A Sure Thing Bites the Dust

THE BOOK EVERYONE WANTED—the book that buyers and sellers of col­lec­table records re­galed me to publish—was a price guide on rhythm & blues group-vocal 45s of the ’50s. Often re­ferred to as ‘doo-wop’ music, it was per­haps the most pas­sion­ately col­lected of all music (along with Japanese jazz collectors).

The mostly white guys in New York City who started hunting the re­ally ob­scure and rare records back in the early ’60s can be ar­gued to be the first modern record collectors—but that’s an­other story.

De­spite how long these records had been col­lected and talked about, the ac­tual values of even the merely mod­estly rare and de­sir­able num­bers were only known to a small group of aficionados.

The need for such a book was ob­vious. In fact, O’­Sul­livan Wood­side had at­tempted to meet that need with a book ti­tled Blues/Rhythm & Blues/Soul (1980) that somehow ig­nored most of the doo-wop records—along with rare records in general.

 

As the first printing of The Umphred Guide to Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s was for an ad­vanced, lim­ited edi­tion, it did not have fin­ished cover art­work. In­stead, it looked like this: I hand-stamped “Ad­vance Copy” on each book. For more on the whys and what-fors of this book—and the cur­rent wheres of the re­maining copies—you’ve come to the right place: Monaural Press.

Fifteen years of planning

So I started plan­ning just such a book in 1986 when I was still with O’­Sul­livan Wood­side and thought the fu­ture there was rosy. I con­tinued wishing hoping praying for an op­por­tu­nity to do such a book when I was writing all the Gold­mine books in the ’90s when I thought the fu­ture there was rosy, too.

But when I left the con­fines of Gold­mine, I set about re­al­izing such a book, and started Monaural Press with the in­ten­tions of building a pub­lishing em­pire. (Hah!)

Need­less to say, that did not happen

Nor is it likely to in this life.

And I’ll tell you why on this blog—eventually.

 

The phrase “what about the Jets on Gee” was some­thing I heard over and over again while putting the final touches on The Umphred Guide to Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s. To find out more about this story and the rather rare record at its center, you’ve come to the right place: Monaural Press. (The record pic­tured above is a reproduction.)

Domain name registration

I reg­is­tered the do­main name ‘monauralpress.com’ four years ago and have been paying an an­nual fee to keep that name. As I can hardly af­ford to kiss any good money away, I’m putting this do­main to use: Monaural Press (the blog) will be an on­going work-in-progress.

As this blog is a small cog in my blog-building em­pire (Hah!), I will pay it some at­ten­tion every now and then, keeping up some kind of nar­ra­tive about my ideas for the book that I even­tu­ally pub­lished, the re­sponses of the col­lecting com­mu­nity when they be­came are that I was near pub­li­ca­tion, get­ting the book to the printer—and this was way be­fore print-on-demand (POD) was more than an idea—and what hap­pened after re­ceiving my ini­tial ship­ment of books from the printer.

In Sep­tember 2001.

(…)

And I will end here with what I hope is a pause (the el­lipsis) preg­nant with possibility.

 

You may be thinking, “What in tar­na­tion is a base­ball card—and a re­ally old one at that!—doing in this ar­ticle?” Read on, dear reader.

Reading the blog posts

I’m writing the story of making my book, Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s, more or less chrono­log­i­cally. And chrono­log­i­cally is how you might want to read these posts—as they were first pub­lished. It will make more sense that way and lawdy Miss Clawdy but we do need more sense in this world!

1. an­other one bites the dust and fails

2. you’d be wasting your time and mine but I didn’t mind

3. the com­pe­ti­tion I faced in others’ books

4. heaven above me—it’s the jets on gee!

5. damn the naysayers! full speed ahead!

6. knocking the socks off the nat­tering naysayers

7. al­cohol and jake blues and col­lecting re­ally rare records

 

FEATURED IMAGES: The full-color pho­to­graph that at the top of this page is of an aban­doned printing press found in the ar­ticle “The Cranston drum-cylinder single-revolution news­paper press.” The gray-toned image at the top of this page is an en­graving of Guten­berg in­specting one of the books he pub­lished. Guten­berg made the rare and priv­i­leged skill of reading into some­thing that any man, woman, or child—meaning you and me and a few bil­lion others—could learn and enjoy!

If you have sug­ges­tions or ques­tions for me here at Rather Rare Records that you do not want posted pub­licly, this is the place to post them:

Contact me

Fi­nally, if you have a col­lec­tion of records or re­lated col­lec­tables that you want to sell, please let me know as I might be in­ter­ested in buying them!