YEARS ago my heart used to sink when somebody rang saying they had a pile of grandad's 78 rev records in perfect condition, and what should they do with them.
It was always Toscanini with Beethoven's 7th, Horowitz in Tschaikowski No.1 Piano Concerto, Joan Hammond's Beloved Daddy or Jesu Joy from Myra Hess. All are fine recordings, but all available nowadays on CD with much improved sound.
But the gramophone record has existed for well over a century, the old shellack 78 for more than half that time, and precious few have survived the attics and junk shops to become valuable historical relics.
Joe Winstanley of Raby Mere has around 3000 of them (think of the weight of that lot). He plays them on an EMG hand made gramophone with the sounds curling out of an enormous horn with a bell 29 inches in diameter. The astonishing thing is when one hears an operatic tenor from nearly 100 years ago the voice comes to life, feeling to be almost within one's grasp.
Joe has collected now for over 60 years and this month has had a two page spread in Britain's leading record magazine.
Label names like Brunswick Cliftophone, Phonotipia and G and T resonate in the air, and they remain in the middle of fine old records, and not cut out to make cocktail mats.
Tales are told of searching in back street junk shops, and of bidding for a lot at auction and getting crates full of old discs, perhaps one of which was a real prize.
Now Joe Winstanley has transferred 19 items from his collection on to a CD entitled Sixty Years of Collecting.
Everything has been transferred by John Davies of Pwllheli, to achieve truly remarkable results. More than half are of acoustic origin, often of superb singers, many with names lost in the mists of time and one realises how suited the human voice was to the gramophone horn. Privately-made records also turn up and one wonders today who was the Scot Ella Scorr who sings A Fond Kiss, or Mr Rodgers who paid HMV to record him singing Sombre Woods - and what fine voices they had. There is the beautiful tenor voice of Walter Hyde singing On Lido Waters and the great Welsh singer David Lloyd enticing Margarita to Come. These recordings are not necessarily old.
Joe Winstanley found perhaps the only disc of Elaine Woods who in recent memory sang at the Phil and appeared at the Empire during his short stay with Welsh National Opera. Presumably she has now retired.
It's marvellous that this collector of rarities is sharing his treasures with others, and a copy of the disc can be obtained from him on 0151 334 7085. By the way, the magazine article is called "Around the Horn" but that opens up another can of memories.