Allentown Record Fair

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.

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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. 

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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/

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My new favorite dealer, Bill Cox

5 Responses to Allentown Record Fair

  1. Julio Niño says:

    Hola Sheila,
    I wasn´t familiar at all with “Hot Spot”, I´ve just listened to it in YT and I like It a lot. Those girls were dynamite. I noticed that apparently that side was produced by Chubby Checker. Thanks for for discovering it to me.
    So you had not heard before “You´re a Big Girl Now”? I think you are going to love it. I love Russell Thompkins´ voice, so sexy, smooth and anguished. That´s exactly the type of voice I was referring to when I mentioned Philly´s tradition of effeminate singers. There are so many and all are so dizzily sexy: Eddie Holman, William Hart, Ronnie Walker, The Temptones (with a very young Daryl Hall), etc. I´m more the sixties type, but I really love The Stylistics, specially during the Thom Bell ´s period although I also like some of Van McCoy´s productions for them.
    Julio Niño.

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Sheila, Made Allentown for the first time a couple of weeks ago, after problems finding the place , i had a hectic two and half hours before heading off with approximately thirty 45s including The Dolls,The Reason Why , Loma,Margo and the Marvettes , When love slips away ,U.K. Pye. Anthony and the Imperials, Its not the same, Veep and many more . Will definately be back . I did introduce myself to you briefy,around four o clockish, ( Tall English guy ,) Back in the U.K. now (Manchester) with approximately 160 45s from a fortnight spent digging in New York , there, still plenty of stuff out there , Heartwarming to read of your passion for vinyl and the 60s girl group sound , All the very best , Mike.

    • admin says:

      Hello Mike! Thanks for dropping me a line. I do remember meeting you + I’m so glad to hear of your successful digging trip to New York. Love that Dolls record. I don’t know the Anthony & the Imperials record, so must check that out. I’ve been to record fairs all over the world, and there’s no better place to find 45s than Allentown (although it really is in the middle of nowhere so I’m not surprised you got lost!) xo-Sheila

  3. Nice to see you again Sheila, great that you found #1 off your Wants! I was there all week and had no such luck, but what’s one week when there are years left to dig for records?

  4. Hi Sheila, stumbled across your site. Hope you’re finding lots of good 45’s. Am usually at the Allentown show so look me up for a chat if you get the time. Good luck! Best, Henry.

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