Saskatchewan record collector reminisces about his life’s soundtrack

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As the needle touches the spinning vinyl, a soft crackle spills from the speakers. A jazz song, recorded almost 70 years ago, floats through the air and brings a smile to the 83-year-old listener.

Dave Doolittle has been collecting records for almost his entire life. And by his count he has 35,000.


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“It goes way back to when I was about 17,” he said.

“[I] always liked music, any kind I could get back then. I especially liked jazz. And I just started collecting; I’m sort of the collecting type.”

For the past 20 years, he’s been storing all of his records in an old bank in the village of Maymont, Sask.

After a recent disagreement over the rent schedule and payment, though, he was given six weeks to move.

He has a new location — and half of his collection is already there. But packing his records has given him the chance to reminisce about how he began collecting his life’s soundtrack.

“I jumped from one genre to another just to explore it,” he said.

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Now he has music and recordings from all around the world and, it seems, every conceivable style. Patriotic marches recorded during the Second World War, Brazilian composers and Russian symphonies are mixed in with classic rock and classical guitar.

The different formats — 78s, 33s, 45s — are packed on shelves in crisp cardboard sleeves and fill boxes that spill out from the vault and nearly reach the front door. Messy and slanted handwritten labels emerge from the beige or brightly-coloured album sleeves proclaiming a section’s identity.

Some have artist’s names. The Beatles, or H. Belafonte, are clearly visible. Sometimes the labels are more personalized and vauge. “Red Vinyl” is written in black marker and next to it, scrawled in pen, is the phrase, “Funny how nearly all the ‘Red’ vinyls are religiously themed.”

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Maybe 20 LPs behind that are the words “Colored [sic] Vinyl – But Non-Red.” And even further on, “’Blooper’ Records.’”

He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music on his shelves. He can pull out any piece of vinyl from anywhere in the bank and give the background of the artist, where they were from or what style they played, and tell you about their other recordings.

Despite his massive collection, he doesn’t have a favourite artist or album. But his preferred genre is jazz. He said it’s because of the melodies and the skill required.

“Jazz players compose right on the spot, they don’t have a sheet of music [in front of them]. And some of them are fantastic.”

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As he pulls one record off the shelf, he explains that it’s a compilation called Some Like It Cool, Others Like It Hot.

“The cool jazz was from the West coast,” he explains. “The hot jazz was from the East coast.”

He’s not sure how much larger his collection will get. But as he looks around the thousands of records — a symphony of sounds and memories — he offers some advice for any would-be collectors.

“I would say just do what you want. And listen to the music and try to expand your knowledge of music. That’s what I did.”

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