This post was originally written and published by Egon on September 23, 2008.
I chose to attend college in Nashville, Tennessee because I knew that I’d be able to spend my spare time searching for rare records in a city where competition was nil. Well, that’s not exactly true – there were really ahead-of-the-curve collectors, like Chad Phillips, who I would later collaborate with on the Kid Robot Madvillain and Quasimoto toys for Stones Throw, and there was Doyle Davis, who hosted a great show on Vanderbilt’s WRVU FM called “D-Funk,” and there was Count Bass D who, besides Doyle, was probably the only person I had met to date that had found a copy of David Axelrod’s Songs of Innocence in the field. But, with the knowledge I’d received from a great many teachers in the Northeast prior to my arrival, I felt uniquely equipped to search out, say, regionally released 45s by the likes of Joe Lee and Eddie Bo in 1997.
And there were just so many places to get the goods: the rarer of the two issues of The Cult’s The Mail Must Go Through literally fell into my hands at Phonoluxe Records. Phillip, if I remember his name correctly, threw it there, telling me that he knew it was in demand in Japan, a scenario that seemed preposterous to me back then. Private pressed (we didn’t call ’em that back then, but whatever) rural rock records with decidedly awesome covers of Average White Band tunes stacked up against deep-groove Blue Note LPs at the Great Escape on Broadway, where Doyle, the chain’s manager, often showed me the latest scores before they were filed into the new arrival bins.
But the spot of spots was Lawrence Record Shop, which we all called Lawrence Brothers, in downtown Nashville. Downtown Nashville was nothing like it is today. It wasn’t hip in any manner. Next to venerable country repository Ernest Tubbs, near the juke joints and the barbecue stands, down the street from the great food emporium Arnold’s, stood this library of 45s and LPs by soul, funk, bluegrass, rock, country and jazz artists. The story went, as I recall, that Daddy Lawrence bought the building in the early 1960s and filled it up with whatever goods he could find. As record stores and distributors went out of business, he filled up the basement and upper two floors with boxes upon boxes of dead-stock vinyl. The store front contained bin after bin chock full of 45s, each with a location number penciled on a dividing card. If you found something you liked, there was a good chance that there were hundreds more copies upstairs.
Thus, by the time Paul Lawrence took over the store’s day to day operations with his brother Ted and wife Paulette, and he lowered the price of each 45 to three dollars a piece, we didn’t hesitate to buy hundreds of copies of James K-Nine’s “Live It Up” on Federal – right around the time that Dante Carfagna got his first copy and called the drummer, James Black, “Mr. SP 1200,” as fitting a description of Black’s straight-ahead funk if I’ve ever heard one. Dozens of Kay Robinson’s “The Lord Will Make A Way Some How” came down from upstairs, alongside a copy or two of then-rarity like the Overnight Low on Deluxe or a cut that eventually made it to my Function Underground anthology of Black and Brown American rock, “The Siesta Is Over.” (more…)