The winner of the “most prevalent LP in $1 bins” award goes to an unlikely candidate, from the early 60s no less – Vaughn Meader’s flash-in-the-pan comedy-impersonation album of JFK, The First Family.  Honestly, I counted over 12 copies at Amoeba Music in L.A, and they usually thin these out when it gets ridiculous.  I think that I’ve seen a copy literally every time I’ve been through the $1 bins in any store. And in the 25 cent bin.  It was a huge seller…7.5 million copies in months…the fast-selling LP of any record at that time (early 1963).

Then JFK was assassinated. I know I never played my copy ever again.   Anybody want to buy it?  After that terrible November afternoon, the record was pulled from the shelves.  And Vaughn Meader went from huge fame to not being able to get an entertainment job doing anything – and sank into a deep depression. It’s a piece of pop culture, for sure, for sure.

More of my little series on the $1 used LP bins at used record stores.

It’s rather heartbreaking to see Karla Boniff records so frequently in these bins.  A wonderful singer/songwriter – she didn’t sell that well as a solo artist, so a high percentage of the record buyers must have unloaded her LPs.  Linda Ronstadt covered several of her best songs on Hasten Down the Wind (see last post). All of sudden we see lots of Dave Mason albums too, another album-rocker who obviously is now deemed unworthy of taking up shelf space.

Karla Boniff's first and best album, 1977

I thought Joan Armatrading was an interesting fringe artists, but you see tons of her albums in the $1 racks.  Her voice maybe got a little annoying – funny, when Tracey Chapman jumped onto the scene with her huge “fast car” hit I thought, well, this is a “Joan Armatrading” (their voices are very similar) who knows how to make the Top 40.

But what goes around, eventually again SPINS around (on turntables everywhere).  Hall & Oates, once a staple of the $1 bins, has made a comeback.  The vinyl has been gobbled up – maybe thanks to a nostalgic revival helped by Inara George.

Hall & Oates vinyl is moving again

And here’s the topper – recently at Amoeba a hip 20-something young woman DJ was playing various quirky elevator-music tunes in the store, pop hits covered by The Hollywood Strings and Ray Conniff – this was her thing.  Wow.  That’s an inexpensive hobby – simply head for the 25-cent bins.

For years, the $1 clearance LP bins in used record stores have been a kind of indicator of which artists are ending up in the “scrap heap” of music history, artists who once sold well but whose albums are no longer wanted by the owners, and the LPs (and their CD versions) have no collector’s value.  Mainstream big-selling artists like Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow have been filling up these bins since the early 90s.

Go to Amoeba in L.A. (the biggest used music store anywhere), and you can now buy the entire catalog of Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg and Judy Collins for a buck a piece, no problem, good condition. Strangely, now older, popular folk acts like the Kingston Trio (on thick vinyl) are there, as well as over-produced 60s hit-makers like Petula Clark and Glen Campbell.  Same with smooth-jazz artists Al Jarreau and John Klemmer, and tranquilizing Rita Coolidge. Come and go singers Maria Muldaur, Melissa Manchester and Eddie Money – get ’em all.

So, consider this.  If you still love and use your turntable, and some evening you get in the mood for Linda Ronstadt (but had never owned her music), you could go to Amoeba and buy most of her 70s and early 80s output on LP, complete with great photos and artwork (nice foldouts), for about $10.  Yes, the winner of a dozen Grammys.