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He’s literally immersed in music

From records to CDs to MP3s, Lynn Russwurm has seen all kinds of incarnations in music recordings, but for the Floradale record collector vinyl is the only way to go. Collecting and selling record albums for the past 30 years, Russwurm, a local country singer himself, says there is nothing like putting a record on a turntable, turning up the volume and listening to some great music.

The octogenarian may be known as the cordial older gentleman who sells vintage country and western LPs and 78s at record shows in Kitchener and Guelph or at his bi-annual tent sales, but don’t let his age fool you: he knows everything there is to know about vintage recordings.

Filled with a smorgasbord of music created both in Canada and the U.S., Russwurm’s house is jam-packed with vinyl recordings. In fact, the 30,000 albums have taken over most of the living spaces.

VINTAGE VINYL Floradale resident Lynn Russwurm sells vinyl records during his monthly mail in auctions. He has a collection of more than 30,000 albums stored in his home, barn and storage unit.

Country music has been his passion ever since he discovered his father’s box of 78 rpm records as a child at his family’s farm in Carlsruhe, near Hanover.

When Russwurm retired from working at the B.F. Goodrich tire factory in Kitchener at the age of 55 he began a second career selling record albums.

His personal collection of Canadian country music includes more than 3,000 albums all neatly stacked in the upper level of his home on Floradale Road.

More interested in oddball recordings, Russwurm travels all over Ontario and the eastern states looking for albums that will fetch a good penny for his monthly auctions.

“A lot of people are still interested in records because there is a lot of stuff on records that you can’t find on CDs. Records also have the best sound and people are really interested in the original packaging,” said Russwurm. “Over the years I have learned that certain music sells better on records than others and some smaller artists are bigger sellers than the big guys who put out so many albums that every collector out there has their stuff already.”

Artists like Herb Albert or Bing Crosby don’t move, but old rock and roll from the 1950s and 1960s are great sellers, especially Elvis, the Beatles and Buddy Holly’s originals.

The catch, said Russwurm, is knowing a thing or two about records, as most albums have been reissued and only originals bring in the real money.

Reissued albums were often put out by different labels and were thinly pressed compared to the originals which were thicker and heavier.

Never one to use a computer to keep things organized, Russwurm simply relies on his memory when cataloging all 30,000 albums scattered throughout his house, a barn and storage unit.

“Stuff comes and goes too quickly for me to use a computer. I have a system in place that I have been using for 30 years and it still works for me today. I am just not a computer person. I prefer to do it by sight.”

Every month he sends out an auction list with some 1,400 items available through the mail to in excess of 400 people. Unfortunately for Russwurm the numbers have begun to decrease as the collectors get older or have started to use eBay and other online auction sites.

“My problem is that I need to find more collectors and I can’t any more. I have roughly 200 collectors on my country list and 200 on my general list and because I am dealing with the same people every month I need new stuff every month to offer them.”

He recently held a tent sale at his house to sell off the increasing number of records and was able to sell 1,200 records at $2 a piece. It is mostly dealers that come to the tent sales, which are held in the fall and the spring.

“Every record I sell has to be mint. There is no point in selling a record that is not mint, no one is going to buy one with a scratch or pop on it,” he said. “Unless it is very rare then collectors don’t seem to mind: I sold a Beatles album that was so beaten up you couldn’t play it anymore but I got $600 for it; that is how rare it was.”

Although rock and roll may be a popular genre, it is Canadian country music that inspires Russwurm to continue.

“I am drawn to Canadian country music because it has not been documented the way the American music has. We had a lot of really good artists here, smaller artists that perhaps no one has heard of, but that doesn’t mean they were not good.”

Russwurm also has 1,500 radio transcriptions that were made for radio stations only, as regular turntables could not play the transcriptions because they are 16” across, rather than 12” across like normal LPs.

“Radio stations would lease the transcriptions that the artist would record for extra money. The commercial recordings were made on a royalty basis and they would put a lot of production into the records, while the transcriptions were made quickly – low production value, as the artist would knock off 20 a day. Mistakes could be heard on transcription records,” said Russwurm.

These rare music items were never released to the public, as special turntables were needed to accommodate the larger discs. Collectors, however, are now interested in converting the transcriptions on to CDs.

“If an artist recorded a song commercially on a record, the transcription would be a different version of that song,” he said. “This is the same type of technology the stations use to play the radio shows like the Lone Ranger and Little Orphan Annie, they all came on transcriptions.”

Russwurm does not collect or sell classical music or rock and roll recorded after 1965 as he finds it too hard to sell.

“I can’t get into the new rock and roll, I don’t understand it, it is not my type of music. I can relate to the 1950s and 60s, plus the new rock is not highly collectable.”

The rarest album in Russwurm’s collection is a print of country western singer Jim Reeves’ first album valued at $1,500. The album was recorded on a smaller label before the country legend hit it big and moved to RCA, and was only released to radio stations.

“This is how I make a living. I enjoy buying and selling records: I have always been into music and I am a workaholic. I don’t see things slowing down any time soon.”

A songwriter and musician of some note himself, the 81-year-old will be releasing another CD of his own later this year featuring original country music that may just one day find itself in the hands of a collector.

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