• Original angel logo pressed into the backs of the Gramophone records.
  • 1920s Brunswick design
  • 1940s Brunswick design. This is a 1931 recording of "As Time Goes By" reissued to capitalize on the movie "Casablanca"
  • 1924 sampler record demonstrating Columbia's new 3-layer "noiseless" records
  • Late 1911 or early 1912 Gramophone Co recording of Enrico Caruso. Gramophone used different color labels for different artists. Caruso had three, including two shades of pink. This was released only a year or two after Gramophone began using the "His Master's Voice" logo.
  • Early 1920s Gramophone Co label.
  • I love this one
  • Aeolian-Vocalion started out as a piano manufacturer. In 1925, Vocalion was bought by Brunswick, which was bought by Warner Bros in 1930 and licensed to ARC, which was purchased in 1938 by CBS and became a subsidiary of Columbia. This is why collecting old records is confusing.

An era passed

Newer Older

This past weekend, I took time to indulge in a side hobby that I haven't had much time for lately: early audio recordings. The occasion was a melancholy one. Fine Groove Records, one of the finest and last independent music shops, is closing its doors after 26 years of peddling new and used music in Northfield, MN. I collared a friend who also collects 78rpm records and we spent the afternoon rifling through the shop's hundreds of shellac disks and LPs, searching for overlooked gems. (For me, my gems were a previously unknown to me Raymond Scott recording, an early Eartha Kitt record, a promotional double-disk interview with Laurie Anderson never released to the public, and the elusive second volume of Henry Mancini's music from "Peter Gunn" in mint condition. My friend hit a rich vein of Spike Jones recordings.)

Owner Brian KenKnight says that the decline of locally-purchased music, along with rising property taxes, caused him to make the decision. He told us that the vinyl collectors were still coming in, but his primary customer base of college students have turned more and more to digital downloading, both the legitimate and illegitimate variety.

Today's big, flashy, electronics stores have nothing on independant shops like Fine Groove. Brian can tell you the career history of almost any musician from the 1920s on. He's the kind of shop owner that actually listens to the stuff he sells and knows that if you like artist A that you might also like artist B. He keeps a pair of turntables behind the counter and will let you play something to see if you like it before you buy it. At Best Buy, you're lucky to get a sales droid who's aware that Thelonious Monk is not a rapper.

More than economic, the closing of Fine Groove will have a cultural impact on Northfield's Division Street. Fine Groove was a place to hang out and talk music with someone who knows and loves music, and you always came out feeling richer (in the spiritual sense) for having gone in. Independent business owners who are informed and enthusiastic about their products are few and far between these days.

In tribute to Brian and other indie music shop owners, here is a collection of record labels from days gone by. Though Columbia is still around, and Gramophone eventually became EMI, these are labels mostly forgotten by all but us who dig in thrift store boxes and dusty bins in hopes of finding that obscure folk song or Uncle Johnny Coons comedy routine.

sproutgrrl, minnetonkafelix, klckr, and 28 other people added this photo to their favorites.

  1. Roadsidepictures 78 months ago | reply

    Since I grew up with a Victrola in the house, many of these labels are familiar to me.

    It's sad to hear Fine Groove Records is closing. Sounds like a really fun place to hang out. Did you get a shot of the facade?

  2. Olivander 78 months ago | reply

    No, it's a rather unremarkable storefront.

  3. j. cleveland [deleted] 78 months ago | reply

    very cool

  4. minnetonkafelix 78 months ago | reply

    "Halleluiah" - Hit the Deck - now there are mixed emotions. thanks for the collage.

  5. The Retro-Spector 78 months ago | reply

    Sad to hear that any record store carrying 78s is closing, they're getting harder to find. Also, unless the business owner actually owns the building it's even tougher to keep these stores afloat with landlords increasing rents to unreasonable heights.

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called 78 rpm, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  6. klckr 78 months ago | reply

    No! Not passed yet!

  7. Olivander 78 months ago | reply

    So far as I know, no one is still manufacturing 78rpm records, and Fine Groove is definitely closing. So passed, yes.

  8. DuffyMoon 78 months ago | reply

    I just keep coming back to this, because it's just gorgeous. Very Jungian with all those mandalas.
    I really need to try out the 78rpm speed on my own player.

  9. photohappi 77 months ago | reply

    A very striking and fitting memorial! I too mourn the loss of independently owned businesses in favor of the big boxes and every town the same.

  10. formica [deleted] 76 months ago | reply

    oh, this is very sad. it looks like you got some excellent stuff too. what was the raymond scott record?

  11. cera979 70 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Eye for Design, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    A great collection...beautiful labels

  12. L. Lettiere 69 months ago | reply

    it will never end. great photo

  13. Usuckadonia [deleted] 67 months ago | reply

    Hi, I've used this photo here: usuckadonia.com/2009/10/27/the-emperor-reviews-new-music/ (The pic actually only shows up on the home page.) Please let me know if you have any objections. Thanks!

  14. Dan-D-Man2008 66 months ago | reply

    Do you KNOW????........Eugene Ormandy's first records were for CAMEO, as a violinist!

    That green label Brunswick is a Decca reissue.

    Aeolian-Vocalion began as a vertical-cut, or hill & dale grooved (like Edison) record company, since Victor had the patents for lateral recording.

  15. Phil's Phono and Photo 66 months ago | reply

    I probably have one of each of those brands. Somewhere.

  16. Xeontory 60 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Gallery of Electronics, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  17. MrLob 56 months ago | reply

    sad story but beautifully written and poignant. the same is happening in Australia and I feel a deep hole in my soul, everytime one of these stores disappears.

    I hope there will never come a day when people won't know what records are and the joy and beauty of listening to an album end to end...

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