February has left everybody in this area stir crazy. Storm after storm. Shoveling until your lower back is in constant pain and your shoulders are so sore you can barely raise your hand. Dreary gray skies and a bitter cold that instantly freezes your nostrils have kept most people inside. Even people with a full Netflix cue and nearly endless record collections are left waiting for nicer weather and this Mother Nature-forced hibernation to end.
March, with its 31 holiday-less days that slowly get warmer as spring calmly rolls in, is less than a week away, and there are a lot of things to look forward to (Stars on Ice, Bane playing Simon’s, Teenage Bottlerocket releasing an album). Kicking things off is the Rock ‘N’ Roll Collectors Convention on March 1 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in South Attleboro, Mass. This convention features at least 50 tables of vendors selling all types of stuff related to rock ‘n’ roll, everything from vinyl, CDs, tapes and 8-tracks to posters, magazines, books, and even KISS bobbleheads. This convention is a family-friendly event that brings back fond memories of youth.
“I had a mother and a daughter a couple shows ago,” says Dr. Oldie, one of the organizers of the show. “The daughter asked if I had anything by Judy Garland. I told her that I only had a small magazine that had a bio article. I showed her and she showed her mother. Her mother said that she read that magazine as a kid and it’s what got her into Judy Garland.”
Dr. Oldie and Jeff Heiser have been running the Rock ‘N’ Roll Collectors convention since the late ’70s. It started out with Steve Roswell, aka Rocky, running it outside of his linoleum store on Route 6. Rocky asked Dr. Oldie, a rock critic for national magazines and DJ at WBRU, if he could promote it on the air, trading records for airtime. The two paired up with Heiser, who became involved in its second year after selling $125 worth of records. Rocky would watch the door while Dr. Oldie and Heiser would set up tables next to each other so they could take turns checking everything out. Years later, Rocky passed away, but the other dealers wanted to keep the event going. It soon outgrew its original venue, leading them to search for a new one before settling on the Knights of Columbus in South Attleboro, a venue they chose because staff is easy to work with and there are no stairs (a plus for vendors carrying boxes upon boxes of merchandise), and it has good lighting, lots of room and free parking.
“This is by far the best location we’ve ever had,” Heiser said.
The majority of people at the convention will be rock ‘n’ roll fans, with a few tagalongs — family members and people looking for something interesting to do on a Sunday. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Convention is a big social event for many of the people who have been going for years. There will be hardcore record collectors and casual fans, all hoping to score a piece missing from their collections. Others may be looking for a memory from their youth.
Heiser tells a story of a band called The Bedwells, who he listened to when he was a kid in the early ’60s. They were a local Hawaiian band that never made it nationally. He found their single, “Karate” (which turns out to be a great song, minus the odd grunts thrown in) 40 years later at a convention. This pretty much unheard-of record was probably meaningless to everyone else at the convention, but it was a score and a half for Heiser.
“That’s the important thing about going to record shows,” Heiser says. “You never know what you’re gonna find. You may come across a record you haven’t ever thought about if you’re looking through a box of records.”
While the cost of admission is only $2, once inside there is a plethora of music and memorabilia just waiting to be purchased. With over 50 tables, there is something for everyone. The worry of the average consumer is to know how much money to bring to an event like this. Crafty convention veterans usually bring a list of what they’re looking for. They just hand it to the dealer in hopes they have something on the list. For the people going with no purchasing outline, knowing how much money to bring can be a daunting task. Dr. Oldie feels that a consumer can find something nice for $10 or less, while Heiser jokingly suggests that they bring as much money as they can pack into a small suitcase.
“Its almost like going to Vegas,” Heiser says. “Don’t bring more than you would like to lose.”
The ATM on site isn’t owned by the Knights of Columbus and doesn’t always work. There is a convenience store about a mile down that road with an ATM, and some of the more serious vendors accept credit cards. Dr. Oldie predicts that the average record collector spends approximately $50, walking away with many great items.
While Dr. Oldie had trouble thinking of some of his greatest finds at a convention, Heiser had a small list that included “Good Rocking Tonight” by Elvis Presley (he traded an obscure doo-wop record to another dealer for this gem), The Kinks “Long Tall Sally” and “Then Now and Inbetween,” and “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes.” While neither gets to shop as much as they used to, they will be record collectors for life.
“Collecting music is a lot of fun because you meet people who have the same interest,” said Dr. Oldie, who has been collecting records since the ’50s and has a few thousand 45s, about 1000 albums and countless CDs, which he listens to for the convenience. He credits The Beatles for making record collecting so widespread. He says that kids bought as many albums from The Beatles as they could, continuing to collect into college. any of those records were lost upon adulthood, which led them to conventions like this to either recapture what was misplaced or fill in the missing holes in their collections.
While this is a full-time job for some vendors, it’s a hobby for others. “I couldn’t make a living out of this,” Heiser says. “There are guys who have their own stores or they go to other conventions from New Jersey to Maine. I have a full- and a part-time job. I don’t have the time to do that.”
What both Heiser and Dr. Oldie do have is a passion for music and the art of the album. They do this convention twice a year (also in October) as a labor of love brought on by popular demand. They keep the community of collectors strong and continue to introduce new people to the joys of record shopping, collecting or just reliving their youth. To them, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Convention is more than a hobby or a job; it’s their life.
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Convention takes place on Sun, March 1 from 10am – 3pm at Knights of Columbus Hall, 304 Highland Ave (Rt. 123), S Attleboro, Mass. Admission is $2 cash at the door, or free to the first 25 people who bring the coupon from Motif. For more information, email Dr. Oldie at email@example.com.