A record lover's guide to Detroit
Remember those funny looking black frisbees you found in grandma's basement and threw across the room? Those were records.
There are people who still buy and listen to records, too. But they don't want your grandma's Bing Crosby albums. Nobody does. And you might as well toss out grandpa's Time Life
big band box sets because nobody wants those, either.
You never know, though. There might be something worthwhile in granny's attic...
To a certain subculture, searching through stacks of records is a compulsive hobby and a darn good time. We'll call them dorcus musicum
. You know, record people, vinyl junkies, crate diggers. They feel a thrill when their dogged determination yields a long sought-after classic album or single.
Helping them get their kicks are independent record stores.
In 2007, a handful of music store owners decided to create a day celebrating independent record stores. Since then, Record Store Day, (always on the third Saturday of April, this year April 19) has become an international phenomenon. Limited edition releases are distributed to independent stores around the world and eager music fans gobble them up.
In Detroit, however, every day is record store day. The city has been Mecca for soul music fans since Motown's golden years in the 1960s, but Detroit's wealth of musical riches extends across genres, including jazz, rock, punk, techno, and hip hop. You'll find records of all of these genres in the city's stores.
Here's a sampling of some of the best record stores Detroit has to offer.
Peoples Records 4100 Woodward Ave. | (313) 831-0864 | Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Owner Brad Hales started Peoples Records in 2003. His limitless enthusiasm and knowledge of Detroit music are what have kept the store going strong for over 10 years. A major destination for soul music fanatics around the world, Peoples specializes in funk, soul, and R&B with a huge selection of hard-to-find 45 rpm singles. Hales' commitment to the local music community is deep. You never know when a Detroit music legend might walk through the door.
Peoples primarily sells used vinyl. Hales is unimpressed with the Record Store Day phenomenon, calling it a "manufactured entity, like Sweetest Day." That's okay because People's everyday prices are a steal.
Plan on giving yourself some time to dig through 45s. The wide selection of Soul and jazz LPs is priced to move. Hales mentioned a few essential and affordable favorites.
"Yusef Lateef's album Detroit
is a great record that you can still find for $10," says Hales. "The songs 'Belle Isle' or 'Eastern Market' -- it's like being there when you hear them. That record is a life-long friend."
- Donald Byrd, Places and Spaces
- Yusef Lateef, Detroit
Recommended 45 rpm singles:
- New Holidays, "Maybe So, Maybe No"
- Belita Woods, "Magic Corner"
If you can't get enough rare soul in your life, then check out the monthly Ann Arbor Soul Club
(hosted by DJs Hales and Breck T. Bunce) and the recently reinstated Motor City Soul Club
(hosted by Dan Austin and featuring Hales).
The people at Peoples aren't total antiquarians. Check out the mixes they post on Soundcloud
Hello Records 1459 Bagley | (313) 300-5654 | Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m.
Owned by Wade Kergan, Hello Records
opened in Corktown in 2009. The neighborhood store offers a diverse selection of music. Roughly equal amounts of space are devoted to jazz, rock, and soul LPs, 45s, and hip-hop and dance 12" records. The vast majority of records are used, but Kergan also curates a small, choice selection of new and reissued dub, reggae, and psychedelic music from around the world.
"It's nice to be a part of a neighborhood with such a deep history," says Kergan. "Record stores by nature bring in some colorful characters. Today I watched a guy on the corner have a solo boxing session and it looked like he was losing."
Hello Records does not offer official Record Store Day releases, but all used LPs will be sold at half price on Saturday.
This year, Hello will be hosting live DJ sets from Detroit legends Wajeed, DJ Dez, and Black Milk starting around 2 p.m. Quite a lineup!
Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations while shopping at Hello. Kergan listed a few new currently available favorites:
- Moodymann, S/T (KDJ label)
- Tronics, What's the Hubub Bub
- Jay Daniel, Karmatic Equations
- Barrington Levy, Murderer
- Cirkutry, EPI
Record Graveyard 2610 Carpenter St., Hamtramck | (313) 870-9647 | Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Operating since 2000, Jeff Garbus' Record Graveyard is a Hamtramck institution. Located in a quaint neighborhood storefront on Carpenter Street, the inside is larger than you'd expect. And it's chock-full of goodies.
Garbus described the store as "just like home."
"It's kind of hidden, but people like hidden gems," he says.
Like most Detroit stores, affordable used vinyl is the store's focus, but Garbus stocks some well-curated new releases, too.
Diversity is key here, with lots of bins to look through full of used rock, soul, and jazz. Garbus' collection of 50s cheesecake pin-up album covers on the wall add to the classic record store vibe. His love of old jazz is evident with plenty of classic 60s Blue Note and Prestige label albums for sale -- great news for jazz fanatics for whom it is increasingly difficulty to find these recordings today.
Here are a few choice cuts buried in the Graveyard (Don't worry. You won't have to dig too deep to strike gold):
- Don Cherry, Brown Rice
- Eric Dolphy, Last Date
- Black Uhuru, Showcase
- The Gories, The Shaw Tapes
Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis, Kooper Session
Detroit Threads 10238 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck | (313) 872-1777 | Mon.-Tues. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Wed. 1-7 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Detroit Threads is another Hamtramck institution. It has been an important contributor to Detroit's techno scene since it opened in 1998, but Detroit Thread's owner Mikel Smith has been throwing parties, DJ'ing, and loving techno way before there was jack.
Crate after crate is filled with new and used electronic dance music. Add to that a huge selection of used lps, singles, and great vintage clothes.
Smith prominently displays Detroit techno labels such as Monty Luke's Black Catalogue, Kyle Hall's Wild Oats, Theo Parrish's Sound Signature, and Mike Huckaby's recent re-issues of impossible-to-find classics from his back catalogue. This music is hot and often flies out the door.
"During last year's festival (Detroit's annual Movement
), Kyle Hall dropped off a box of records of new releases, and before I even had a chance to put them out, they were gone. I had to call him back and ask him to bring some more," says Smith.
One of the only Detroit record stores selling larger quantities of new releases, Smith actively takes part in Record Store Day and will have the limited releases people stand in line for. He's been throwing a Record Store Day party for several years now with his friends from Detroit Techno Militia spinning all day (check out the DJ lineup
Photos by Marvin Shaouni www.marvinshaouni.com
Glen Morren is a musician, writer, and chronicler of Detroit artists.
Disclaimer: Glen is the record sleeve repairman specialist at Hello Records, where he has worked for several years.