For a 45 collector, the bi-annual record fair in Allentown, PA is a very important date, and the only reason to visit this very unremarkable town (sorry Allentown-ies). When I started collecting 45s as a late teen in London, I spent my weekends train-travelling ’round the UK, flipping through British girl 45 boxes, giving out my want-list to dealers, and explaining just what a girl from NYC is doing at a small town record fair outside of Birmingham. Record dealers are a curious kind. They’re always male, somewhere between 45 and 65 in age. They favor Stax and Motown t-shirts and are often unappreciated by their wives for taking up so much space in the house. There are some who may as well be trading coins and baseball cards, but most are serious music fans, and it’s thanks to their wealth of knowledge that I’ve discovered some of my most treasured records.
It’s raining men…..in Allentown.
I’ve travelled far and wide to record fairs, but nowhere compares to Allentown. It may be small and in the middle of nowhere, but it attracts a ton of collectors from the UK and Japan, who show up with a large stash of cash and a Vestax portable turntable. Although the fair takes place on a Saturday, most of the hardcore collectors and dealers show up on the Tuesday to set up shop in the local motel, and sell records straight from their hotel rooms. By the time the actual fair comes round, they’ve done most of their big business and are keen to pack up and head home by the early afternoon.
I’ve always found my best records at Allentown. This time ’round I was frantically hurrying around the neon-lit, window-less room, hoping to find at least one of the top ten records on my want-list. As the dealers packed up around me, I headed to Bill Cox’s corner, and within one minute found the Bronzettes’ “Hot Spot” on Parkway, the number one want on my list. I told him I loved him. And then spent the final hour of the fair going through every single record in his boxes, whilst he played me lotsa Philly soul. He was outraged that I had never heard the Stylistics “You’re A Big Girl Now,” and sent me home with a free copy.
Official site of the Allentown Record Fair: http://www.surroundsoundproductions.com/
My new favorite dealer, Bill Cox