ONCE upon a time, the Savannah Record Fair made me think I could quit my job.
It was 2010, and I arrived late to the festivities. Now, I'm no collector—purists would likely be sent into a tizzy looking at the way I stack slabs o' wax one on top of the other like pancakes.
I just really love the physical act of dropping a needle on a record and happen to own lots of them as a result. But just 'cause I don't put true "collecting" into practice doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two.
If there's anything I was collecting at that time, it was books about The Beatles (an out-of-print paperback telling the story behind every Fab Four song was my grand prize from the previous year's fair). I was obsessed with the obsession that surrounded the group, loved finding giant, colorful spreads of bizarre merchandise and reading about people who devoted their lives to hunting these rare prizes.
Through this engrossment, I learned the story of the "butcher cover."
For the unfamiliar: in 1966, Capitol Records printed around 750,000 copies of Yesterday and Today with a photograph of the band strewn with raw meat and the bloodied, severed limbs of plastic baby dolls. Needless to say, it didn't go over well—though John Lennon stated that it was "as relevant as Vietnam."
With so many albums already in stores, the label sent out "slicks," new, innocuous covers to be pasted over the carnage. Over the years, the rare and coveted butcher cover has become a treasure, with those in mint condition fetching over $15,000 at auction.
Flipping through the Record Fair's fare, I hit a sleeve that was strangely familiar: The Beatles, with Paul in an open steamer trunk and the rest of the guys surrounding him, looking blasé. On closer inspection, there was a ghost underneath; the cover was like a giant sticker, curling slightly on a corner as if it had been picked at by a fingernail.
My chest seized like I'd nearly been in a car accident: I breathed slowly and hovered over it, blocking the view of other shoppers. It was in the dollar bin. I fished a crumpled bill out of my bag and hastily pressed it into the merchant's hand; he said something about how it was refreshing to see young folks enjoying the classics. I nodded, tucked it under my arm, and ducked outside. My vision was fuzzy, I was in such shock. As much as I wanted to tell all my friends, I kept quiet: I'd read about the way lottery winners were treated after they'd won, and I surely didn't want my buds hitting me up for cash just yet.
Nowadays, I could punch it up on my smartphone and immediately read up on the estimated value, but for my flip-phonin' 2010 self, ignorance was bliss. For the rest of the night, I fantasized about what I could do when I hocked the thing.
I can quit my tourism job before the heat index breaks 100! I marveled.
Maybe I should keep it for any potential grandkids, I considered.
But what if I die and they throw it away?
Maybe I could sell now and move into one of those swanky Broughton Street lofts! Granite countertops! I swooned.
The next day, I took to the Internet to hunt down a "butcher peeler," a professional who specializes in removing slicks. It didn't take long to find out: my purchase was a straight-up fake.
But who cares!
I'd scored a collection with some of my favorite cuts, like "Day Tripper" and "I'm Only Sleeping." Throwing open my bedroom windows, I let the spring breeze roll in as John crooned.
At a time in which Savannah was devoid of record shops, the Savannah Record Fair, a SCAD event that was also open to the public, was not just special—we needed it.
Sure, people with a vinyl habit could scour eBay or trek to Atlanta for a good day of shopping, but the Record Fair was the one day of the year where we could peruse the stacks right in our hometown. It was a big deal, and a cherished tradition.
Times have changed for the better, with two Savannah shops entirely devoted to vinyl (speaking of, what'd you score at Record Store Day?!), but there's still something to be said for the diversity that a record fair can bring. With vendors coming from all around the Southeast, there's no telling what you'll find.
The last Savannah Record Fair took place in spring of 2014. Around that time, there was a strategic planning meeting in which it was determined that the Record Fair didn't coincide with SCAD's programming and educational mission.
Instead of letting the event fade into history, the college contacted Vicki Weeks, Project Manager of Savannah Soundings, Savannah's emerging community radio station.
"The students really wanted it to happen," Weeks says. "[The college] reached out to us—it seemed in alignment with the community radio station. It's a good opportunity for us to build and raise awareness."
Saturday's event is the tenth of its kind. Vendors peddle wax, CDs, and all manner of collectible items (for some reason, I'm still regretting passing up an authentic, laminated backstage pass to a Van Halen world tour a few fairs back).
This year, collectors can peruse ahead of time starting at 9:30 a.m. for $5. When the doors open at 10:30 a.m., admission is free. Attendees can shop until 5 p.m.; when 7 p.m. rolls around, it's time for a whole new celebration of vinyl in the form of a sock hop.
Vinyl Appreciation DJs will spin tunes from the golden age of rock 'n' roll, with food and beverages provided and retro duds available for purchase.
All profits from the fair will go toward purchasing broadcast equipment for Savannah Soundings.
The collective has already secured a location for the station downtown at 307 East Harris Street.
"Suffice to say, last Saturday, we transformed it from a hoarder's dream castle into a recognizable foyer, reception area, studio equipment area, office, workshop, and utility room," laughs Weeks.
When it's all ready to go, locals will be able to tune either on 107.5FM or online.
"We're shooting for a Fourth of July free speech launch on the Internet component," Weeks explains.
"Then, by Labor Day, we are planning to be on air with the broadcast component."
Savannah Soundings has reached out to the community for input on what kind of content they'd like to hear, with topics ranging from music, events and arts discussion, history, and civic matters. They're even holding a Best Program Idea Competition, and will announce the winners at the sock hop.
Weeks advises that entry to the fair and sock hop is free to Savannah Soundings members. Not a member yet? Plenty of Savannah Soundings folks will be on-hand to explain their mission and discuss ideas and visions for programming.
Whether it's radio or being elbow-to-elbow with fellow music lovers, the Record Fair is all about community.
"Come on out!" Weeks invites. "Get your retro on, baby!"
Maybe consider downloading the eBay app beforehand—or don't.
Personally, I think I'll leave my phone at home and let my dreams run amuck in the stacks. CS
The Savannah Record Fair
Saturday, May 2
The Hellenic Center (14. W. Anderson St.)
9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. – early birds ($5 cover)
10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. – general admission, free all day
7-10 p.m. – sock hop ($5 cover)