Digging For Buried Treasure: A New Generation of Music Enthusiasts

I grew up in a time when vinyl was going out of style or pretty much extinct due to cassette tapes and CDs. I was obsessed with buying CDs as a kid and as the times continued to change, all of a sudden, CDs, in the style of vinyl, began to go extinct. The Internet changed music consumption. I used to joke about how I was going to be that guy that was glad he kept all of his old albums instead of throwing them away because of their impending extinction.

I remember moving to Sacramento and seeing Tower Records while salivating at a chance to search through their Hip-Hop/Rap section. I also discovered I lived down the street from The Beat on J Street. Crate diggers and music lovers agree there’s something special and different when it comes to physically buying music. A new generation of music enthusiasts discovered this old way of consuming music and resurrecting “records” or “vinyl” in the process, and according to long-time crate diggers, it’s more than just nostalgia.

“Digital formatted music is widely accessible and easily stored,” says Todd Shima, “While it’s convenient, it makes the music one-dimensional. Diggers take their collecting seriously so my guess is popularity stems from newbie diggers entering or curiously participating in the culture.“

Shima, 46, has been around music all his life, always having records, cassettes, even 8-tracks since birth. Shima’s father is a guitar player. His family always had a “music room” including a drum set and other instrumental equipment. In the late 80s or early 90s he would start calling himself a “digger” or record collector.

“It was mostly Hip Hop records like Run DMC, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, to name a few,” Shima says, “Artists like John Coltrane, Grover Washington Jr. and labels like CTI and Blue Note were also a favorite to dig during those great times.”

Marc Weinstein, 59, is the co-owner/founder of Amoeba Music and also started record collecting at a young age. His father worked in radio and television broadcasting, brought home piles of LPs and 45s. Weinstein would play them on his own record player and by his teens, he had hundreds of records. Today as a record store owner, he has seen an increase in record buying in the last five plus years, since 2009 vinyl has gone from 20 percent of Amoeba’s sales to 50 percent of sales.

“We have gotten so far removed from the “art” and the “experience” of listening.” Says Weinstein. “LPs afford the listener/collector an enhanced opportunity to get closer to the artist and the music. The more meditative space listeners get when they often sit and pay more attention, combined with seeing the art and the songs curated in the way the artist intends, makes the whole thing much more fun…not to mention the wondrous mid-century technology that everyone marvels at.”

“We get nerded out on the aesthetics—anything from reading liner notes, wowing over album cover design, to caring about original pressing, promotional or reissue status.”

Sacramento has quietly become a haven for record collectors, starting with Tower Records where Dimple Records now resides. Tower was founded and based in Sacramento in 1960 by Russ Solomon. Continuing with places like The Beat and Records on K Street and then Broadway, that no longer exist, but are remembered fondly by self-professed vinyl slinger and record collector, Dennis Yudt, 53, who has been all over Sacramento’s music scene. Yudt was an Editor and Staff Writer for Tower’s Pulse Magazine, DJ’ed at the Cattle Club for four years, worked at The Beat for about four years and at Records on Broadway for eight months, though he had been a customer for about 35 years. In addition, Yudt has been in bands since he was fifteen.

“The BEST time for hitting crates were the late 80s thru the late 90s because everyone was trading in their vinyl for CDs, which all those people are now regretting,” Yudt says, “the golden Era, especially here in Sacramento, which is a great record town, in large part thanks to Tower being based here.”

Today, analog culture is thriving. As a kid, one of my favorite things about buying CDs was being able to read liner notes, before the Internet, that was how I learned who was making my favorite songs. There is a new generation addicted to crate digging and discovering the ways of “old heads” before them.

“It’s not just about the records or the music,” Shima says, “We get nerded out on the aesthetics—anything from reading liner notes, wowing over album cover design, to caring about original pressing, promotional or reissue status.”

Yudt remembers The Beat’s heyday, having DJ Shadow come through and dig through boxes in a back room. DJ Shadow’s first album cover is straight out of Records on K Street, and Chuck D and Flava Flav of Public Enemy would come in talking to him about Free Jazz and shooting video footage that Yudt briefly appears in.

Yudt says it’s getting harder to find good records these days because more people are doing it and they’re better educated. “There’s more resources, especially on the Internet, that makes it easy for anyone to become a digger,” says Yudt. “Of course, it can be an expensive hobby if you are looking for rarities but I’m just as happy with, say, a Curtis Mayfield album that I found in a thrift store for a buck than I am buying a brand new limited edition by Nurse With Wound.”

Nowadays you can find Shima DJ around town and Davis and as DJ Boogalicious—digging at Delta Breeze Records in West Sacramento. Shima offers friendly advice to newcomers about the vernacular of record collecting because record enthusiasts loathe the word “vinyls” and wants newbies to know plural for vinyl is vinyl.

“Does it matter to me? No. Really, I’ve always called them records. I also call them vinyl. As long as it’s good, I’ll call them anything you want. It’s always about the music.”

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