By Eddie Estrada
It’s a monster!”
A good friend from New York City — with a pronounced New York accent — used to tell me this when he found an expensive rarity. Most finds that I’ve picked up over the years have been obscure Doo-Wop groups and Blues. Many of my favorites presented themselves when I least expected them, as is undoubtedly true with most serious collectors.
I started collecting in earnest around 1972. One of the first rarities was a record titled, “Together,” by the Flames on the 7-11 label, backed with “Run Pretty Baby.” I got this from a guy in El Sereno who liked to say, “Eddie, this record is stone to the bone.” The 7-11 label was a subsidiary of the legendary Aladdin label, and anything on this label is rare, as they released only seven or eight records altogether.
The Flames were the Holly-wood Flames, the Hollywood Four Flames, the Jets, and many other names, with members such as Bobby Bird, who did “Rockin’ Robin,” Dave Ford and Gaynel Hodge. Any serious collector of Doo-Wops runs this group.
Another great find was Vee Jay #280, “For Your Precious Love,” by the great Jerry Butler & the Impressions on the Brown label. This was the true first before the Falcon and Abner labels recorded it. No one knows for sure why these labels came later — maybe for distribution. But one thing is for sure, when I found this copy in VG+ condition in a record shop for $5, I was stoned to the bone. At this time, there were only two or three known copies.
One more great find was the Ravens’ “Count Every Star” on the National label 9111. This record is extremely rare in Mint-condition. The copy I found looked like it was never played. It was gor-geous. How I found this was even more amazing.
I was coming back from the recycling lot on a late Saturday afternoon. I was around four blocks from my house when I saw a yard sale sign. I figured, what the hell, it’s late in the day — probably nothing. As it turned out, the owner had died, the house was for sale and there were no records there, but the nephew across the street had a garage full of records. The rest is history. The Ravens record on 45 came out around 1950, actual year should be here, not “around” when 45s were new and very rare. And, the Ravens are considered one of the first R&B groups known as the Bird group era — the Orioles, Crows, Larks, Flamingos — came out in the early ‘50s.
I’ve had many great finds, but there are many more great finds out there. That’s what makes this hobby so terrific. It’s the thrill of finding those rare gems and the feeling you’re holding a piece of history — and of course, the sheer joy of listening to some of the greatest music of that era. Plus, the monetary value of these rare finds is priceless. This makes no sense.
Have a happy vinyl year.