In honor of this weekend’s 4th annual Record Store Day, here’s an audio morsel from my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA: My interview with Jerry Weber, owner of Jerry’s Fine Used Records. With more than a million LPs and almost a million 45s in stock, it’s one of the largest all-vinyl music stores on Earth. Paste magazine named it one of the 17 coolest record stores in America. It’s also a business run with integrity. Remember those?
Jerry’s been selling used vinyl for over 33 years. And his philosophy has always been the same: to buy records from people who don’t want them, and then make them available, as cheaply as humanly possible, to those who do. Most of Jerry’s inventory is priced under five dollars. If he approves of your music selections, he might knock off a few bucks more. Even as a broke college kid I could always afford to stop by Jerry’s and take a chance on a few LPs. I don’t know exactly how much of my own record collection was purchased there, but a low estimate would be, oh, 99 percent.
Jerry refuses to sell records on ebay. He scoffs at record labels selling new vinyl records for $20 or $30 dollars a pop. All of that stuff, in his words, “is ruining the hobby.” He’d rather make a humble living serving fellow music-lovers than gouging them.
Are you getting the picture? Jerry Weber should be President of the United States. Or the President’s Chief Economic Advisor. Or at least he belongs on the Presidential seal, a replacement for the bald eagle, clutching record needles instead of arrows and a stack of LPs instead of an olive branch.
I taped this interview with Jerry at his store last fall. In it, he tells me how records can help homeowners save on winter heating bills, details his master plan for the nation’s failing car dealerships, remembers the day he gave away tens of thousands of records for free, and plays me an ultra-sweet tune from an ultra-rare album by 60s soul group The Sapphires, which I’ve included here in its scratchy, lo-fi entirety.
Also included is a brief interaction between Jerry and his first customer of the day: a very odd and very happy regular named Frank. Listen for the part where Frank asks how much he should pay for his selections. “What do you wanna give me, Frank?” asks Jerry. I truly believe he would’ve taken any amount Frank offered, down to, like, pennies. Frank walked away with a couple of albums, one of them a three-disc set, for five bucks.
Happy Record Store Day.