The Moore Brothers, by visiting facebook.com/themoorebrothers.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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The Moore Brothers

I spent Sunday morning hanging with Thomas and David Moore, of South Bend’s The Moore Brothers, recording an interview for an upcoming episode of Red Chuck Pod.

I first met Tom in the earliest days of my discovery of the local blues scene, in the grand old days of music and dancing at the Woodfire.  He’s long been a staple of the local music scene, keeping the blues rocking and the grooves rolling for over thirty years.

This was my first meeting with Dave Moore.  His skills go well beyond the guitar, as he spends he days as a teacher.  His teaching skills go beyond the social sciences.  He even has a YouTube channel featuring free blues guitar lessons.

The podcast ep will be hitting in May, but for now, check out two cuts from their recent album, Conspirement.

Liquor Jug- The Moore Brothers

Cruel Lovin’- The Moore Brothers

Special thanks to Dennis Wesolowski for taking the photos of the day.