WHAT ABOUT COMPETITION? Frankly, there wasn’t much there, and what had come before wasn’t to be feared! The first price guide to take on the field of rhythm & blues—at least that I was aware of—was another O’Sullivan Woodside guide by Jerry Osborne and Bruce Hamilton. This was followed by Jeff Kreiter’s self-published guide for group collectors.
Published by O’Sullivan Woodside in 1980, Blues/Rhythm & Blues/Soul was a hodgepodge of exactly what the title said: blues records and rhythm & blues records and soul records. While almost all of the artists were black, that’s about all they had in common—at least to record collectors. The problems with the book were many, the biggest was a lack of focus.
Remember two things while you are reading this:
1. I am trying to describe the environment in which I conceived my blues and rhythm & blues book twenty years ago.
2. I am glossing over the genres of music below, assuming the reader has some knowledge of the difference between blues and soul music.
Blues vs group vocal vs soul
Guys who collect straight blues singles, collect just that: one person singing, usually with a guitar, rarely with any kind of ensemble backing. Many of the most collectable blues records are 78s of pre-WWII vintage. Group vocals and uptempo music with bands backing the singer are usually not on their radar. 1
On the opposite end are the group vocal aficionados: these guys collect mostly 4-part and 5-part vocal groups with a rhythm & blues-based sound. The records they seek are usually 45s from the early ’50s. In fact, if a desired record first came out on 78 and was followed by a 45 (same record company, same label, similar catalog number), the second press 45 is often more desirable and valuable!
Soul music is generally associated with the ’60s and the guys who collect blues from the ’30 and ’40s and the guys who collect group vocal records from the ’50s rarely ever get interested in even listening to, let alone collecting, soul singers!
Covering slow blues, ballads and uptempo numbers by vocal group vocals, rock & roll, and soul, Blues/Rhythm & Blues/Soul satisfied almost no one.
Group Collector’s Record Guide
The other price guide appeared in 1995: Jeff Kreiter’s 45 RPM Group Collector’s Record Guide was self-published and looked at felt it. As the title indicates, the book listed 45s of both black and white vocal groups from the ’50s and the ’60s. These records are referred to by many names:
• group vocal records
• vocal group records
• r&b group records
• doo-wop records
There are a few others that were bandied about decades ago but are rarely used today. The ideal record in this genre is a ballad on a 45 recorded in the early ’50s by a 5-part, harmonizing black group. But as the hobby grew, 4-part groups were accepted as normal and, eventually, even some white groups found their way into the genre (for some collectors, not all).
Kreiter’s 45 RPM Group Collector’s Record Guide only lists records with at least one ballad; records with uptempo numbers on both sides are not included. Which is fine: the field is specific and the book meets a need. 2
The problem that many collectors had with the early editions was that the author would not assign values beyond a certain number. That is, Kreiter assigned a peak value which he would not go beyond. Consequently, any record listed with the book’s top value could be worth merely that value, or many times that value!
For example, if he set his peak value at $500, then $500 records would be listed with that value.
And $1,000 records—of which there are a great many in the field—would be listed with that value.
And $5,000 records—of which there are a several in the field—would be listed with that value.
For some records, he wisely listed them merely as Negotiable.
See the problem?
45 RPM Group Collector’s Record Guide was (and is) a labor of love and a very important and valuable book. But I didn’t see it as competition, even though there would be overlapping with mine. Because I intended to place real—and very realistic—current market values on all those “negotiable” records. 3
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was the most attractive pile of old 45s that I could find on the Internet and lift. Aside from making the page more attractive, it has no real relevance to the article.
1 Due to the nature of the field, serious blues collectors collect original 78s first and foremost, as that was the only medium made available to them until the mid 1950s. As most blues records were purchased by black families, and few black families at that time could afford to buy a new record-player (one that played 45s), these records were always pressed as 78s and then later some were pressed as 45s, especially if they sold well.
2 45 RPM Group Collector’s Record Guide is currently in its ninth edition and still going strong!
3 While this may sound unbelievable to many readers, it wasn’t that big of a deal with most of the group vocal collectors. Few of them would ever see the really rare records, so who cared what Kreiter or Osborne or even that upstart Umphred said they were worth!