Brian Washington, Vinyl Records

Brian Washington collects vinyl recordings of some of pop culture’s most beloved and memorable childhood stories. He discusses his life-long love of the medium and how he got his start collecting.

Describe your collection.

I collect vintage vinyl recordings which are a variation of fairy tales and original musical stories, popular children’s standards, along with classical music, some soundtracks and pop records. To date, there are about 1,934 pieces in my collection. If I were to describe it in one word, it would be “unique”.

When and why did you start collecting?

The oldest record I have is a 1975 7″ LP from Power Records titled Superman: The Mxyzptlk Up Menace. It was the first record I ever bought as a 12-year-old and was purchased new at what is now known as Rite Aid drugstore.

I’ve been fascinated with classic children’s vinyl since kindergarten. I can recall the artwork and the music from that time period. Of all the children’s labels that came and went, Peter Pan Records is my favourite. Among their varied catalogues, they produced a series of 45-RPM extended-play records (from 1973) that really captured my attention. The majority of the covers were drawn by an artist by the name of George Peed. I’ve long been a fan of his work. Over time, the record series underwent some changes and the original artwork was redrawn and repackaged; the ones I liked were disappearing.

When I was 13, on break from my summer job at the library, I noticed a nearby store had a Peter Pan 45 EP record from the vintage series that I liked. It was The Candy Man, with the artwork of Peed on the cover, and I bought it immediately, then all of a sudden I noticed that more and more of this style was coming out. Turns out, Peter Pan Records was looking to make room for their then-current inventory so they were selling off the old titles. It was right then and there I decided to start collecting. At first, it was because of Peed’s artwork, but over time my collecting criteria expanded.

Growing up, the house was always filled with music by my family…mostly R&B, gospel, jazz, and some pop. As much as I like most of those sounds, children’s music has always resonated with me, even to this day. My mother, however, just didn’t understand why her son collected children’s music rather than listening to the popular artists of the time. A little backstory: Mom was a dialysis patient, and had to go in for treatment several times a week. One day, she made mention of my hobby to a nurse, to her dismay. The nurse then asked, “But does it make him happy?” She arrived home from that treatment, came into my room later and asked me to play some of my records for her. She wanted to hear the appeal of the music. So I played her a few songs. She still didn’t quite get it, but she somewhat understood my interest just a little bit more.

How do you display and store your collection?

The records are lined up vertically on my floors. I have no shelves, basically because it can be hard to store and organize the different sizes of vinyl, particularly the 45’s. I do organize my collection; first by the record label and then by catalogue number. I have the majority of catalogue numbers memorized. When I was younger, my brother would read random catalogue numbers out loud to see if I could recall the title correctly; I got it every time. And believe it or not, if I have to remember a string of numbers like a password, I use an association with a catalogue number to help me recall the password at will.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of children’s vinyl?

That is a very good question. There are so many. As far as the one I have yet to collect, I would say that the soundtrack to the Rankin/Bass production of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It’s a rare title that came out in 1970, the same year the special first aired on ABC. It’s the music that makes me want to own that. It’s a classic.

As for something I do own, I can’t pick just one that I would consider the Holy Grail of my collection. I do love the soundtrack album to The Man Called Flintstone from Hanna-Barbera. It came out in 1966 after The Flintstones went off the air. My second choice would be Man-Thing because I consider it to be a rare title in the comic/record series. Do you remember DC Comics’ Swamp Thing? Man-Thing is the Marvel version of that.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a vinyl collection?

If the records are out there and you want them, go get them! The child in me refuses to die and in a way, it helps me with my creative process as an illustrator.

What resources do you use to acquire knowledge about childhood vinyl and connect with other collectors?

I’m not exactly sure how to answer that. Early on it would have been catalogues and the information listed on the back of my other records. I’m a pop-culture buff, so a lot of the knowledge I have just comes from my memory of events and releases from when I was very young.

Follow Brian on Twitter for snapshots of his vast vinyl collection.

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